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Is there a Secretary/PA support section on MN? I'm a new PA and could do with some ideas.

(48 Posts)
Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 12:45:21

I've returned to work after 3 years at home and started a completly new career as a PA, I've been very lucky jammy being appointed this position as I am now PA to 2 senior managers and 2 department managers as well as HR link for 70 staff members.

I've been there 3 months and really enjoying being back to work and having the responsibility of a demanding role but I sometimes feel out of my depth and I'm sure I could be more organised in some areas.

If you are in a similar career can I ask how you organise your day? Do you do certain tasks once a week or just deal with them then and there.
I've sorted my online calander and have all the meetings I have arranged logged and set reminders for 2 weeks before the meetings so I can check meeting rooms and send invites and maps to staff.

I've been asked to start a newsletter, is this something you would create yourself or is there a secret online designer I can't find?

Feel free to join in with other tips and questions smile

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 14:53:44


GnomeDePlume Sat 17-Sep-11 15:37:17


Not a PA but can you tell me more about the newsletter? Are people expected to print it out or read it online? Will it be something they want to write on or just absorb?

So far as I am aware there are no fixed in tablets of stone rules about newsletters. You could look at making the newsletter a powerpoint presentation. You can have a 'welcome' page followed by an index page with hyperlink buttons to take the reader to articles they may be interested in. This means that there is no need for it to be sequential, it can be very flexible. You can add speach and video which can be useful depending on the message you want to convey.

If you want a printable newsletter then Word has a number of templates which you can access.

If a format hasnt been decided on then you could try out a couple of different formats on your bosses and see what they like.

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 15:51:38

It's to be a monthly newsletter that I then attach to their payslips. Includin things like productivity, monthly meeting dates, targets met. Announcing long service awards, employee of the month and forthcoming events.

We have an online intranet information site for the whole company, we are a very small part of a large Car company.

Thanks for the tip about word, I will have a look on monday.

I have to decide a good way to instigate employee of the month at the same time as the news letter.

Learning2Knit Sat 17-Sep-11 16:01:40

Hi Bohica,

Im a PA and have been for many years. I think you sound pretty organised!

A few things I do....I have a "To Do" list constantly on the go. If the list is very long which it is right now I prioritize what I think is most crucial ie anything client related/business travel/sorting the chauffeur. I also allocate a set amount of time to do certain tasks each day, Im currently redoing a massive org chart but schedule an hour a day to work on it. It will be finished by the end of the week.

I find I have to be quite reactive rather than proactive but that is more the nature of the people I look after and how they operate. My boss has a constantly changing diary and will suddenly need to travel at the last minute, arranging that obviously takes priority and so the expenses get pushed to the next day. I also do quite a bit of personal stuff for the boss, in agreement with him this has the lowest priority.

Hope this is helpful and lots of luck in your new job.

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 16:18:55

Thanks Learning I stuggled at the beggining with the constant changing of dates & times for meetings.
I'd spend a day on & off chasing 15+ people to get a definate time and date and then my boss would tell me to cancel and reorganise at the drop of a hat!!

I have a long to do list as well as changing my office & filling system to suit how I want it to work although I don't have to get involved in any personal stuff. One of my bosses is very pedantic and hard to please and it's taken this long to realise it's hopefully not personal smile

hatebeingmummy Sat 17-Sep-11 16:30:51

Are you using "tasks" I find it easier than dealing with a full inbox.
I second the to-do-list... essential!

hatebeingmummy Sat 17-Sep-11 16:33:00

Would your managers welcome a designated catch up slot each day, even if just 5 minutes. Some like it, some hate it.
You'll need ot be available to them at all times for ad hoc bits of course but a schedualed catch up can help them focus as well and I think sets you apart from a purely re-active PA.

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 16:42:03

I have a full inbox and the key peples names as new folders as will as metting folders is that the saem as tasks?.

Becasue I support 4 different managers (and personalities) and then their team members I seem to get giving things to do by all of them all day which needs a lot of time management and bringing things home with me to finish or make a start on.

