Personal Assistant – A Beginner’s Guide

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This beginner’s guide to personal assistants will give you all the basics and is a useful read before you hire a personal assistant for yourself.

What is a Personal Assistant (PA)?

A personal assistant makes your life easier by sharing your workload. Generally, they are used to increase productivity or quality of life.

Ok … So, what does a personal assistant do?

           “Grab me some coffee”

                                              “Check my emails”

                                                                                   “Book me a cab/ flight”

The examples above are just a few of the tasks that a personal assistant may be asked to do for his or her boss.

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Image Credit: Fox 2000 Pictures via “Devil Wear’s Prada”

A classic example is Andy (Anne Hathaway) as a personal assistant to Miranda (Meryl Streep) in the movie, “The Devil Wears Prada,” in which the former runs around following her boss and trying to complete a plethora of seemingly impossible tasks.

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Personal assistants, sometimes referred to as executive assistants (EAs), are important individuals that busy people rely on to help them with their tasks.

Depending on their skill and expertise, they can accomplish work-related or personal tasks for their employer. They can answer your emails, update your schedules, set up your appointments and even find a house cleaner or pet sitter.

Personal assistants save you the time and effort in doing other tasks and can even help you with bigger ones as long as it does not require your specific skill and attention.

The Power of Hiring a Personal Assistant

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Imagine a company CEO or a top-notch celebrity going through their day without their personal assistants, nothing would get done.

“If you take a bunch of superstars and put them in a room where they don’t have their assistants and entourage, it’s funny to see what happens”- Daryl Hall

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Nowadays, personal assistants are no longer limited to a CEO or Hollywood actress/actor. Now, because of technology, anyone can leverage a personal assistant service which will give you the POWER to get more things done, without overexerting yourself.

The Different Forms of Personal Assistants

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While any type of personal assistants can provide assistance, the personal assistant you chose should be especially suited to your needs. The following are the different forms of personal assistants:

In-office Personal Assistants

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In-office personal assistants are individuals who are hired and tasked to report to their employers regularly, either on a full-time or part-time schedule. They are required to accomplish a wide array of tasks and are given salaries like a normal employee.

CEOs, Directors, and Hollywood stars are often the type of individuals who have personal assistants with them to assist them in everything they need to do, from getting coffee to scheduling their calendars.

In-office personal assistants are mainly employed by busy individuals who need to have someone with them regularly. Most in-office personal assistant tasks include:

  • Scheduling meetings for their employer
  • Answering calls and dealing with clients
  • Preparing files and documents needed by your employer
  • Managing office filing
  • Taking down notes during meetings and conferences
  • Attending meetings for your boss
  • Manage projects

This type of personal assistant is essential to businesses and companies who need someone competent and skilled to do diverse tasks and execute them effectively.

Virtual or Online Personal Assistant

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Virtual or online personal assistants became popular in the early nineties and have continued to grow as an industry. Virtual assistants are skilled individuals who provide a huge array of services to their employers via phone or through the internet.

With a virtual assistant, an employer has to communicate and delegate tasks remotely and expect these to be accomplished for him at a given period. Here are some quick facts about virtual personal assistants:

  • Virtual assistants are hired and paid either per hour or per project
  • Prices for virtual assistants vary and can increase depending on the skill and quality of work
  • Majority of virtual assistants are hired from remote locations like India and the Philippines
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Due to their remote nature, virtual assistants are great for busy individuals who need help with non-physical tasks. Much like an in-office personal assistants, a virtual assistant can help you with tasks like:

  • Checking your email and filtering urgent ones
  • Booking travel tickets
  • Doing online research
  • Encoding documents
  • Creating presentations
  • Setting up reminders
  • Scheduling appointments and meetings
  • Find a house cleaner or pet sitter

If you want to know more about virtual assistants, read more here.

Artificial Intelligence Personal Assistant

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With the rising trend of AI personal assistants for mobile devices, now anyone can have basic assistance in their daily tasks and chores. These apps are a hit because they are instant, free, and always available.

