1. How did you get your career started as a PA?
I actually didn't realise my first PA role was a PA role for almost two years - thanks to a unique title and a job description that seemed to shift and almost every day. I only made the connconntion recently, when looking at job profiles as a part of my search for something new.
I was a Senior Parliamentary Assistant to a MP, working in the House of Commons.
Because the role had so many different facets - I'd find myself acting as a speech writer, diary manager, press officer, researcher and occasionally dog walker; often in on afternoon - I didn't have the chance to think about it!
2. What was your experience of finding your first PA role?
Actually, fairly simple - I focused on finding a vacant position which was best suited my 'unique selling point' - that being, I was working for the regulator of MP's expenses at the time, so following the 2019 general election, I applied to work for Members who represented areas where expenses were a particularly rough subject.
3. What has been your most challenging PA role to date and why?
As I’ve only had one, my choice is pretty easy – but with that being said, it’ll certainly take some beating if another role turns out to be more challenging in the future.
4. How does it differ from previous jobs?
The role was unique in almost every way – It had almost all of the practical aspects that would be expected in a PA role, but here, my office was a UNESCO world heritage site, the person behind you in the lunch queue was a former Prime Minister and whatever was printed on the front page of the Sunday Papers would dictate the structure and focus of the entire week ahead (and frequently force another perfectly organised week in the Outlook calendar to go in the bin!)
5. Who has been your most inspirational boss and why?
Controversially, I wouldn’t say that any of my previous bosses have inspired me. When you spend so much time with a person and work so closely, you are exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly, when it comes to their character. What I’d say instead is that each of my previous bosses, in their own way, have shown me an array of different traits that should expected from a positive and impactful boss; but as they’re all human, they’ve shown traits which aren’t so positive nor impactful….
6. Biggest achievement as a PA?
I think it’s difficult one isolate one achievement, when in practise, I look back at the entire role and it was full of little wins and little losses, as well as big losses and small wins and big wins and little losses – a lot of which happened quietly in the background and without a fuss - so I guess my biggest achievement was not giving up when the little
losses mounted and that at the end of the day, kept the ship upright and moving forward!
7. Biggest hurdle you have had to overcome as a PA?
I initially found it difficult to accept that I would now be almost permanently aligned to another person – it was like I had stopped being Jack and was now just XXXX’s Parliamentary Assistant – but eventually, through building my network and connecting with people in a variety of sectors, I was able to restore that sense of identity.
8. How did you find your role during the pandemic?
I think like most people, I just made do with what I had and got on with it the best that I could. I was very new in my role when we went into the first lockdown, so I couldn’t get too settled in the office anyway.
9. Has your role changed in any way since the pandemic?
The working environment, in my opinion, seems a lot less rigid and structured. Instead, we seem to rely of making things up as we going along, trial and error and being much more adaptable at short notice – for me at least, I’ve had to become comfortable with being unformattable and that everything can change and we just had to go with it!.
10. What advice would you give to candidates finding their first job in a support role in London?
London is a huge place, with every type of company in every type of sector you can imagine, all of which will require support roles – think about what you are interested in, what you’re passionate about or maybe intrigued by; then see which company or firm is the leader in that field… who knows, maybe they’re hiring for a new PA!
What three attributes do you think make a good PA?
- Having bucket-loads of patience (or at least the ability to act as though you do)
- Shown to be trustworthy – for obvious reasons.
- Nice - may seem obvious, but it can never hurt to make an extra effort to be nice, especially as support roles often mean being the first face or voice that a guest or client will experience.
11. What makes your day easier/ what or who couldn’t you live without?
I should probably say friends and family, but, it would have to be Spotify and the ability to just switch off and put whatever type of music on to suit my mood.
12. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of myself for, even at difficult and challenging points, at both work and in my job search, that I’ve maintained my belief that everything happens for a reason. All we must do it give our all and we’ll end up where we’re meant to.
13. What advice would you give to a young PA starting their career?
Listen to and learn as much as possible form the people who you support – Your first role could be a tuition, where you’re able to watch the workings and processes of people who are likely going to be at the top of their industry and incredibly good at what they do.
14. When you’re not being one of London’s top PAs, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to explore London and have no shame in being a tourist every now and then, despite having lived here for over seven years!