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How do you train to be a PA?
Laura joined us for work experience this summer from Oxford Media and Business School, she was an absolute pleasure to have in the office and we’re delighted with this blog she’s written for us, detailing what skills you learn at the college and how it prepares you for office life and an entry level PA or EA position.
If you’re interested in learning more about PA colleges, you might be interested in our colleges page, which details information on both Oxford Media & Business School and Quest Professional.
How to train to be a PA
Hello! My name is Laura, I am currently studying at Oxford Media & Business School on a one-year intensive Executive PA Diploma. During this course I’ve learnt all sorts of skills which are required if you choose to become a PA after OMBS.
Important personality traits of a good PA
When I was thinking about what it takes to train as a PA, although a lot can be learnt on a course, I definitely believe there are some natural skills which are invaluable to becoming a successful assistant. The first is organisation, as a PA one of the main things you are in charge of is organising your boss’s diary and meetings, if you are not organised yourself how are you meant to organise someone else’s life?!
Another really important personality trait it to have is good interpersonal and communication skills. As a PA your day-to-day duties will include tasks such as answering and dealing with phone calls and emails or perhaps representing your boss or employees at events and meetings, good communication and interpersonal skills are vital to ensure you represent your boss in the best way possible. You may end up working for a high-profile individual, therefore thinking about and being aware of what you say to other people and how you present yourself is crucial. Trustworthiness, discretion and responsibility are key here, these are personality traits which can’t be taught but which are invaluable when working for anyone who is high-profile or requires a lot of confidentiality. My last point is you must have an understanding of, and be sympathetic to, different working styles. Everyone likes things done in a specific way, therefore you must be able to adapt to various working styles and be prepared to just get on with the job in hand regardless of the situation or environment.
What you learn at PA school
I am currently in my last term at OMBS and over the past year they have taught me so many key office skills! While it’s hard to rate what’s most important, undoubtably an extremely useful skill is learning how to use the Microsoft packages (Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint) to an advanced level. It seems basic but it’s something so few people know how to do and saves so much time in an office environment! We are also taught how to professionally write reports and presentations, how to create spreadsheets, develop and handle databases and electronic diaries – all really useful skills which I had no idea about before and wouldn’t have naturally picked up. One of the aspects I love about OMBS is that they want you to stand out against other candidates, one of our modules is Office Skills, in these lessons we learn how to do fast note taking, formerly known as shorthand. When I first joined I had never heard of it and thought to myself, do they still use this? However, it is now considered to be a really valuable skill and when it comes to applying for jobs it really stands out on your CV.
In Office Skills we learn telephone technique, again this sounds simple but it is one of the most important skills in any entry level job. We are taught how to answer and deal with calls in a professional manner.
During the third term OMBS students go away for work experience for one week. I was lucky enough to be placed with the wonderful recruitment agency called Anderson Hoare, who are based in Sloane Square. Whilst there I used so many of the skills that I’d learnt over the last year at OMBS and I loved putting everything I’d learnt into practice in a real working environment. Anderson Hoare deal with recruiting office-based jobs in London, so many of their jobs were for PAs and EAs which was great for me! During my third day I was reviewing and looking at job adverts; as I was looking at the roles and the skills required to become a PA it made me realise how capable I was of applying for lots of these roles! Whilst at Anderson Hoare they very kindly let me put my telephone skills into practise, I dealt with calls from clients and candidates and it gave me so much more confidence for when I get a job.
I’ve loved my year at OMBS and having completed a week’s work experience at Anderson Hoare it’s made me realise how much more confident I am now than when I started and just how much I’ve learnt. I’m now so excited to go and find a job and feel completely prepared and ready to face the working world.