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Any PAs out there

44 replies

Glitterybelle · 14/11/2019 19:46

Not really an AIBU but wasn't sure where to post.

I've been offered a job as a PA/personal assistant - This is a career change for me though I have previously carried out a lot of relevant tasks to this job e.g. taking minutes, arranging events etc. A little nervous as this is a new role for me and don't know what to expect.

Any other PAs out there.... do you enjoy your job? What are the pros/cons? Any tips?


P.s. the role is within public sector

OP posts:
Biggobyboo · 14/11/2019 19:54

I’ve been a PA / EA in the public and private sector before retraining.

Honestly, it’s not my ideal job. Obviously there are far worse jobs out there but..

Be prepared to be looked down on, used as the office dogsbody, get blamed for everything that goes wrong etc.

There is also the weird idea that you are expected to be proactive and use initiative but also expected to be psychic and get told off if you use your initiative and not do what your boss was thinking!

The private sector was more involved with getting my director lunch and coffee and picking up his dry cleaning, wife’s birthday card etc which is fine as I was being paid 40k in London and my boss was actually a nice albeit very busy person! The public sector didn’t have those requirements!

The people were far nicer in the banking sector. Public sector - met some very unpleasant people. Lots of grey men empire building. I had to report one of the managers I worked for for fraud and also had a grievance in against him when I left.

Biggobyboo · 14/11/2019 19:58

If you do take the job move across to something like HR/finance/project management/health and safety via internal jobs. Take all the free training they offer you!

Glitterybelle · 14/11/2019 20:04

Oh no. I'm working in a different industry where I earn more and in what is considered to be a good career. However it's very stressful and I have brain drain every single day. I love being organised and doing admin type tasks so I felt this would be a good step down to something where I can also have a life but still get a decent salary

OP posts:
dontalltalkatonce · 14/11/2019 20:05

I agree with Bigg. I was also in both sectors. Got fucking sick of being treated like shit, 'just a secretary', expecting to be Jack of All Trades and it's also a very dead end job unless you retrain. Ever single one of these roles I found had ridiculous expectations, too. I'd actually rather dig ditches for a living than do that again.

IndigoHexagon · 14/11/2019 20:05

The person you work for will make all the difference. Ive worked as an EA/PA to a couple of people who held the same role. One saw me as a secretary who photocopied and made tea, the other actually knew what I was capable off and pushed me - I had loads of responsibilities on top of the administrative ones that made the role enjoyable and fulfilling. She was a a great boss! The first, he really wasn’t!

dontalltalkatonce · 14/11/2019 20:07

I never felt more drained than I did being the bloody PA.

Biggobyboo · 14/11/2019 20:11

You really will be “just a secretary” oh and the rest of the team will try to use you as the team admin! My (nice) boss emailed them to say I only worked for him and I was not responsible for booking travel / getting drinks / sorting out IT etc for anybody except him!

When I left the public sector to go back to university as a post grad, sneering comments were made like they didn’t even know I had an undergraduate degree! I temped at a council once as an EA and walked out after three weeks as the director was a bitch! Properly nasty piece of work.

Honestly, so much happier not working in admin! Grin

Glitterybelle · 14/11/2019 20:13

Oh crap lol these are making me rethink

OP posts:
dontalltalkatonce · 14/11/2019 20:15

Yes, I forgot about that, Bigg. 'You can cover the phones whilst X is on lunch', fix the printer, order office products, book events, etc.' unless your boss firmly tells everyone else NO. I'm glad I'm out, too, Bigg. One of the shittiest jobs out there, excepting 'receptionist/secretary'. I went to work in an Amazon warehouse where at least I didn't have to serve a bunch of twats as the 'secretary'.

chockaholic72 · 14/11/2019 20:16

It sometimes depends on the size of the organisation. In smaller places you can sometimes pick up project work or report writing, which gives the job variety. In bigger organisations, you'll likely just be dealing with diary, travel and expenses, which can be ultra busy and stressful, and not enjoyable at all. In these places they have their own employees for things like events or project management.

