Personal Assistant: The Interview

I had an interview last Friday for a part time PA position. It would be assisting a couple who are well into retirement but are very active in the community and are known for their philanthropy.

Although I am an independent PA, I was contacted through Linked In for the opportunity by a recruiter I have worked with in the past. It was definitely  worth taking a look, so I made sure to prepare myself and find out as much as I could prior to our meeting.

The Interview - the personal assistant

I must admit, the interview process is one of my strengths. I do get nervous, I won’t lie. But what I am good at is just talking to the interviewer without attaching any worry to how I am doing or what they are thinking. I really try to enjoy the conversation. It has certainly proved to serve me well.

The first thing to making a great first impression in the interview is to prepare for it.

So I will look up what I can about the company. I’ll get the details down; like when the company was founded, what it’s mission is, who have been the major contributors and where they are headed. Then I develop what points I want to bring up where I would bring value as an employee.

If I am working with a recruiter either directly through the company of an employment agency, I will ask the footwork for me. My experience has been they are more than willing to give me background on the person I am meeting and whatever insight they have on what would be the ideal candidate to fill the position.

As you probably already know, being an assistant has so much to do with fit. I try to get information about the person I would directly be supporting, how they communicate, and what their reputation is.

My first Personal Assistant experience was not a pleasant one, but on the flip side I learned so much in an eight month period. It didn’t take me more than one PA experience to learn about boundaries.

It is important to ask questions during an interview. Not asking questions will not serve you if you take on the job. This is the best chance you can take to squash any red flags that come up for you during the interview.

One of my big ones is knowing how isolated I will be at any given time. I’m an extrovert, so working in a home office with no exposure to other household staff or the public would drive me insane. I need and enjoy human interaction. Yet there are plenty of people who are completely fine working solo.

Look good, be professional, and be yourself. I wouldn’t pretend to be someone else just to land the job. That would quickly ruin any chance in success.

There will always be opportunities, and just as we are all individuals, so are there opportunities that are looking for our personality and characteristics.

I would sum up a successful interview by covering the following things:

  1. Prepare for your interview. Research the company and your potential boss.
  2. Professional, neat, and pleasant appearance.
  3. Ask questions, especially the ones that matter to your satisfaction on the job.
  4. Thank the person, every person who interviews you. Personal notes are not really necessary in this day and age, but it will make you stand out.
  5. Focus only on the positive. Rephrase any learning experiences from past jobs with a positive twist.

Email me if you have any questions!

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How to Market Yourself

How to market yourself as a personal assistant will take time and experience. Since I have been in admin assistant roles my whole  career, it is my professional experience that speaks for itself.

How to market yourself - the personal assistant blog

But if your intention is to stand out in a sea of competitive PA‘s seeking the best experience and opportunity, it will be up to you to offer something else that no one else does.

A unique skill I bring into my work is having competed as a National Physique competitor. My competition years, although few always comes up in my interviews and is seen when recruiters or business owners do a Google search on me.

What makes this a unique skill is that in personal assisting, you will get to know all the goals that your boss wants to obtain. I happen to always work with people who either have a fitness goal or some level of commitment to their health. Having great knowledge about nutrition and fitness to reach goals has been a great asset. I have experienced the ability to grow my relationships with my bosses.

So think of something that you enjoy doing, knowing that if it is a skill you continue to develop, you can most likely work it into your profile and make you stand out.

Some skills that are great to have in our current market place are the following:

  • A keen interest in creating an internet presence. Maybe you know the top social networks and can Tweet or post on behalf of your boss or the company they own.
  • Blogging. This is one of my strengths, clearly, as you are reading this site! It’s a great way to market yourself and continue to sharpen your skill. Sharing these skills is important. You want to promote your creative talents so don’t hold back.
  • Graphics. I decided to take a Photoshop class. I have to admit, it has come in handy. It’s just one of those things that it may seem like a hobby or personal interest, but it may benefit you in the office.

If for some reason you don’t think you have a unique skill to market and make you stand out above the rest, I have a hard time believing it. Every person has a special skill or creative gift that comes naturally. You just want to ask yourself how you can possibly work this into your professional portfolio.

Also, knowing how to market yourself is crucial if you are trying to grow your career and your income. You already know this is a unique job. There are not a lot of people who have a deep desire to become a personal assistant. For some reason it really interests you, so I am hard pressed to think you have nothing extra to offer.

The personal assistant is special in that depending on who your boss is, you might have before you the opportunity that can shift you into a role that has not even yet been created. Meaning, your special talents can mean you take on projects that utilize your creative gifts. Who wouldn’t want to do that?!

So, if you’re dismayed in any way and start to stress that you HAVE TO have an extra skill to make you special, don’t be. It is not a requirement, but it will help you rise (rather easily if I say so myself) above the rest. If you have any questions on how to define or determine that special trait, email me! I’d love to connect with you.

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Personal Assistant Top skills – Outlook

For Personal Assistant  top skills – Outlook  was the number one on my list. Developing all the PA top skills was my focus to growing my profile, but Outlook was clearly the lead.

If you are a new Administrative Assistant, or if you worked yourself up to a Senior Admin, I have to tell you – you cannot ‘top off’ any skill set. I say this because regardless how good you get, technology changes, and our roles require we technically know our way around Outlook more than our bosses!

Which brings me to Outlook, or the calendaring sytem. I could give you a full training session on Outlook alone (note to self: will definitely work that into this website!)

These are the skills that we must know in our sleep. They are also the skills that we move through so quickly, that we make mistakes. So beware, and keep on top of your game.

