10 skills you need to be a successful Personal Assistant

personal assistant

What actually does a Personal Assistant do?  Is it true that behind every great leader there is a great personal assistant? A good personal assistant is always well organised and detailed oriented. From planning events, minute taking, scheduling people, organizing and managing meetings, she or he will bring order to chaos.

So amongst many other things, personal assistants are super-efficient managers. They are completely in charge of fulfilling another person’s life and commitments – which means they need to be excellent at their work to be successful.

personal assistant

To understand what makes a successful personal assistant, let’s first understand who they are and what they do.

Who is a personal assistant?

A personal assistant is the backbone of any client they work for. They are responsible for performing administrative duties on behalf of an individual or organisation.

Their duties and responsibilities differ based on the industry. But it is generally assumed that a personal assistant is someone who handles all of their boss’s business and sometimes personal affairs, with typical examples including scheduling appointments, arranging travel and organising documents.

What makes a successful personal assistant?

1.   Ability to communicate clearly

As a PA, you will be dealing with your boss’s daily virtual and in-person communication with several people about various issues. Your goal should be clear communication ensuring that everything is forwarded correctly, responded to properly and nothing gets lost in translation.

So, the better you are at explaining tasks in ways that are simple for your boss to understand, the more likely you will be able to get things done right.

2.   Willingness to correct

No one is perfect, but to grow as an employee, you should be willing to stand back and assess. It is okay to make mistakes as long as you are being accountable for them and correcting them immediately.

A successful PA needs to be able to admit when they are wrong and strive never to make the same error again.

3.   Possess organisational and time-management skills

No matter what level of business you want to work in as a personal assistant, it is vital that you know how to prioritise your tasks and get things done in the shortest period of time. If you can’t do that, then it doesn’t really matter how educated or smart you are – you won’t be the right person for the job.

Remember that it all comes down to your incredible work ethic, which is what makes you such a valuable employee.

4.   Ability to be tactical and diplomatic

It is not always possible to be straightforward as a PA. You may have terrific administrative acumen and organisational talents but if you don’t have diplomacy when interacting with the people you work with or for, then you can’t truly make the best out of your job. If you want to become a successful personal assistant, consider these two traits as your bread and butter.

5.   Being trustworthy and reliable

Information is power. Personal assistants must be very careful not to reveal too much information that can be considered confidential either accidentally or on purpose.

If your employer can’t trust you to run all the errands, manage tasks, and handle conversations while being discreet with their information, you won’t be able to succeed in the industry.

Don’t forget, loose lips sink ships!

6.   Paying attention to details

A PA’s job demands looking at the smaller details to see the bigger picture. For instance, it is not enough to know what your boss’ daily schedule looks like. You need to know their habits and preferences, as well.

To become a valuable asset, you need to be able to take notes at all meetings, schedule appointments and do research on your own beyond the original request. You need to pay attention to details, such as remembering important dates etc, in order to make you irreplaceable.

7.   Being proficient at solving problems

As a personal assistant, you should be able to look at a situation or task and come up with the most logical way to approach it whilst thinking outside of the box. This will allow you to find solutions and give you credibility as someone worthy of being in charge of another person’s life.

8.   Ability to be resilient

It is not unheard of for personal assistants to have a meltdown due to the immense workload. Resilience allows PAs to demonstrate their professionalism, even when the situation is challenging or the client isn’t being very nice. It is the key to both learning and growing in your career.

More importantly, you should be able to realise that hard work is part of the process and struggles are temporary.

9.   Ability to remain calm under pressure

A personal assistant is more than a right hand. They are an extension of their employer and their personal brand. That’s why successful personal assistants  remain calm under pressure. They should be able to de-escalate angry clients and provide efficient solutions to complex problems.

10.   Showing efficiency in work

To be a successful personal assistant, you need to have the ability to multitask properly. They must be able to commit massive amounts of energy to important tasks, prioritise their assignments and complete their work in time without making any expensive mistakes.

personal assistant

Qualifications needed to be a personal assistant

To start off as a personal assistant, employers may request a minimum of 5 GCSEs with a Grade C or above including English and Maths, proficiency in IT including word processing and diary management, and a diploma in business administration or business communication. Some will also want you to have at least one foreign language along with a full, clean driving license.

Some colleges now offer full-time, specialised PA and executive assistant courses, which can also equip you with the skills and tools needed to succeed. Alternatively, you can also take up online PA courses.


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