Firstly, let’s clear up the confusion that exists between the terms Personal Assistant (PA) and Executive Assistant (EA). They are sometimes used mistakenly and interchangeably – either because a job description is written by someone who doesn’t really understand the differences in the roles, or because an organisation wants to save money.
How do the roles differ?
A Personal Assistant is the junior of the two roles. Typically, a PA’s duties will include general admin support, such as dealing with phone calls, emails, expenses and the like. In addition, the role usually covers time organisation, and travel and diary management.
An Executive Assistant’s role may well cover most, or all, of the above, but will generally also include a variety of senior level tasks and responsibilities. It is at C-Suite level (CEO/MD/COO, etc.) that EAs are typically found. What’s more, an EA is far more likely to be involved in their Executive’s position, projects and general work – even to the point of making decisions in their absence. Developing, nurturing and maintaining business relationships is another typical aspect of an EA job description.
The term EA is often used to indicate a higher level of seniority. Being involved business strategy and project management – not responsibilities that PAs usually have – are a key part of many EA roles. As a result, EAs tend to be better qualified than PAs.
How to make the leap from PA to EA
Making the transition from PA to EA is largely about two things. Firstly, it is important to keep up-to-date with practical skills and to continue to be appropriately trained in tech skills. From Microsoft Office to the plethora of other office tools and platforms that are now available, ongoing training keeps a PA skilled-up and boosts earning potential. Secondly – and probably more importantly – it is vital to develop and practise soft skills, such as chairing meetings or managing upwards.
Learning new skills, such as languages, will always be useful and make any individual more appealing to recruiters. Similarly, taking on projects that enable you to show your competencies and the impact you can have will stand you in good stead.
Of course, because of the confusion that sometimes exists, it’s possible that you might feel that you are currently doing an Executive Assistant role already, but only have the title of Personal Assistant. If this is the case, it reflects negatively on the PA/EA but also on the Executive who is being assisted. Because of this, line managers or HR departments should be happy to change the title.
Managing a team or a large number of bosses is excellent experience, but as Executive Assistants tend to support a smaller number – giving them each more time, attention and focus – looking for roles that have a smaller number can be an effective way of making the transition from PA to EA.
If you feel ready to make the move, get in touch with Coby Philips today. We will help you to make the transition from PA to EA.