I've been an EA for twenty-five years and the biggest moan I have about the role is that it has it's own glass ceiling in a way; there aren't many opportunities to climb the ladder when you're assistant to a CEO or Chair - there isn't really anywhere left to go, other than sideways to a new organisation by moving jobs, and after three or four years it can be incredibly hard to motivate yourself to do a good job. It's even harder when you see juniors come in for other roles and you see them get promoted and do well, and you're still doing the same old job. I've just moved to be a committee secretary in the civil service - lots more minutes and governance, but a lot less diary, which is a breath of fresh air.

Glitterybelle · 14/11/2019 20:20

Ordering office products, booking events, travel, expenses and organising meetings etc. all sounds like things I enjoy Confused am I wierd!!!

OP posts:
dontalltalkatonce · 14/11/2019 20:25

Yes, they are enjoyable if you're also not expected to do a ton of other work on top, work for several different people, stop whatever you're doing to attend to the printer/cover the phones/etc. That was one of the worst parts of the job, too, constant interruption. 'I know you're on your lunch but could you . . . '

I used to enjoy those things, too, until I became a PA.

Biggobyboo · 14/11/2019 20:26

dontalltalkatonce - oh my goodness yes! I stuck signs on the printer telling people to phone IT if it was broken - I wasn’t the printer queen!

In the public sector, they didn’t have a central delivery for paper and stationery. People had to go over to another building to another team to get them to order stationery. And the paper had to be collected in boxes on a trolley and brought back over to the office in the rain. They had cut back on business support staff.

I told my managers that I couldn’t be an EA and team business support and I didn’t have time to get stationery and I couldn’t physically get the paper as I have I’m not able to lift paper boxes and push a heavy trolley between buildings! It was hilarious as people kept getting a ream of paper at a time and guarding “their paper.” When I left the photocopier had 4 empty ink cartridges...goodness knows if they figured out how to order new toner and insert it. Grin

There was a leak in the male loo - it was reported to me and I told them to log it with facilities. They looked at me like I had two heads and said would I go in the loo and clear it up?! I’m not a cleaner or facilities person. They do a very valuable job but that wasn’t MY role!

Another time, there was a leak in a meeting room - water coming from the ceiling. It was on a Friday and I wasn’t in. Many people noticed it but despite working there a decade at least couldn’t figure out how to call facilities...when I came in on Monday to several emails about it, the ceiling had collapsed.

Utterly idiotic people.

Sinjistalk · 14/11/2019 20:29

I’m a PA - worked in private & public sector too. I was previously very well paid working in private sector in London but hours were long & was generally expected to be at work for as long as my boss was there. Now work for much less in public sector but have a lot more flexibility while my kids are young.
I quite like my job - pros for me include it’s very varied & changes day to day, I am generally autonomous at work, lots of opportunities to learn new skills, get to work with lots of people across the organisation. & not stuck in one team, lots of PA roles out there & some very well paid.
As a PA you are working very closely with your boss, if you’re lucky & get a good one that’s fine but if you end up with a git (& there’s a lot of those out there) you have to be pretty tough to deal with their crap & stay professional. You are also likely to have to deal with all those people / situations your boss does not want to deal with.
Definitely not the worst job I’ve done😄

Curtainly · 14/11/2019 20:31

I used to be a PA. I didn't mind the admin type bits like organising diaries, ordering supplies and taking minutes; but I hated being seen as some sort of slave that was there to pander to the whims of someone who was so disorganised, I had to go around and fix their mistakes and apologise for them being late and missing meetings. You might really enjoy it, but in honesty I hated it.

Sparklesocks · 14/11/2019 20:34

I’m a PA and I enjoy it. I like organisation and problem solving, being the ‘fixer’ and the go-to person. It’s busy but I’m not working all hours and can leave it at work when I log off which I like.
It does very much depend on your boss/team though, if they’re decent they’ll appreciate the value of a PA and see you as a valuable asset - but there are some who see support staff as dogsbodies who are only there to make tea and print things off. So it can be quite a gamble as to the type you get, but in the right role it can be a decent job.

I8toys · 14/11/2019 20:35

I've been an EA for 20+ years. We are the go to for any problem that someone else does not want to deal with. It can be anything from the sink in the toilets overflowing to I've lost my wallet, hat, water bottle, rail passes etc etc on the train.