Depending on the type of AI personal assistant app you have on our mobile phone or laptop, you can have it do the following for you:

1. Send Emails and Schedule Meetings

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One of the most innovative tools for people who hate scheduling is, “x.ai”.

This AI personal assistant helps you pin down your contacts, send back-and-forth emails, and find a meeting time and place for you. To use, simply CC “amy@x.ai” in your emails and let “Amy” do the rest. X.ai will put your scheduled meeting on your phone’s calendar once it has been confirmed.   

2. Setting Up Reminders

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If you would like to go old-school and simply set your phone’s alarm every time you need a reminder for something important, have your phone’s AI assistant do it for you.

Depending on your phone brand or OS, you can have Siri, Alexa, Google Allo, or Slackbot set up reminders for you. These AI assistant reminders can be set up manually or through voice recognition and commanded to remind you about a specific event or task that you need to do.

3. Manage your Expenses

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With all the bills to pay and things to spend money on, it is no wonder that people find themselves at a loss for how their finances dwindle.

A money manager in your phone can help you keep track of your money. For example, Cleo, which is a money manager bot, communicates with you through text to keep track of your balances and expenditures.

On-Demand Personal Assistant

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For some individuals, the number of tasks needed to be done varies from time to time, there are also those who need human assistance immediately.

On-demand personal assistants are available through applications, online, or even through text-based services. They provide fast and reliable service to people and help them with their errands and chores.

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For example, Magic which is an on-demand personal assistant service can do the following:

  • Schedule appointments with your hairdresser, dentist, or doctor
  • Plan a special event (including booking a venue and hiring a catering service)
  • Book your accommodations for flights, car services, hotel rooms, etc. 
  • Check your emails and alert you of urgent messages
  • Ordering items and having them delivered to you anywhere
  • Find you specific merchandise and look for the best price offer

Tips for Finding Your Personal Assistant

It is important to find a competent and skilled individual who can carry out the tasks that you need. To do so, you should answer the following:

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  • What is your personal assistant for?

You should identify whether you will be needing a personal assistant to help you with your work or someone who can do personal tasks for you. Identifying the tasks that you would want your personal assistant to carry out for you will let you determine better what type assistance you need.

  • What skills are you looking for?

Based on the tasks that you would want your PA to do for you, you should hire one who is skilled in doing these specific tasks so he can efficiently carry out the tasks with ease.

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  • Do you want your PA to be on call?

Depending on your need, you may want your PA to be either on call, part-time, or report on specific hours every day. Again, the tasks and frequency of tasks that need to be done will determine which type of personal assistant would suit you best.

By answering these three questions, you will have a clearer view on how you should look for a personal assistant depending on your need. For more info on this topic, read the article here.

What Qualities Should  You Look For in a Personal Assistant?

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Your personal assistant is your trusted individual who will carry out tasks, errands and chores for you. It is important to find one who has the following qualities:

  • Self-motivated

Personal assistants who are self-motivated can accomplish their tasks faster and with great results

  • Discrete

PAs who are exposed to sensitive information, must know how to be discreet and never share any private information.

  • Professional

PAs should have an air of professionalism in carrying out their tasks and even when simply communicating with other people

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  • Flexible

Since there are hundreds of tasks that an employer may ask in a single day. A PA must be flexible enough in carrying them out without difficulties

  • Proactive

After some time, a PA should learn the preferences of his or her boss and anticipate these needs without being asked

What are  Location Specific PA tasks?

Depending on where you are located or where you want to go, there are things that your personal assistant can do for you.

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New Jersey

  • Book a guest room at The Asbury Hotel
  • Plan a family weekend getaway at the Park at Six Flags Great America
  • Schedule a hiking trip at the Cape May Bird Observatory

New York City

  • Hail a cab or car service
  • Coordinate venues for your meetings and conferences
  • Have your local newspaper delivered at your doorstep

Vancouver

  • Buy tickets for the Vancouver Aquarium
  • Book a flight ticket to Vancouver
  • Get tickets to the Vancouver Lookout

In conclusion, we hope this has been an informative first look into the world of hiring and using a personal assistant. We also hope this article serves as a good starting point when you begin looking for your own personal assistant.