Making reference to a secretarial colleague of mine, I once heard someone say in a meeting “I asked her if she wanted a career or to carry on being a secretary”.
To be clear, it was nothing more than a mis-worded phrase, and after I commented that being a PA is a career, we all had a good laugh about it.
But it made me think. There are people out there, in all kinds of roles, who think that a PA role is somehow temporary. That they must be doing that job whilst they search for a “proper career”.
There are plenty of people who move from a secretarial career into something else. I’ve seen people move into HR, I’ve seen PAs become financial analysts. But what if it’s secretarial work that you are passionate about?
I say: GREAT!! Being a PA, or secretary, or team assistant is hard. It requires a special set of skills, just like any other role. Not everyone can be a manager, in the same way that not everyone can be a PA.
The tasks that are carried out by PAs are just as important as tasks carried out by other members of the team.
You wouldn’t want clients greeted by someone rude and unkept. You wouldn’t want your emails written by someone who had no idea what the company does. You wouldn’t want your meetings arranged by someone who couldn’t figure out time zones.
If you think about all of the people who make up your team and imagine that they are all cogs in a big machine, your Secretary will be about 16 different cogs, with influence over every single area.
It takes a certain kind of person to juggle 25 different tasks, all completely unrelated to each other, whilst still knowing that you need to leave 10 minutes early for your meeting across town because it’s just started raining and there will be no cabs.
A PA develops their career over the years. I’ve noticed that there definitely isn’t a correlation between the seniority of the executive and the ability of their PA. If anything, it can be harder the more junior the team you are looking after. Why? Because if you are looking to schedule a meeting for the CEO, everyone will clear their diaries to accommodate. If you look after a junior team, you are the one who is clearing all the diaries!
If you are a senior executive, you probably don’t realise how much you rely on your PA. They take care of a lot of your emails, they read all the contracts for you, they set up meetings before you know you need them. They could probably stand in for you for a short while if necessary.
So is a PA a career choice? 100% yes and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, suggest that they spend just a week in your seat and see how they manage.
I’m in the middle of a secretarial career. I have moved from Team Assistant, to Senior Secretary, to Executive Assistant, to Office Manager. These weren’t all necessarily upwards moving roles. Some of them were sideways, and a lot of the tasks overlap. But my secretarial roles have completely been my career and will continue to be so. I’m a career EA/PA/OM and darn proud of it too.