Most people think they have a good idea of what a PA (or EA or VA) does, but how accurate are they?
To appreciate the ways in which a good PA can change someone’s life, we must ensure they have an accurate understanding of what PAs actually do (and don’t do). This means examining the stereotypes and age-old assumptions, busting some myths and educating people!
Let us start with a basic Google Image search for “personal assistant”:
According to this, PAs are female multi-taskers, slim, mostly brunette, beautiful… and white. In reality, PAs are an incredibly diverse bunch with only two of those qualities being universally correct: they are indeed all wonderful multi-taskers and they are all incredibly beautiful (obviously).
Let’s unpack the rest and bust some myths…
MYTH # 1: All PAs are women
Going only by the images above you’d be forgiven for believing that this is Women’s Work, and only a specific type of woman at that.
Most PAs out there DON’T look like that! Diversity goes both ways and whilst the majority of PAs and EAs out there are currently women, we’d love to see more men in this line of work. The skills required – and specialities to be honed – are by no means gender specific. Cultural diversity and inclusion are also hugely important and at Designated PA we have an avid interest in building a truly diverse team of top class PAs.
MYTH # 2: All PAs do the same thing
Surely all PAs take minutes, make coffee, manage diaries, book flights and act as ferocious gatekeepers? Don’t they all sit at a desk outside their boss’s office waiting for the work to appear? And they all definitely multi-task, spin plates and juggle priorities like ninjas, right?
Absolutely – PAs do carry out many of those traditional duties and they do it well; but some do none at all! Every PA is an individual with a unique work history, career path, personality, skill set and career ambitions. Therefore every PA offers something unique – the trick is to figure out exactly what type of PA you need (not what you assume you need!) then go out and find that person. Assuming all PAs are the same will come back to bite you – some are finance wizards, others steer clear; some are tech specialists, others like things old school; some are full of new ideas and can flex priorities easily, others prefer to work methodically and focus on the task in hand; some are independent and like to manage their own workload, others are happy to be assigned tasks as they arise. There is a market for all these types of PA.
One thing is for certain, no matter what type of PA you choose, they will have these universal traits: intelligent, organised, solution-orientated and efficient. Find the right PA for you and you’ll quickly wonder how you coped without one for so long.
MYTH 3: Having a PA is a ‘luxury’ reserved for corporate executive types
If you are a young entrepreneur, a startup founder or are self employed it’s understandable if you haven’t considered hiring a PA for yourself, even if you really need one. Especially if you have a certain, possibly inaccurate, image of what PAs do (see Myth 2!). You don’t need your diary organised or your calls answered as you have your world at your fingertips on your phone / tablet / notebook. Perhaps you don’t need someone ‘on duty’ all day every day. Or you don’t have a traditional office space to offer, and worry that you won’t have enough work for them etc etc..
Just as the business world has changed and evolved, so has the role of the PA. There are PAs out there who would jump at the chance to work with an exciting, dynamic young business. They would relish getting truly stuck in, helping wherever needed, working on projects, research, marketing, PR, social media, copywriting/editing, communications, events… perhaps with no traditional PA duties at all! An experienced PA or EA will have been exposed to a wealth of business scenarios, will have an impressive network of suppliers and contacts, and valuable viewpoints and opinions to be tapped into. You don’t even have to call them your “PA” if that feels too corporate – find a title that you’re both happy with. These days PAs are increasingly looking for flexible options such as remote working, part time hours, contract and gig-style work. A win-win situation.
MYTH 4: A PA won’t do things as well as I can do them myself
When you have built up your business from scratch, and you eat, sleep and breathe it, the thought of handing over chunks of it to someone else is rather scary – even if it’s the chunks that you dislike or keep putting off or don’t have time to do! It feels easier to keep doing everything yourself rather than have to spend time telling someone else how to do things, and then risk having them done badly, right? You might as well do it yourself. And they don’t know your business anywhere near as well as you…
It’s true – a PA might do things differently to you. But if it’s a PA task, within their remit and skill set, the chances are they will do it better than you! Let’s face it, as your business grows you simply won’t be able to do everything yourself without serious risk of burnout. Letting go of tasks is hard, we know, but if you’ve found the right PA you will be handing things over into an incredibly safe, skilled pair of hands and the support they provide could well be a catalyst for business growth. Experienced PAs are skilled in the art of getting into the heart and culture of a business, they are observant, and have business acumen. It’s a risk worth taking – any initial discomfort of letting go will soon dissolve and you will quickly feel empowered, more relaxed, and able to get back to enjoying the aspects of your business that made you start it in the first place.
Time to find the Robin to your Batman? The Penfold to your Danger Mouse? The Goose to your Maverick? The Watson to your Sherlock Holmes?
We can help you get started – get in touch to discover all the options you never knew you had.