The multifaceted role of a PA

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By Joanne Manville

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Joanne Manville is a Virtual Assistant who started her own business ‘Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance’ after ten years as a successful Executive Assistant to Chief Executives and Managing Directors in both the public and private sectors. 

Whilst in some organisations the role of a PA has changed little from the traditional role of secretary, in many the PA now undertakes a wide variety of responsibilities and roles.

The core roles and responsibilities of PAs still tend to be centred around arranging and facilitating meetings, diary management, emails and booking travel, but it doesn’t stop there.  Many of the things that we do as PAs are outside of our basic job description and often come under the elusive heading of ‘any other tasks appropriate to the role’.

The title ‘Executive Assistant’ is becoming more widely used to describe a PA who is not only the PA to an Executive, but also undertakes more strategic functions in the business – requiring a different skill-set altogether.

Some examples of these are:

  • Representing managers at meetings, or attend meetings in their own right, demonstrating confidence and decision making skills and a strategic understanding of the business;
  • Supporting more than one manager at once – requiring the skills of tact and diplomacy and excellent prioritisation skills;
  • Line management of apprentices, administrators and receptionists and sometimes even other PAs – requiring management skills, the ability to lead a team and to deal with conflict;
  • Training and development – requiring confidence as well as presentation and public speaking skills;
  • Recruitment – requiring objectivity, excellent questioning and knowledge of equality and diversity;
  • Drafting or writing papers to be received by management or Boards of Directors, requiring skills in writing, research, analysis and presentation of data;
  • Managing the social media accounts for the business, requiring knowledge of compliance, regulation, strategic awareness and the brand which the company wishes to project.

Should we be annoyed at having to take on these additional responsibilities, or seek them out to enhance our skills and ensure we are being the best we can be?  Of course, it’s a personal choice and taking on additional roles and responsibilities should not be done lightly or without discussion of additional responsibility allowances.  It may mean working longer hours or making difficult choices around our priorities.

In my career, I undertook all of these roles, sometimes at the same time.  I felt it was key to being the best PA I could be.  Managing others gave me valuable insights into the pressures on my colleagues and on their managers.  Training and Recruitment enabled me to choose and develop the team around me and make improvements to the way in which we worked together and supported one another.  I also felt the additional challenge was important for my own self development and career – although in the end not even that was enough and eventually I decided to use all the skills I had learned to help me build my own business as a Virtual Assistant!

What roles do you undertake outside of the traditional PA role?  Are there things that you would like to get more involved in? Feel free to leave your comments below

#MondayMotivation @Jencorcoran_pa

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What motivated you to become a PA?

“After trying several banking positions in Credit Admin and Client Admin and having worked as an Editors Assistant I repackaged myself as a PA when I moved to the UK 14 years ago – it seemed to be a natural fit as I love assisting, working with computers and being the first point of contact.  I have never looked back and I am now standing tall as a proud champion of the PA profession.”

Jennifer Corcoran

Jennifer Corcoran, Office Manager
Jennifer Corcoran is the Office Manager to Managing Directors within Ship Finance at Crédit Agricole CIB based in London. She joined EUMA in 2014 and considers herself to be a champion of the PA Profession.  She was awarded the title of “Networking PA of the Year” at The London PA Awards 2015 and was elected as the National Public Relations Officer for EUMA UK.  She was a finalist for Pitman’s SuperAchiever PA and SecsintheCity’s Social Media PA of the Year 2015

PA Goal Setting for 2016

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By Lauren Heath

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Lauren is an Office Manager and PA to Partners. After starting out in the hospitality industry, Lauren has since gained a decade of business and administrative experience, having managed offices and supported senior staff in SME’s in a variety of sectors including construction, events, education and more recently in oil and gas engineering.

Since March it has been my goal to return to a fully fledged PA and Office Manager role. It has been tough going, with the competition beating me to it a few times. I did think – “why not stay in my job? I am good at what I do even if I don’t feel pushed to my full potential”. “No!” I thought – I know what I am very good at and I know what I want to be now that I am grown up! (I only just feel this in my early 30’s).

I finally got the new job, hurrah! I am now in a company that appreciates the need and benefit of CPD and networking, and now I feel more freedom and room to grow than ever before. Ironically, having achieved my goal for 2015 in the nick of time, I found an event on Eventbrite that was local to me for Setting Goals for 2016 – brilliant!

