Vicky Knox is a PA to the Director of the Centre for Food Security at the University of Reading. She is relatively new to the PA profession and secured her first PA role last October, at the University of Reading. Prior to this Vicky worked for a local college which specialises in construction and real estate courses where she learnt a great deal and acquired a number of valuable and transferrable skills in her student support role, and gained in confidence over the 3 years she was there.
Being a PA is not just a job, it's a career which provides the opportunity to continually gain new skills and make real progress. Being a PA is a very interesting job and is extremely varied. I’m required to provide the usual administrative support; responding to emails and telephone queries, filing, preparing for meetings, arranging travel and accommodation, but at the same time I need to be ready and prepared to accept new challenges and take on ‘mini projects’ whenever needed. You also need to be able to not only organise your own work life, but that of your boss as well. These are just some of the many factors that make being a PA so fulfilling, and with every new challenge you are set to gain a few more skills to add to your CV.
I recently attended a course which focused on the role of the PA. One of the exercises we were asked to do was identify what we believed the differences were between a PA and an administrator/secretary. I think a lot of people get confused by this and if you’d asked me the same question a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the answer. The general feeling in the room was that while you need the same administrative skills to do any of these jobs, being a PA is about being proactive as opposed to reactive. You also need to be willing and able to act as an ambassador for your department and organisation, and gain a real understanding of what your boss’s objectives are, as well as the organisation's as a whole.
What I like most about being a PA is that it's not just about being there for one or two individuals to arrange their travel or deal with their emails (which however are still very important!) but also about being involved from start to finish, being part of the bigger picture.
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