What Makes a Great Personal Assistant
Last updated: November 7th, 2019
If you are a busy CEO of a private or public company, or a spouse of a CEO, a Philanthropist, an Entertainer, a Politician, or a President of a Foundation, a personal assistant can make all the difference, when it comes to managing your business and personal life. A great personal assistant can work seamlessly to streamline schedules, keeps the “trains running on time” and allow you to focus on what’s in front of you at the moment. Finding someone who can efficiently run your personal life is essential, so what are the qualities that make a great personal assistant?
First, let’s look at what a personal assistant does. This can vary for each individual, but generally, a personal assistant manages your personal schedule and handles various administrative tasks. They will sometimes also manage more business-related tasks, though if you also have an executive assistant, then that crossover will be minimized.
What does a personal assistant do?
Some things a personal assistant might handle include:
- Pay personal bills for you and your family
- Manage medical insurance claims
- Manage personal travel for the family
- Booking air travel or private jets
- Manage multiple properties
- Research, find and manager vendors
- Manage staff members such as housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, etc.
- Archive art collections
- Gather tax information
- Fill out college applications for family member
- Order gifts
- Organize charity functions- help plan galas
Personal Assistant Qualifications
When it comes to the qualifications needed to be a personal assistant, intrinsic qualities are sometimes much more important than more tangible factors like education. Similar job experience, or at least administrative experience wherein the candidate demonstrated certain skills is also key. At the end of the day, however, a great personal assistant will always possess certain qualities.
Perhaps the most fundamental personal assistant qualification, organizational aptitude is necessary to keep things running smoothly. A personal assistant will manage your personal calendar, and streamline this calendar with your professional calendar. This needs to be set up in the most efficient manner possible, and the personal assistant should be in constant communication with your executive assistant to ensure proper scheduling. The ability to maintain order while scheduling appointments, managing calendars, and handling email and phone communication, is essential.
When considering personal assistant requirements, communication skills should be at the top of the list. Both verbal and written skills are imperative to be a great personal assistant. You need your personal assistant to be able to communicate on your behalf, and the assistant must be able to speak clearly and confidently, and write properly and concisely. A personal assistant must be able to communicate effectively on their your behalf, whether communicating with vendors, business associates, friends, family, or staff. Flexibility in communication style is also important because of the variety of people a personal assistant will communicate with on a daily basis.
Of course, a mastery of Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendars, and any other scheduling software used is important, but a great personal assistant will also know how to use the basic software used by you in the workplace. The expertise needed will vary by position, but an assistant should be ready to help you in a variety of capacities, and knowing how to use any necessary software is key.
In addition to these more straightforward qualifications to be a personal assistant, there are certain things an assistant must value in order for the relationship to work, that might not be expected of a regular employee of a business.
Flexibility and Reliability
If you have a crazy schedule, so does your personal assistant. The willingness to be flexible with scheduling is required of most personal assistants, as your days can be long and highly variable. It is hardly ever a 9-5 job.
In addition to flexibility, reliability is key. A great personal assistant is your right-hand man or woman, and that person needs to take complete ownership of your schedule and always be two steps ahead of you. Also, part of being an amazing personal assistant is making important decisions, and it takes a reliable person to be trusted with so much.
Personal Assistants will learn things about your business or personal life that are not public knowledge, and might not even be known within your organization. The assistant is trusted with this sensitive information, and must possess a great deal of tact and loyalty. Discretion is expected of a Personal Assistant, and without the ability to be discrete, one cannot expect your relationship with your assistant to flourish.
The last thing that should be mentioned, is that in addition to the requisite skills and qualities that make a great personal assistant, it is crucial that the chemistry is perfect. There is no cookie cutter solution. Here are a few different examples of how to match qualifications and skills with chemistry for a successful pairing:
A prominent socialite with 3 residences and a foundation came to C-Suite Assistants to find a personal assistant. The position required someone who could supervise this client’s staff, shop, plan events, travel to Florida to decorate their home for the holidays, and most of all be patient and kind with the client, whose former assistant had been like “a bull in a china shop.” We found a great fit: an assistant who had worked with a high-net-worth principal for 14 years and who was sophisticated and professional. As soon as they met they knew the chemistry was perfect. In addition, the candidate has excellent Microsoft Office skills, which we verified by testing.
The person in charge of hiring for a NY hedge fund came to C-Suite Assistants to find a personal assistant for the busy president of the firm. The challenge was to find an assistant who would fit in with the culture at the firm, as the PA would have dealings with both the president’s family and the employees at the firm. Since executives at the firm included graduates from many top schools, the candidate had to be well-educated, be comfortable doing research, and not be too proud to run errands and occasionally make breakfast. We found the perfect fit in a 2014 Hobart & William Smith grad, who was unflappable and easily able to handle the demands of the job and the temperament of the president, which fluctuated due to the demands of the trading desk.
A well-known pop singer came to us to find a personal/executive assistant to work both in the LA office and on tour with the pop star. This was a demanding role that required accuracy in the office and the maturity to remain calm under the stresses of being on tour. We went outside the music business and found a PA/EA who was relocating from Arizona and had supported the heirs of a national department store chain, a sports agent and a private foundation. She had the perfect experience and temperament for the role.
Personal Assistant requirements will vary from one individual to the next, but these core competencies are key across industries and individuals. A great personal assistant will possess the skills and qualities that will enable them to keep your personal life and business running smoothly, and will eventually become an essential part of your day-to-day operations, and an indispensable employee.
If you need help finding the perfect personal assistant, C-Suite Assistants has a track record of excellence in placing personal assistants.
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