What is an EA? What is a PA? What do they do?

Executive assistants and personal assistants provide high-level administrative support to company executives. Like secretaries, they manage clerical work, travel arrangements and diaries, however, EAs and PAs also perform additional duties that can have a significant impact on the success or profitability of a business.

It is common for both executive assistants and personal assistants to be asked to minute important meetings, help with market research, train staff, perform basic bookkeeping and undertake a variety of other office management duties. While the two job titles have become closer in meaning, traditionally, an EA would be expected to have a stronger business knowledge and will be expected to be more strategically and commercially aware as they liaise with board members, shareholders and key clients of the organisation.

Key responsibilities

Responsibilities will vary, but examples include:

  • Proactively managing the diary - scheduling meetings and appointments and managing travel itineraries.
  • Coordinating communications, including taking calls, responding to emails and interfacing with clients.
  • Dealing with and distributing incoming correspondence
  • Co-ordinating Board meeting arrangements and liaising with Board members & shareholders on logistics.
  • Maintaining an organised filing system and retrieving corporate records, documents, and reports.
  • Preparing financial statements, reports and other documents.
  • Performing research in order to prepare documents for review and presentation.
  • Helping prepare for meetings and recording minutes from meetings.
  • Processing expenses and handling basic bookkeeping tasks.
  • Performing office duties that include managing supplier contracts, ordering supplies and managing a records database.
  • Arranging corporate and staff events.
  • Effectively dealing with complaints.

Why are they important?

Good executive and personal assistants anticipate the needs of those they support and perform an essential role in keeping them organised, on time and up to date with commitments. They relieve the executive from having to carry out administrative and other basic tasks and protect them from unnecessary interruptions, allowing them to concentrate on the more important issues of developing the business.

Skills needed for this role

EAs and PAs require excellent organisational, decision-making and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to multitask. Strong interpersonal skills with a professional demeanour and the ability to maintain confidentiality are essential. Advanced Microsoft Office skills, with an ability to become familiar with firm-specific software and a professional level of verbal and written communications skills are also necessary.

Strategic Professional Options examinations linked to this role

There is no single most relevant Strategic Professional exam option for this particular role. You should therefore select those option exams which are the most appropriate for the specialist area you are interested in working in and/or the subject areas in which you have previously performed well in.

Career opportunities presented by this role

The considerable amount of business experience an EA gains from being close to senior management makes them ideally suited to move on to other significant roles in the organisation. Potential career progression includes moves into areas such as human resources, project management, sales, legal and finance.

Competencies

High level competencies required include:

  • Data, digital and technology

    A. Identifies strategic options to add value, using data and technology.

    B. Analyses and evaluates data using appropriate technologies and tools.

    C. Applies technologies to visualise data clearly and effectively.

    D. Applies scepticism and ethical judgement to the use of data and data technology.

  • Stakeholder relationship management

    A. Positively develops relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

    B. Communicates and gains commitment from internal and external stakeholder.

    C. Uses emerging technologies to collaborate and communicate effectively with stakeholders.

    D. Applies professional and ethical judgement when engaging with stakeholders.

    E. Aligns organisational strategic objectives with stakeholder needs and manages expectations.