The 10 Most Essential Personal Assistant Skills

Whether you want to land an assistant job or simply brush up on your key personal assistant skills, this list is essential reading for all personal assistants.

personal assistant skills

Personal assistant skills

Personal assistants, executive assistants and secretaries are the backbone of any good company. They work alongside executives and leaders to make strategic decisions, facilitate others and keep the business moving. But what tell-tale qualities of an outstanding assistant? 

The answer might make you cringe.

Every once in a while you’ll stumble across a cliche that rings true. Be yourself. The single most important quality for any assistant is authenticity. Assistants aren’t clones and there’s no magic formula for success. You need to be true to yourself, believe whole-heartedly in your own ambitions and take responsibility for your own wellbeing. 

Ultimately, to succeed in your role as an EA or PA it’s vital that you allow your true personality to shine through. But that not it. There are plenty of other essential personality traits that will set you apart from the rest. These are the qualities that every astonishing assistant will have in abundance.

1: A people person

Don’t like people? Don’t become a personal assistant – simple. The best assistants will have unparalleled interpersonal skills and can communicate with people from all walks of life. 

They can effortlessly adapt their style of communication to suit the situation and put other people at ease. 

Whether they’re speaking face to face or on the phone, emailing or texting, or even using morse code – assistants are articulate and effective communicators.

2: Resilience 

Assistants often find themselves picking up the pieces when things go wrong. Constantly finding solutions to other peoples’ problems is no mean feat! Resilience is definitely a must-have trait.

PAs and EAs operate in dynamic environments where events move at the speed of light. This is stressful at the best of times, but it’s frequently compounded by the hardships of dealing with difficult people and pressurised deadlines. 

That’s why the very best assistants are not the ones who take all of this in their stride without breaking a sweat. Instead, they are the people who have the confidence and resilience to bounce back from setbacks. 

3: Accountability

Accountability is essential and ranks among the top qualities that execs look for in assistants. 

A personal assistant has the power to shape not only their own prospects, but the future of their company. ‘How?’ I hear you ask. The answer is straightforward: be accountable. 

This means taking responsibility for outcomes and taking ownership of your processes. 

As an assistant, the temptation is to let others take the lead. But a key personality trait of all successful assistants is their ingrained sense of accountability. It’s their determination to push themselves and their colleagues to achieve the very best.

4: Attention to detail

A question that often gets asked is: what are the skills needed for personal assistant roles? The most underrated answer is – attention to detail. 

There are lots of personality traits that can make someone a good assistant, but without a keen eye for detail, it’s impossible to be a great assistant.  

But this isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something that the best assistants work hard at improving.

5: Good judgement

This isn’t a personality trait that instantly springs to mind but its incredibly important for people in assistant jobs. EAs, PAs and secretaries will be at the heart of their company. This means, for good or for ill, office politics and confidentiality issues are par for the course. 

Great assistants will possess good judgement, allowing them to always remain professional in the face of adversity, respond diplomatically to problems and handle sensitive documents with confidentiality.

6: Proactive decision making

This is one of those vague, nondescript traits that you often see listed in a personal assistant job description. But it is crucial. 

What I mean by ‘proactive decision making’ is having the ability to anticipate challenges before they happen and know what to do when they do happen. 

Assistants don’t get the luxury of hand-holding. Instead, they must be confident and assured in their own decision-making abilities. Make the choices which you know will benefit your boss and your company’s overall strategy.

7: Punctuality and reliability

If you’re the person who books the meetings, it’s probably best that you’re on time for the meetings too … just a thought. 

Assistants truly are the busiest people in the office. This makes punctuality and reliability an essential quality. PAs and EAs are well equipped to deal with deadlines, manage their time wisely and prioritise tasks. 

If this is a trait you’re still working on, don’t sweat. It’s for this very reason that there are plenty of brilliant online tools for assistants, including TaskRabbit, Wunderlist and Trello.

8: A team player

Top-performing assistants are team players. That’s to say, they’re happy to help in all areas of the business, no matter how big or small the task, with a positive attitude. 

Sometimes this can be difficult, especially for Executive Assistants who are often saddled with the ‘less interesting’ administrative jobs. 

But next time you’re asked to help rearrange the filing cabinets or collect the exec’s parcel, remember that it’s for the good of the company and ultimately your career! 

9: Intuitive 

Intuition isn’t easy to define, but it’s a characteristic that all of the most dazzling assistants will have. 

Basically, it can be described as the amalgamation of experience and instinct. Intuitive assistants are able to offer thoughtful insights and guide their boss’ decision making. 

Intuition is the force that allows assistants to be the proactive, confident and accountable people they are. Don’t underestimate gut feeling!

10: A sense of humour

Finally, assistants need a genuine sense of humour. 

More often than not, assistants work under intense time pressure with colleagues who have exceptionally high expectations when it comes to delivery. The ability to step back and see the bigger picture is vital. Make sure to smile and see the funny side of life once in a while. It will certainly make you a little less stressed.

Stick at it!

No matter how long you’ve been an assistant, whether it’s been decades or you’re just starting out, keep striving to develop these qualities. Self-improvement is never easy, but the hard work will expand your horizons and open up opportunities you never believed possible.

If you’re looking for PA jobs at top companies, why not check out Jump? Your new career guide really does understand how tedious finding a new job can be, but by using your preferences it’ll find the right job to jumpstart your career. 


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