I've had 2 disciplinary meeting last month which is something I have never been involved in before, just taking notes during the meeting and then typing the recordings up for the minutes.

Do you get on well with your boss/es?

hatebeingmummy Sat 17-Sep-11 17:09:22

I do, but not always at first. I read people well so I ascertain whether they need me to be passive/reactive or maybe a bit bossy and get them in line (I prefer the latter!)

Do you use outlook? If so, drag each email that needs to be actioned to "tasks" at the bottom on the left of the screen and it will allow you to set a time. The that email will pop up at that time and you can action it then. It means you don't run the risk of opening an email and forgetting to action it, or getting stressed seeing all the emails in your inbox.

Once actioned, it's a great idea to use the folders that you have set up to keep track of each managers work.

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 17:38:15

I didn't know about tasks so thank you.

I have one manager who likes me to just tell him when his meetings are and then one of the senior managers doesn't like me ordering a pencil without his say so smile

Then the staff in the repair centre just think I'm a nagging old pain because I am constantly chasing them for HR issues and form filling in but I can live with that as they are the least of my stresses at work.

I've looked online for a secretary/pa forum and I'm very suprised there isn't any <wanted to nick lots of ideas>

hatebeingmummy Sat 17-Sep-11 17:46:16

There are several groups on linkedin...

Learning2Knit Sat 17-Sep-11 18:01:18

I get on very well with my boss and another guy that I help. Having a good working relationship is important to me.

I forgot task lists....yes I use that and also I set up tasks for my boss, it helps him remember to bring stuff to the office for instance.

I frequently bring work home if it is any consolation and more often that not will receive an email that needs to be actioned over the weekend. Ive got some last minute flights to sort out tomorrow. Nature of the beast and all that!!

There used to be a PA magazine and PA Show at Olympia, not sure if they still run, if so am sure the magazine would be online now.

hatebeingmummy Sat 17-Sep-11 19:04:16

I don't know about the area where you live but there are PA networking events around here... Maybe look out for those in your area.

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 21:13:07

I've just re read my previous posts blush I thought I could type with a toddler combing my hair whilst sitting on my shoulders but that's obviously not the case, shocking typo's, I hope my new employers don't read this thread!

I will take a look for networking events and thank you hbm (I'm sure you don't really hate being mummy, we all feel like that at some time) I will take a look at linkdin whatever that is

I finished my first solo payroll this week and will find out at the end of the month when payslips come in if I have done it right and I also have my first budget meeting this week with senior accounts, it shouldn't be too daunting as I have been emailing the senior accountants on a daily basis so it will nice to put faces to email names.

I've been offered a laptop to take home but I have declined for the present as I don't want to work from home all weekend although I do bring admin home, If they paid overtime I might think twice smile

hatebeingmummy Sat 17-Sep-11 21:19:45

Best of luck with it all grin

magicmarvin Sat 17-Sep-11 21:19:52

I've been a PA for about 12 years now.

Don't be under any illusion, it's a hard job. The more people you work for, the harder it is. I wouldn't work for any more than two people these days as I've found that you're on a hiding to nothing otherwise. More than two and you're not really a PA IMO.

You need to be able to spin plates and constantly be thinking ahead. In terms of meetings, go through the diaries and find out which ones are recurring and what is needed for each one so you can get papers in on time without doing a headless chicken. If things don't come in on time then chase, chase, chase! You don't need to be a bitch but you do need to be assertive otherwise they will walk all over you.

Get access to everyone's calendar on Outlook if you can then pull them all up at once, choose a date and send a meeting invite. If you are setting up a meeting with external people then email them and ask them for their availability. Give them as much info as poss (i.e. 2 hours duration, at head office, covering xyz, involving Tom, Dick & Harry, etc.). When their replies come in, log the info on a spreadsheet, pick the best date for all and send them a meeting invite. Give them a day or so and if you haven't heard then again chase, chase, chase!

I don't have a to do list as such but I do use a system on calendar and email (which a bit too complicated to describe here!). I also do things routinely (i.e. order stationery on a set day) and use a bring forward. Also, as soon as something goes in the diary I start working on it - so if my boss is travelling I will block out the time in his diary, find out when he wants to go, put flights and hotels on hold, find out what he needs to take with him, start nagging people for reports and presentations, find out the contact/PA at that end, etc.

