London's Top PA: Mo Mohsenin

Mo Top PA.

This months Top PA Mo on his journey from owning a Marketing & PR consultancy to his dream job as a PA. 

How did you get your career started as a PA?   

After 20 years working in the luxury marketing and communications field for the likes of Harrods and Selfridges and launching my own boutique Marketing & PR consultancy in 2009, I decided that I wasn’t enjoying it or getting the desired job satisfaction. I have always been a naturally organised person and love organising others, so I always felt that my skills would lend themselves quite well as a PA. I met an old contact of mine one day for coffee, and by the time we’d finished, she had offered me a role as her private personal assistant, and I haven’t looked back since. I now genuinely enjoy being a PA and have found that I was able to apply all my previous experience and expertise, especially in communications, to this role.  


What was your experience of finding your first PA role?  

I started by getting the feelers out through my extensive network of contacts, asking if anyone they knew was looking for a PA. I knew that I didn’t have the right experience to work as a PA in a very corporate environment, nor would I necessarily enjoy it, so I pursued the more private PA route, ideally working for a family or an individual where I knew my experience and expertise would add value. After a couple of months of coffees, chats and networking, I was offered a role which was in every way perfect for both myself and the principal I was hired to work for.  


How does it differ from previous jobs?   

It is a lot more hands on. You almost have to have a sixth sense and anticipate your boss’ needs before they know it themselves. Working as a private PA, you get a very nice mix of both assisting on the business side and the personal. So, one day may be admin heavy and lots of research to do, and the next I can be rushing around different stores looking for the perfect birthday or anniversary present. Above all though, I love the trust and autonomy I have established with the principals I work for, so that they are able to delegate making quite a few decisions in their absence and get things done, whereas in previous roles in more corporate environments, I’d have to jump through quite a few hoops and get past a lot of red tape to get something approved and signed off.  


Who has been your most inspirational boss and why?   

At present I split my time working as a private PA for two different principals, and I am very lucky in that they are both fantastic people to work for. However, one in particular, (the one who offered me the role after that coffee!) is truly inspirational. She juggles a very busy business and personal social life with raising three children under 10 and doing tonnes of charity projects, but somehow manages to apply herself fully to all the different but equally important elements of her life.  She truly inspires me every single day!  


Biggest achievement as a PA?   

I was recently tasked with relocating an entire office with 15 staff from one side of London to another. I had a relatively short amount of time to research the most price competitive and reputable movers, sort out all the IT, and find cleaners and painters to hand back the old office in pristine condition to the landlords as I was about to head off on holiday. It was quite a race against time, but I believe I managed it well as on my return from holiday I was given a rather lovely gift from my boss as a ‘thank you’ for sorting out such a smooth move.  


How do people react when they find out you’re a PA?   

As a man, a lot of people were often initially surprised to hear I am a PA, as it  is often associated with quite a female dominated role and because many don’t really understand what a PA actually does apart from taking notes, making the tea and organising someone’s calendar! However, I believe that this perception is thankfully changing, and I have met quite a few other male PAs in the last few months. In this day and age, I don’t believe that men or women should be defined  by what job they do.  


Biggest hurdle you have had to overcome as a PA?   

Having to explain my past work experience as it is vastly different. Getting interviews set up with my CV which highlights a long career in PR, Marketing and Communications was a challenge, and then once I got an interview, I would be repeatedly asked if I was sure I wanted to be a PA! I would have to assure prospective employers that I had made a conscious decision to switch careers, and that being a PA is really what I wanted to do or else I would not be there. Fast forward to present day, and my past experience is actually of a huge benefit to me and the people I work for. I can be relied upon to give advice from everything ranging from how to word or format a dinner invite or a personal letter in a particular way (from all those years of luxury event planning and press release writing!) to how to deal with press and the media, as the case was with one particular boss who was in the public eye.  


Do you feel valued as a PA? Do you think PAs get enough recognition?   

I do personally feel valued, as I am lucky to work for individuals who appreciate the work I do for them. Having said that, I don’t think one should feel dismayed if your boss is not always saying ‘thank you’ or patting you on the back. All people are different, and we all have good days and bad days, but if you are in a role that you enjoy for a considerable amount of time, then that alone should be testament to the great job you are doing. In general, I think people have a limited perception of what the role of a PA actually involves and therefore can be pretty dismissive or not take the role too seriously, but my personal view is that if you love what you do, then really what others think about your job should not concern you.  


What advice would you give to candidates finding their first job in a support role in London?   

Chemistry is key, so always go with your instinct about the person you will be supporting as you will be spending a lot of time together and there has to be some sort of synergy. I truly believe that even if a role is paying a little less than others, but you get a good gut feeling about your potential boss, go for it.   


What three attributes do you think make a good PA?  
I have always gone by what I call the three ‘H’s’: Hard work, humility and humour. I believe that if you apply these to any type of role, you are bound to succeed. And of course, a good old fashioned ‘to do’ list to check off!  


What makes your day easier and what or who couldn’t you live without?  

I believe in lists and always have a notebook at hand to jot things down and check things off as I go through the day. I also always make a note of the priorities for the next day, so that when I get in the office I know those things need to be seen to regardless of what else crops up along the way. I guess the two things I couldn’t live without are my light as a feather MacBook computer, and copious amounts of coffee!  


What are you most proud of?   

I am really proud of the fact that I managed to make a very successful transition from a completely different career into being a PA. It was hard and I took a lot of rejections and my many job applications were simply ignored, but my persistence paid off. I didn’t underestimate the power of my network, as people who know and trust me, were always happy to recommend me in return, to their contacts and network. Word of mouth recommendations always go that much further.   


What advice would you give to a young PA starting their career?   

If you can, do an internship or ask to shadow a great PA for a few weeks. You really do gain the best insight into what it entails by actually doing the job. Yes, you may have to start by making the tea and running to the post office, but like any role, it pays to get your foot in the door and making contacts.  


When you’re not being one of London’s top PAs, what do you enjoy doing?   

I enjoy writing, so in my downtime, I dabble as an amateur playwright. I am also passionate about travel, food and the theatre. So, if you don’t find me at my desk, I am probably either abroad, eating out, or watching a play!