The facilitator was Mumazing Success,  a network group for Entrepreneur and career-minded mums to meet and find a work/life balance. It was really good to meet other working mums and business women and hear about their ups and downs as well as achievements for 2015; it puts your own life into perspective. Being a mum and working full time can bring on many feelings of guilt that most people don’t talk about or who are shy to say they enjoy working. I am proud to say I am very ambitious in my work, want to be the best I can be, and I ensure all the family time with my son and husband is quality time.

So looking back on 2015 we discussed our lessons, challenges, what we were grateful for and our proudest moments. It is good to reflect on your year and feel that you have achieved something – new clients, new job, even taking up a hobby that brings you happiness and de-stresses you. Don’t feel guilty; if you are the best you can be, then you will be the best to those around you.

So…the year ahead; what are your goals?

  • Choose goals that you have an emotional connection to – something that you want and feel is right
  • Have self-belief – you can do it!
  • Ignore negativity – it will only stop you from achieving. Surround yourself with good influences or attend other network meetings with like-minded people
  • Reward yourself – instil a good feeling on achieving your goals or the tasks leading up to a goal. Positive reinforcement goes a long way
  • Take action – break these goals down into an action plan, bite size chunks, so they don’t seem unachievable and avoid feeling overwhelmed,
  • Visualise your goals – maybe put up a picture at home or in your office of what you want to have, achieve or improve

At the end of the session, we did a mood board, which at first I found myself flicking through magazines not finding anything that seemed ‘me’. Then words started jumping out and then a few pictures as well. At the end I found I had put my goals into pictures and words in a visual display. Every now and then I can remind myself of what I want to achieve and even add a new cutting if something else pops up or my goal changes slightly.

Apparently 20% of people set goals and only 3% write them down and go on to review and achieve them. So go on, be part of the 3%, set a couple of goals for the year, write them down, ‘visualise them…let’s see what 2016 will bring and where you can find yourself in 12 months time. Life is a journey after all.

So what goals have you set for 2016? Feel free to leave your comments below. 

Effective Time Management – It’s Vital

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By Jessica Hardwicke

Jessica Hardwicke

Jessica’s role is to support her boss in everything he does to drive strategic growth of the firm.  She has a degree in Business Studies and in Event Management, both of which she feels have provided vital skills to propel her to Executive Assistant level and enables her to work in partnership with her boss. The growth in their business comes from key banking, legal and client relationships which she helps to  sustain, manage and develop. Most recently she was shortlisted for Yorkshire PA of the Year and Executive PA Magazine up and coming PA of the year. She is passionate about the role of a PA/EA and  actively encourages others to opt for it as a a career choice.

Assistants have a varied and occasionally misunderstood role. They have to cope with numerous different tasks every day from answering calls and emails to creating and collating information and preparing for and attending meetings, all of which require effective time management and forward planning. This is combined with working on the larger more strategic aspects of their role whilst supporting the senior executive, a balancing act is required.

But what happens when a client or your boss calls with an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately? I have learnt that as an EA you are always on call for whatever issue may arise and equally expected to drop everything you are doing in order to deal with the task in hand. I appreciate this is also due to the nature of the industry you work in, but more often than not it is a common theme amongst other PA’s and EA’s I regularly deal with.

I tend to split my work load into rocks and sand. Rocks being strategic goals and sand being routine tasks or those last minute requests that you must do right away. You should fill your day up with rocks, only plan for 4-5 hours of ‘real work’ per day and the rest will fill up naturally with sand. The key to this is the prioritisation over which matters are rocks and which are sand, and this must be in tune with the person for whom you work so objectives are aligned.

Once you have planned your day like this you will feel in control and thus able to adapt quickly to needs as they arrive. I believe if you invest more time in planning, you can avoid crises and rework, which will provide you with the energy to be truly effective and not just busy. Working more hours does not make you more productive!

It’s also vital that your boss respects your time. They should always know what your current workload entails and thus appreciate when you drop everything when an urgent matter comes in.

Another key skill that you must have in your skills set is to the ability to implement effective time management for your boss. In my case, my boss is often in a position where many conflicting appointments arise. It is therefore my job to conserve his time, prioritise meetings and workload, and delegate or decline anything that is of lesser importance. This is a vital skill to master, and you are the gate keeper to the strategic rocks finding their place, and ensuring mundane tasks do not inhibit growth. When working so closely with someone, you need to understand why a lot of these meetings are happening in the first place in order to establish a level of priority and preparation required.

The biggest thing I have learnt is to always ask questions, it is better to know too much about something than not enough!