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Personal Assistants still struggling with ‘tea and typing’ image

A survey for training company Today’s PA has revealed that the majority of Personal Assistants feel their role is not seen as a profession by those outside the industry.  The good news is this attitude is changing – but there is still a long way to go.

The survey, which was carried out last year, received responses from a broad cross-section of PAs, employed throughout the public, private and charity sectors.  The question ‘Is the role of the PA seen as a profession by people outside our industry?’ showed that 64% of respondents felt this was certainly not the case, sometimes not even within their own organisation.

The overall feeling was that the role continues to suffer from the stereotypical image of being (as some described it) a glorified typist, still stuck in a ‘tea and typing’ idea from the 1950s.

Many PAs said they feel incredibly privileged to do the job they do, and that there is a huge amount of passion within the industry (something which came across in all the replies received).  Unfortunately, this isn’t always seen from the outside.  PAs reported being looked down on, and even considered as scapegoats when things go wrong.  And despite the fact that many are now graduates, they are routinely thought of as ‘not very bright’.  This has led to PAs feeling the need to justify themselves constantly.  One respondent said she struggled to be seen as a professional among the senior staff at work, with another saying she felt ashamed explaining that she was a PA.

Paul Pennant, MD and Principal Trainer with Today’s PA, said:

“It’s fascinating to see how PAs view themselves and their role, and how they still feel that it has a huge image problem.

“This is a role which is constantly changing.  These days PAs need to be not just jack-of-all trades, but master-of-all-trades, ready to take on responsibility for projects, budgets, events, recruitment and management of staff, as well as being experts in IT.  Added to all this, there is the core task of supporting one, two, or even more bosses on a day-to-day basis.

“I have trained thousands of PAs from organisations of vastly different sizes. And it’s incredible to hear how important their roles are. Some have told me they manage events with a budget or £1 million, others deal with Heads of State, some are in charge of high-profile projects. No matter how big or small organisation is, PAs are always a vital part of their boss’s and their organisations’ success. The stereotypical image has been around for many years so, yes, this may take time to shake off.  In our survey, 36% said they felt the PA role was seen as a profession – that’s a figure that we can build on for the future.”

Further details of the Today’s PA survey:

  • A total of 120 PAs replied to the survey.
  • Respondents had a range of experience in PA roles – from 1 to 50 years. The average was 5 years.
  • The number of roles undertaken in that time ranged from 1 to 10 roles, with the average being 5 roles.
  • PAs worked for organisations across the public, private and charity sector. Number of employees in respondents’ organisations ranged from 6 to 96,000 employees.

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