Career & Finance · Life

Why I’m OK “Just” being a PA

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As a teenager I dreamt of becoming a biomolecular engineering or behavioural scientist. Science and especially psychology were always passions of mine (even more so than dancing and music) and I was driven in my studies throughout high school in order to achieve the scores required to attend university to fulfil my dream.

However, due to depression, anxiety and my OCD, my studies and my dreams disappeared before my eyes.

With no future in which I could go to university easily, when I was 18 I became an office junior. Quickly I rose through the ranks until at age 22 I was a Personal Assistant, and by the age of 26 I was managing staff.

Throughout my career, throughout many different companies and many different job titles, there have been the potential to undertake studies though nothing ever seemed to come to fruition, and when I reached my thirties and realised my move to the UK was a “now or never” scenario, it meant that these opportunities weren’t worthwhile investigating.

And now? Now I live in Scotland, I don’t have a degree, and I am an Executive Assistant. And you know what?

I’m ok with that.

When |I tell people I’m a PA or an EA, they smile and nod and for some reason think I’m in public relations, or events, or simply not understand what it is a PA/EA actually does and even the way we’re portrayed in film is a bit hit and miss.

One of my favourite movies is The Devil Wears Prada (more so for the fashion than the plot: her friends are complete arseholes and she was thriving in her new job! Who would quit a job for a whiney man-child!) and that gives you an example of what it’s like to be an EA.

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What is an Executive Assistant?

An EA is basically an executive level assistant. I know that doesn’t really clarify it much, but bear with me! Essentially, an EA looks after and assists executive level staff, from CEO’s, Director’s, Chairpersons and the like. The titles change mind you, but the work is essentially the same, whether you are an EA or a PA or a SA.

But… What does an EA Do?

An EA looks after the basics: Diary and email management, travel, cash and corporate expenses, reporting, presentations, and any other ad hoc duties. Those ad hoc duties vary between manager and industry and company, and can be anything from grabbing them a coffee to organise large-scale functions and events, to travelling domestically or internationally to support them, or ensuring they have everything they need printed off for their next meeting and that they get to the meeting on time, or dealing with budgets and extensive reporting.
Executive Assistants are there to make their bosses life easier.
Although every EA’s role is similar, they differ vastly from person to person. Whereas in most other jobs personality isn’t very important, it is integral to being an EA.

Why is Personality so Important?

As an EA you’re not only looking after your managers diary, expenses and travel, but also taking calls from their spouse and kids, helping them with their shopping, listening to any stories from the weekend. In one case, my CEO and I used to sit each morning over a cup of tea and discuss fashion and recipes. Another manager would have his kids come in and I would do arts and crafts with them.
You work so closely with this person you have to be the right personality fit: you’re a professional friend who makes their life easier. You won’t last long in your role if you just don’t get along.

What Traits are important?

To be a successful EA you must be highly organised and coordinated and incredibly adaptable and flexible: meetings, reports, deadlines and moods can change from minute to minute and you must always be prepared for the unknown.
Multi-tasking is also integral to the role as is having an eye for detail, as you are representing your boss and the company and must always ensure all reports, communications, et al, reflect the highest levels of professionalism, even if this mean rewriting your managers communications for tone and grammar.

Are there any perks?

Yes and No. When your manager is around your day can be long and incredibly stressful. Typically, I end up working 9-5 and skipping my lunch break. This all balances out though when my manager is travelling as I will come in late or leave early on those days, unless there is a deadline needing to be met.
Sometimes the boss will buy you coffee in the morning, and it’s a great job for wearing cute and killer heels around the office, and strutting your stuff in general.
Also, the money isn’t too bad!

Although being an EA can be a thankless job, highly demanding and stressful, I love the challenges it provides me and the fact it’s a dynamic, ever changing career. I never know what tomorrow will bring, nor where it may take it.

And as for my studies?

Well, I work a 35 hour week 9-5 job, work on my novel, work on this blog, spend time adventuring with Ben, and looking after Maia. This is my life, and I am not only okay with it – I love it.

3 thoughts on “Why I’m OK “Just” being a PA

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