Ever Wondered How to Be a Good Personal Assistant?

At HeadBox we work with a lot of PAs. So we know how to be a good personal assistant. We’ve been chatting to some of our regulars, and thinking about how to be a good PA. It’s fair to say they know their stuff, so we’re confident that the top tips for personal assistant are all here!
Every personal assistant job is different – it very much depends on the person you work with and the type of company you work in – but there are some fundamental skills needed to be a PA.
Skills that will help you do your job to the very best of your ability. From organisational techniques to communication tips, this is how you become a successful personal assistant.  

woman types at desk on laptop


1. Be One Step Ahead

The capacity to do your personal assistant duties is based on how well you know your boss. If you’ve spent a fair amount of time working alongside them, you’ll get to know the things they like and the things they don’t like.
This includes personal tastes, like how they drink their coffee, what they like for lunch, but also their behavioural quirks and pet peeves. Whether they really value an hour or two of quiet in the afternoon, or prefer you to keep up a constant stream of communication.
Once you understand all of their eccentricities, you’ve cracked the basics of how to be a good PA!
As Paul Marsh, one of the London PA Awards Champions says: ‘If they are busy, feed them . . . I find that going out to pick up lunch (or a coffee) when they are too busy to do so themselves means they get to eat at a decent hour and this will improve their mood (and keep them going).
A happy boss means a happy PA!’ Bobi Cooper concludes that being a step ahead whenever you can ‘will work in your benefit as much as theirs in the long run’.

2. Network

Done in the right way networking can be invaluable. There are a whole lot of PAs out there. The community is a vast one, and a very active group too. So, a successful PA will always network, you never know the connections you may meet in the process. 
There will always be someone who has more experience than you and will have some invaluable personal assistant tips.  They might have some helpful contacts, or just be able to offer some words of wisdom and personal assistant tips to save the day.
As Paul puts it: ‘build good relationships as you’re going to need their assistance at some point, whether it be moving a meeting, helping with an event or offering advice when you hit a wall and need to pick their brains’.
The skills needed to be a good PA are wide-ranging, and by knowing plenty of other PAs you’ll have the chance to broaden your own skill-set as much as possible. 
Bobi puts this even more emphatically than we can! ‘I cannot stress enough how helpful immediate and wider networks are! Go to networking events, link up with other PAs. We have a great secretarial community, use it!’

6 people in bright meeting space

3. Think Big

Let’s be honest, the reason you want to know how to be a good PA isn’t just for your boss’s benefit, it’s for your own career prospects too. It’s important to think about how you are portrayed and viewed by the people you work with.

For Bobi this means being confident – ‘whether you know the answer or not, act like you do, it gives off a sense of control. If you don’t, use your relationships and connections for support, someone will always know the answer!’ Paul emphasises the importance of a smile and ‘can do’ attitude. Positivity and enthusiasm are key.

4. Be Discreet

‘Keep their private and professional information to yourself’ are Paul’s words of advice on this topic. As part of your personal assistant duties, you have to handle a lot of personal information and do so discreetly.
Remaining professional is one of the key factors in how to be a good personal assistant.
Your boss needs to have the confidence to be able to trust you with private information, and it will do your reputation no favours if you show yourself lacking in this respect.
A lot of the success of your relationship, as with any relationship, relies on trust.

Two people sat at a table with coffee

5. Communicate

Of all the skills needed to be a personal assistant, communication is one of the most important ones. Paul has a few words of advice when it comes to communication with your boss: ‘Make sure they are the first to know when something goes right or wrong.  Keep them in the loop.’
It’s no good letting something escalate without telling them. Not only will it be more difficult to put right, but it’s almost guaranteed that they won’t appreciate knowing that they weren’t even aware of the situation.

Two people talking near large window

6. Go Above and Beyond

And the mark of how to be a good personal assistant? Not just someone who can preempt the problem before it has even happened, but someone who then goes the extra mile to get something done to the very highest standard.
Paul’s motto when thinking about how to be a good PA is ‘nothing is too much trouble’ and both he and Bobi strive to be proactive in the way they approach their jobs.  
For Paul it’s about finding new ways to ‘improve processes and contribute to the goals of the organisation’. Bobi also tries to approach age-old problems in a modern way – one of her top personal assistant tips is to take your phone along to meetings to record people speaking.

That way your minutes are guaranteed to be perfect and not a single action point will be forgotten!
These are some of the best tips about how to become a good personal assistant, from some of the best PAs. The role of a PA is an indispensable one, and the success you have depends so much on the individual relationship you have with your boss.
The sooner you work out what kind of person they are, and they learn to trust you, the easier it will be to navigate the challenges and problems that will, inevitably, crop up.
There you have it. Our top 6 tips on how to be a good personal assistant. If you follow these you’ll be sure to progress your career in no time.