I am lucky in that I respect the man I have been working for, for the past 20 years and I class him as a friend but I have changed companies with him and have to look after other needy unorganized people as well. Its not an easy job and you have to be quite strong not to have everyone put their crap on you. It comes with experience however.

Biggobyboo · 14/11/2019 20:36

Also, PA/admin roles are definitely decreasing in number as tasks are automated and employees are expected to do their own admin. Away from the big cities, these jobs don’t pay well. Obviously being an NHS medical secretary is a very different beast to working for a City bank but they earn 17-19k in my (admittedly quite deprived) city. That’s a poor salary for their hectic jobs, dealing with aggressive / very upset patients etc.

Secretarial jobs outside the more prosperous cities with lots of industry will be on anything from 16k (minimum wage basically) to maybe 22k at the upper end.

PookieDo · 14/11/2019 20:39

I did this for a few years. I had a lot of changing management during those years (4 managers!) and all 4 of them went of sick with stress, essentially leaving me to do their job on 1/4 of the money

I also found it hard to manage people who do not want any help, especially if they are disorganised as they don’t appreciate you and make your life harder!

What I did like and appreciate were the networking opportunities. I networked my actual ass off, got into all kinds of projects and such like, I was in a good position to do that. And walked into a much better paid job after 4 years

Biggobyboo · 14/11/2019 20:40

If anybody apart from my boss had said to me they had lost their wallet, hat, water bottle, rail passes etc I would have been Hmm

I wonder how some of these people manage in the real world! I was once asked to mop up tea from the floor as a manager had dropped their tea and was too busy to clean it up.

Expressedways · 14/11/2019 20:49

So much depends on the company and your boss. Personally I like it because it pays well for what it is and I’ve always managed to set structure and stick to a standard business hours and completely forget about work outside of hours. I don’t do personal stuff (my bosses have private household staff), stationary or printers. For me it’s more gatekeeper/triage with some project management. I like the travel stuff, I actually set the travel policy for the department and approve everyone’s trips. I do have to do expenses, which I loathe, but the rest of it is fine. I was previously an office manager/PA/receptionist in a small office and it was awful. In my experience big companies where roles are clearly defined are much better.

dontalltalkatonce · 14/11/2019 20:49

Oh, and you get people who want to foist work on you (always unpleasant or boring work) and if you tell them, 'Sorry, I'm doing X right now for our boss,' they go directly to him/her to still see if they can foist the work on you. Angry

I had one gig (temp, thankfully) where the solicitors decided it was entirely acceptable for the 'secretaries' to bring in home baked goods on Friday for them. Um, fuck off. I'm not a fucking baker.

As for 'I lost my water bottle', honestly, words fail. Can't say I ever had anyone that pitifully incompetent.


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PookieDo · 14/11/2019 20:56

I once had to buy vaginal dryness cream for my boss and order some swimsuits for her holiday

She also demanded I go to M&S on Xmas eve (on a Saturday) to collect one of her parcels

SomeHalfHumanCreatureThing · 14/11/2019 20:56

Wow, some of you have some horrible jobs!

I've been a PA/EA (public sector) 15 years and Im never treated like a dogsbody, I am not the go to for all the admin, I don't cover phones, and I dont make coffee.

I work in a good department though, and while it can be a dead end job in some places, there is room for progression where I am (more complicated roles, for very senior staff, for example). It's well paid too.

Lolacat1234 · 14/11/2019 20:57

I'm a PA, private sector (insurance/finance). I would say who you work for makes all the difference. At the moment I look after two high level managers and take care of departmental admin and it's hard work but the people I work for are great. So I like it at the moment. I have days where I just want to do something else though. One nasty interaction with a stakeholder and I feel deflated and unimportant. A couple of things I think are important as a PA:

  1. Knowing what's in your job description and what isn't and more importantly being able to manage requests from people to do things that are not part of your job in a polite manner.
  2. Being adaptable and approachable.
  3. Not being easily intimidated by wanky people.
  4. Ability to juggle multiple requests and good with time management.
  5. Don't expect any accolades or thank you's!
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