When is a secretary not a secretary? When is she or he a Personal Assistant (PA)? Actually where does a secretary stop and a PA begin? Lastly, what makes a high performing PA?
Today's secretary is a far cry from her or his counterpart of a few decades ago. Many years ago a secretary’s job entailed bashing away on her typewriter, typing 30 words a minute and taking down copious shorthand notes and making coffee for her boss.
In fact it could be said that a PA has become an umbrella term for secretary, project manager, executive administrator and decision maker rolled in to one.
The secretary of the 21st century has assumed the role of a personal assistant with far more talent and ability to offer beyond an impressive typing speed.
Today’s PA enjoys a partnership with the manager, providing 100 per cent support in all areas of work whether it is dealing with day-to-day correspondence, liaising with employees and clients.
The business life support system provided by the PA, is what sets her apart from the standard secretary. She or he is the right hand woman or man to her or his boss, involved in everything that the manager is doing- and more. A good PA is a conduit to getting everything done from organising meetings and even sorting out that last-minute hotel booking for an unexpected VIP.
The role of the modern day PA is more akin to that of a project manager than an administrator.
His or her tasks are varied and - while they are still likely to include those traditional secretarial duties such as typing, minute taking and diary management - there are more executive assignments such as organising conferences, staff training and managing budgets.
In general terms, they must know how to plan, organise, implement and follow through projects. On top of this as office technology wizard and trouble-shooter, they should have superb computer skills.
They should be as adept at putting a budget sheet together as organising an all-singing, all-dancing PowerPoint presentation.
These days the PAs role is determined by the manager and varies according to the areas of responsibility accredited to him or her by the manager and the willingness of the manager to delegate managerial duties.
Aside from being the essential link to important people in any organisation, a PA must see themselves as key team players as well.
A PA must have an unerring ability to juggle a multiple of things and pull them all off perfectly. He or she must be able to whiz-in time management and possess outstanding organisational skills to deliver the required results.
A PA must juggle a broad range of tasks and responsibilities. While doing so, he or she must maintain awareness of deadlines and resources, as well as track current activities and new information that could affect her objectives and productivity.
Much of a PA’s work requires coordination and collaboration with a broad range of people, both within and outside of her immediate organization.
A PA is time and task management conscious. Time management refers to the process of helping employees with the ability to balance the work load. Task management involves the planning, execution, and oversight of tasks.
Today's PA needs to be far more commercially aware than ever before. She or he needs to understand company policies, company culture, the role of other company personnel, company development and so on.
In this age of e-mails, tele-conferences and so forth, personal assistants must always look at their role with a fresh eye within the role organisation they serve.
To do this, they should always get out of the proverbial box to get a clear picture by broadening their knowledge base and take a global business perspective.