What does a personal assistant do?
Personal assistants (PAs) provide support directly to senior staff. In unscripted TV, they could be working with heads of departments, like factual or entertainment, executive producers, production executives, talent managers or anyone else whose job requires considerable administration.
This role varies in the level of responsibility it carries. The PA to the chief executive of a broadcaster, for example, is a senior position in itself. In other cases, it can be an entry level role. At entry level, it’s a great way to get to know the industry from the inside and can lead to useful introductions and recommendations at a very senior level.
PAs do a variety of tasks. They are the first point of contact for anyone wanting to get in touch with the person they’re assisting. They take calls and handle the correspondence, so are often party to important and confidential communications. They look after diaries, arranging and scheduling meetings and preparing appropriate paperwork. PAs organise large presentations for internal and external meetings, book travel and accommodation, look after expenses and may also be responsible for invoicing and paying clients. PAs are often expected to organise large functions like the office Christmas party and to run errands.
In some cases, PAs might also be responsible for supporting a production, which often includes taking on a research role. In other cases, they might be attached to a team rather than a person. For example, the development team, looking after everyone’s needs and being known as the team assistant rather than as the PA.
What’s a personal assistant good at?
- Communication: have excellent verbal and written communication skills, be diplomatic and helpful when dealing with both internal staff and external clients
- Discretion: to work to senior management you must be trustworthy and discreet with the information and people you deal with
- Organisation: be highly efficient and adept at file management, be able to handle lots of tasks at once, keep on top of everything and work to tight schedules
- Knowledge of the industry: understand the workings of unscripted TV industry, the processes, pressures and challenges involved
- IT: be good with administration software, be able to pick up new systems easily