Job specification for personal assistant

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Rachel Barker is a desk assistant with an investment bank. She speaks German fluently and needs her language and administrative skills to organise business trips and meetings.

How would you outline your role as a personal assistant?

I act as desk assistant to the German, Irish, Dutch and Benelux teams of research analysts. I organise roadshows, business trips, meetings and conference calls. I work in the equities department, which offers research and other services to institutional investors.

What are your main responsibilities?

I compile detailed roadshows and business trip itineraries for the analysts and clients, including organising and confirming business meetings and making travel arrangements. This involves making reservations with airlines and hotels, booking taxis and checking that all the timings and connections are correct. I am also involved in administrative duties associated with the company's overseas roadshows.

What is your weekly routine?

A typical week involves gathering information for forthcoming trips and roadshows, and making sure itineraries for the current week have been finalised and issued. I am on the phone a lot to overseas contacts and companies where I need to converse in a foreign language, mainly German and French.

What hours do you work?

I work from 9.00am to 5.00pm with an hour for lunch. The desk must always be covered during working hours.

What's your working environment like?

I work in busy, recently modernised, open-plan offices in the City, where I sit close to the teams of research analysts.

Who do you work with?

I work with the teams of research analysts and clients, both in the UK and in Europe. I also work with two other desk assistants, who are responsible for different geographic regions.

What special skills do you need for your job as a personal assistant?

Desk assistants need to be bilingual, which in my case is German. It is also essential to be highly organised, flexible and personable and to be attentive to detail.

Why did you choose this type of work?

The role allows me to use my language and organisational skills on a daily basis. I was also keen to work in the financial sector.

What training have you done?

Following A levels, I went on to study German, French and European Studies, including a year studying in Germany. After graduation I took some time out to travel and then worked to gain secretarial experience.

What do you like/dislike about being a personal assistant?

I enjoy using my organisational and foreign language skills and find it rewarding when I get positive feedback from colleagues or clients. I regret the fact that, although I routinely speak to clients on the phone and email them, I never get to meet them face-to-face.

What are the particular challenges in your work?

You have to remain organised, flexible and personable at all times, particularly when plans change and deadlines are approaching, which can be very frustrating – especially when you are trying to get the job finished.

Rachel's route to her career as a personal assistant

  • A levels.
  • Degree in German, French and European Studies.
  • A year at university in Germany.
  • Secretarial jobs to gain experience.

Rachel's personal assistant tips

  • You must be really fluent in an overseas language to be able to make use of it in a business environment.
  • To be a bilingual PA you must have secretarial experience as well.

Personal assistant related jobs

Salary of a personal assistant

  • Salaries start around £15,000, rising to about £23,000 with experience.
  • An experienced bilingual personal assistant with a major organisation could earn £30,000 or more.
  • Knowledge of an unusual language such as Russian or Japanese could command a higher salary.

Becoming a personal assistant

  • Applicants need a high level of administration or secretarial skills and fluency in one or more foreign languages.
  • Many bilingual PAs have a degree in languages or a combination of languages and some aspect of business.
  • There are many relevant qualifications, covering both secretarial skills and languages, offered by bodes such as OCR, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examinations Board (LCCIEB), City & Guilds and SQA.
  • LCCIEBs European qualifications – the Diploma in European Business Administration, European Executive Assistant Certificate and Commercial Language Assistant Certificate – are available for English, French, German and Spanish.
  • Relevant NVQs/SVQs include language units and Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 in Administration.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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