As a PA or EPA, Outlook or the calendar system you use will always stay open on your desktop. You probably don’t even bother to check your own calendar because it’s your boss’ schedule you care about the most. It simply cannot be wrong.

When Outlook 2010 came out, I gotta admit, it took me a couple of weeks to get my navigation down. There were so many more ‘VIEW’ options and icons I didn’t use before that I had to start from a pretty bare view and then added them back in slowly.

Personal Assistant Top Skills  -Outlook

The biggest glitch that got me in trouble was actually having my boss’ calendar on my phone. When a meeting request would come in, I would hit ‘ACCEPT’ but for some reason it wouldn’t show up on the calendar when I logged in at my desktop at work. Of course I learned the hard way when someone called me and asked me why he wasn’t in the meeting and to my spinning stomach, my phone version had the correct info but I wasn’t seeing it on my monitor.

Every person has their preferences. Obviously you will get to know your boss well and will know the do’s and don’ts in managing their calendar. Some of these may not apply to your situation, but with the many people I have supported,

The most important things I learned about managing the calendar:

  • Do not schedule back to back meetings all day or majority of the day. I don’t know anyone who likes this. You have to give your boss enough time to prepare for the next one.
  • Is there a meeting offsite? Remember to block out TRAVEL time (to and from).
  • Block Desk time. if you have an executive who gets invited to a lot of meetings, block desk time after every 2 hours of meetings. They need time to work and make calls.
  • BLOCK Time. This can be seen as desk time as well. I supported an executive who was okay with one meeting on a Friday morning and then requested the rest of the day blocked. It was by far his sacred time and I certainly honored it.
  • Check all the meetings your boss owns. If you initiated the meeting request, he is the owner. Make sure you have the agenda ready and any materials printed or sent out to the attendees prior to the meeting. That is just a preference thing.
  • Know who isn’t coming and why. If there are attendees required to attend and they are unable to come, move the meeting before the boss asks, “Who is coming to this meeting?”

There are a lot of things about managing the calendar that don’t have to do with the tool itself. I think those are the skills that really make you a rock star or someone who is just a scheduler.

I know how fast these schedules change. When you know it’s a busy day, week, or month, always be a step ahead.

If you are lucky enough to get a 1:1 with your boss, review the calendar together. Discuss each meeting, the purpose, who owns what, the status, and any materials needed. I always looked a  month ahead and made sure everything was up to date.

Call to confirm meetings.

Make sure you have all standing meetings and that they are accurate.

Don’t forget about including conference call information, updating location changes, and any other information provided in the body of the meeting invite.

Stay tuned. More Outlook and calendar skill development information will be shared soon!

Personal Assistant Job Description


Personal Assistant Job Description - The Personal AssistantIf you are looking for an industry standard of the Personal Assistant Description, you may find that although the role has been around for a long time, it has evolved as business and personal demands have increased.

The job role can vary depending on who you support. The tasks vary based on the industry of the person supported. The role has evolved to include assisting a family, juggling multiple calendars, both professional and personal.

As I did some research in the past couple months, I found a general description that overall encompasses the basic skills of the personal assistant:

Job Responsibilities:

1. Handling the daily activities of the manager or the executive they are working for. This includes handling phone calls, meetings and appointments.

2. Apart from these responsibilities, this job also demands to take care of small yet, important matters like managing the accounts, checking on the stationery, writing minutes, taking dictations and so on.

3. Many times, a personal assistant is also expected to handle unofficial work of the principal, which usually happens in case of ministers, millionaires, or movie stars.

4. Keeping the boss updated about the recent updates like emails, letters and information of similar nature.

5. Preparing correspondence on behalf of the boss.

6. In case the job involves traveling, a personal assistant is expected to make all the necessary arrangements and accompany the boss, if it is required.

Additional job responsibilities (this is very common for Executive/Personal Assistant crossover roles)

• Organize, prioritize and archive business documents 
• Organize, track and archive research and marketing materials
• Work independently and with minimal supervision.
• Anticipate support needs
• Track and record business expenses
• General errands
• Minor Mac/Apple troubleshooting
• Anticipate Executive support needs
• Additional duties as assigned

Qualifications

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite and/or Mac platform.
  • Strong ability to multitask and manage incoming information with ease and efficient response time.
  • Highly organized, responsive, efficient, and able to handle multiple projects simultaneously
  • Have own laptop computer and smart phone (this is a requirement seen more and more)
  • Own reliable transportation, complete a background a check

Training and Education Requirements:

The personal assistant job description may not need education beyond a high school diploma, however a growing number of principles seek assistants with higher education.

High school graduates with some experience in an executive support role may already have the skills needed to become a personal assistant. Some principles will not require a four-year degree but will request a number of years experience that would replace the education. Experience, good references, and great skills will take you far without having attended college or a university.

Who the Personal Assistant Supports

Depending on the level of support you will be required to do your job, the role will be either fairly light on the workload or just as busy as any office paying, or corporate job. I would call these environments ‘cube land’.

If you are assisting someone who owns their own newer business, it will most likely be a part-time job and the pay rate will be low, most likely by the hour.

If you are assisting someone who is at an executive level, or high-profile in the community, possibly a celebrity, the job description can easily span two or three pages!

Stay tuned, so much to share!

The Personal Assistant Blog

Welcome to the Personal Assistant blog!

I will also be sharing about the Executive Assistant role as well, since there are so many in this job role who end up crossing over or doing multiple tasks that over time really do overlap both roles.

I have a lot of goals in starting this blog, my main intention to share my experiences and be a resource to those who are seeking the career of an Executive/Personal Assistant.

Thank you, and I hope you return to visit me soon!

Best,

The Personal Assistant