What’s the difference between a Junior and Senior Personal Assistant? It’s not just about years of experience…
Recently, we wrote a blog post on the difference between the role of PA and an EA (if you fancy checking it out, you can read it right here). As with all support roles, there are some very distinct differences and others that sort of merge into each other – but for the most part, the role of an EA and PA can be really clearly defined. But what are the key differences between a Junior PA and a Senior PA?
In all PA roles, the day-to-day tasks can be very similar – the difference lies in both the delivery and the strategy behind how your PA is approaching about their role.y. For some, the definition of ‘Junior’ and ‘Senior’ is based on one definition of experience – how long someone has been working in a role. For us, experience is a big indicator of talent as a PA, but definitely not in all cases. Skills like adaptability, persuasion and problem solving are key, however, mindset is the critical element and this isn’t necessarily something that is built on just experience.
Even someone with two years of PA experience can be more prepared for a Senior role than someone who has worked a very similar routine for ten years. The main difference between a Junior and Senior PA is having a GROWTH MINDSET, i.e. having the ability to continually learn, take on feedback, try new things, adapt, grow and change with your boss and with the business. It is this constant tweaking and adapting that get you to being a senior PA. Having a strong growth mindset enables PAs to take a more strategic view of their role and quickly develop insight into the priorities of their boss and the goals and vision of the business their serve.
So what effect can this approach have specifically and what does this look like day-to-day? Here are some examples.
Travel Planning is a massive part of most PA role – no matter their seniority. This example by Sherry Parson sums up the different approach by Junior and Senior PAs perfectly…
“An executive wants to travel to the East Coast to visit a specific customer and asks her administrator to arrange the trip.
In a traditional administrative assistant role [Junior PA], the administrator gets to work on the details of the travel, such as flights, hotels, the appointment time and getting it all on the calendar. All details would be nailed down, such as noting preferred airlines, hotels, car services, etc. The trip would go as the executive asked, including the processing of expenses at the conclusion of the trip.
[With a Senior PA], once the executive makes the travel request, the administrator contacts the sales executive to request a customer briefing for the executive. When it arrives, the administrator reads the recap to determine if the executive will need any additional information to be completely prepared for the visit, which requires that prep meetings are arranged prior to the trip. The administrator will also reach out to the Sales VP to let them know that the executive will be in the area, and collaborates with the VP on other meetings that might also take place while the executive is in town. The business-partner administrator will work to ensure the executive’s time is maximised to the fullest. In many cases, the administrator is already aware of customers in the area who need special attention because they have developed a different thought process that focuses on the executive’s most pressing issues. The administrator then suggests the executive should visit those customers when the opportunity arises. The advantage to the executive is that the [Senior PA] is focusing on the executive’s most precious commodity: time.”
Sherry’s Senior PA example requires foresight, strategy and understanding of the business and the boss’s role. But that only comes with a DESIRE to understand, to learn, to get involved and a drive to not just stick to the basics.
According to a McKinsey study, the average person spends 28% of the work day reading and answering emails, which for the average 9-5 is 2.24 hours a day, and over an entire working day every week (11.2 hours, to be exact). That’s a lot of time that a PA can help to save.
For a Junior PA, inbox management is pretty black and white – they manage your inbox through filtering unwanted emails, categorising relevant emails into folders, highlighting priorities, flagging loose ends and answering on your behalf with some guidance and briefing.
A Senior PA will do all of the above, but much more.. With experience and know-how, they’ll be able to answer fully on your behalf, taking over the ‘back and forth’ of emails and coming to you only when a solution has been resolved or if there’s an action that only you can complete. They can effectively shadow your role and handle all your communications if necessary. This doesn’t mean they could do your job for you, but it does mean they have the insight into your personality, style and a deep understanding of your job, purpose and priorities.
We’re all sick of having meetings about meetings, right? Luckily, a PA can help to make them a thing of the past.
With a Junior PA, you can expect that they will take care of the essentials – agreeing times that suit everyone, booking a meeting space, inviting all attendees, organising catering, arranging transport, welcoming people when they arrive and even taking notes during the meeting, if required. Valuable time that sets the foundations for a smooth-sailing experience.
With a Senior PA, they will take care of these important details too, but they can also help you prepare for the meeting and if necessary, take the meeting for you.. This can include gathering research, developing agendas and also assisting with any presentations you need to pull together. At the end of the meeting, they can distill notes, create actions points and plan anything that comes as a result of the meeting at hand.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a PA is also an Operations Manager (although, that can sometimes be the case) but they do help in the day to day running of a business.
With a Junior PA, they may oversee running the office, perhaps take on some invoicing and office processes. On the other hand, a Senior PA will be involved in the operations of the company as a whole – from liaising with accountants, lawyers and HR, to making decisions on office moves, contracts, project management and even the hiring and on-boarding or new staff. Which leads up nicely on to…
We make it no secret that PAs are great recruiters – and if you need extra convincing, we wrote an entire blog post on it. On average, it takes about 27.5 days to hire a new person, which can thankfully be carried by a PA.
In the recruitment process, a Junior PA will help with the necessities – from posting job descriptions on the relevant channels and organising applications into yes/no/maybe for your review, to arranging interviews, getting in touch with successful (and unsuccessful) candidates and even sending over contracts. All of a sudden, 27.5 days have passed and you have a great new person on your team.
With a Senior PA, they can take a more holistic approach to the entire recruitment process. This includes writing job descriptions, arranging handovers from previous employees, developing the on-boarding process and then carrying that on-boarding process from start to finish – going above and beyond to create an exceptional candidate and employee experience.
Often, you find that Senior PAs still do the role of Junior PAs (with additional extras) and Junior PAs develop into the roles of a more Senior Assistant. A big part of this is to do with the setup of the company (eg: in a Start Up, a Junior PA may be the only person who can do these tasks). However – even with more senior responsibilities, job titles and salaries are not always reflected in the level of work that they achieve. This is why it’s so important to know the difference, understand what your company really needs and hire accordingly.