Even with all the organisational help offered by modern technology, Executive Assistants (also called Personal Assistants or PAs in some firms) are still in demand.
As their name implies they are often a feature of executive level offices. Departmental heads, Operations Managers and Chief Executives will nearly always have one. It’s almost a badge of honour which proclaims their senior status in the company.
A PA will be expected to undertake a wide range of duties. They will
- Manage their boss’ diary
- Organise meetings and conferences
- Produce all the paperwork for these – agendas, papers for discussion, finance or sales spreadsheets, presentations
- Attend top-level meetings to take minutes
- Deal with budgets
- Screen phone calls
- Greet visitors
- Produce correspondence for their boss (or bosses)
- Potentially manage a team of other secretaries, administrators and reception staff
- Most likely be involved in the recruitment process for this team, handling personnel issues as needed in smaller companies
Many PAs learn at least some of these skills in other jobs long before scaling the heights of the Executive Assistant’s ladder. But for those with a wish to make a career out of Personal Assistant work, having the right skills from the start – and being able to prove it at interview – is vital. This is where organisations such as the Institute of Executive Assistants and Administrators come in. The IEAA offers accreditation in a wide range of suitable PA training skills; not just typing but also finance, bookkeeping, event management, project management, business communications and social media management. This is a much wider job remit than in previous versions of the role, mainly due to the impact of the internet on business generally. While some of the skills may come naturally to prospective students, it is worth noting that business communication and social media management are very different from their counterparts in everyday life.
Courses are available through a network of training providers and membership of the Institute can be taken out as soon as students enrol on a course. Certificates can prove that an applicant has the necessary skills for the job; these can then be tested at interview.
Courses such as those offered by the IEAA are divided into levels which aim to equip students with the basic skills to fulfill roles at various levels of administrative, PA and EA seniority. From Level 2 Receptionist to Level 4 Office Manager or Level 5 Executive Assistant qualifications, the depth of knowledge is clearly indicated to both student and prospective future employer.
The Institute of Executive Assistants and Administrators is the modern-day version of ‘secretarial college’. The courses are delivered through accredited training providers in several locations across northern Europe, and the resulting PA training qualifications are equally recognised as suitable grounding for employment as anything up to an Executive Assistant in those countries and beyond.