Also... don't be too helpful! You need to learn when to say no. You are in a difficult position in that you work for several people. That's fine if they're not too demanding but if you're not careful you will end up working your fingers to the bone. Don't be afraid of saying no. Terrible generalisation I know but some men at work can be incredibly lazy sometimes and if you find them asking you to do things you think they should be doing themselves then tell them it's not part of your remit (nicely of course!). People will have far more respect for you if you do.

I spend most of my time kicking people up the backside to get things done. You need the patience of a saint doing this job otherwise it will drive you around the twist...

magicmarvin Sat 17-Sep-11 21:21:50

I also find that it helps if you just make a decision and tell people what they're doing. Don't give them a choice otherwise it will take ten times as long while you wait for a decision...

magicmarvin Sat 17-Sep-11 21:24:08

Ooh, and organising and re-organising meetings is par for the course I'm afraid. It's not unusual for me to re-organise a meeting five times (joy!).

Learning2Knit Sat 17-Sep-11 21:37:24

Magicmarvin, brilliant post and good advice.

I frequently say no, not possible, lets move on to the next challenge.

Bohica, I think you will find that over time you will find it sort of comes naturally what works best for you and your team. Getting to know the way different people work is part of the battle. For 8 years I worked for the chairman of a plc and he hated me sitting with him to go through stuff, just wasnt his scene (he was a bit of a "cool dude" type) and I could be a bossy as hell but he wasnt having it, we worked it out in a different way.

My current boss travels extensively and we have at least 2 hours together as soon as he gets back to the office...that can include a catch up on work, what needs to be done and a general office catch up. I also travel with him at times so I have to let him know if there have been problems whilst he has been away.

Keep doing what you are doing and be aware of what seems to please them, it all sort of slots into place.

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 22:02:57

Thank you for all the advice, it really will be a help.

magic your post made me laugh, I made a comment to another PA from a different dealership that I spend my morning telling the children to get ready for school, find their bags, clean their teeth and then I come to work and do it all over again for 70+ people!

I agree that I'm not a PA in the correct sense, how am I meant to be a personal assistant to 4 people and also manage a major aspect of another 70 employees daily admin shock

I have asked to join a few discussion groups on your suggested link hbm.

Saying no is something I haven't been very good at so far as I've been keen to please, I've been a sahm for the last 3 years and really felt privileged to be offered this role soley on my life skills and interview but now I felt I needed to prove myself but saying no will be needed if they all ask for support at the same time.

I'm not in a role that needs to travel although I am going to Birmingham on a company PA conference in November grin

Bohica Sat 17-Sep-11 22:25:53

How long does a pending last to join a group the hbm

<impatient Betty emotioncon>

Learning2Knit Sat 17-Sep-11 23:36:56

You are a PA, every PA role is different and you are doing what works for your team. We aint none of us perfect and how ever man years you have been doing it you still have to adapt to every boss/team. Give it a bit more time and you will find it all sort of gels.

In my case the travel can be grim as alas the "housekeeper fairy" does not come in while you are away, the jetlag is horrid yet you still have to respond to emails as soon as you land, Im lucky my DH is OK about it, otherwise would be very difficult. My boss is also very kind and knows I need to get the family sorted before I can return to the office. I can work from home and do about 3 times a month.

Regardless, love my job and would not choose another career.

thenightsky Sun 18-Sep-11 00:06:21

can I join this thread? PA to Consultant Psychiatrist in NHS. reading your posts is interesting. are you all in private sector? I am interested in differences between public and private.

Learning2Knit Sun 18-Sep-11 00:30:18

TNS - private sector, American company, HQ in California. Have worked in public sector and PA'd myself but was also working very closely with some top notch PA's who I personally thought were underpaid and undervalued for the sterling work they did.

Could we ask Mumsnet to set up a PA/Admin/Sec thread under the work category if anyone is interested?????

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