The working life of an Executive PA

We asked Miranda Bunting, one of our graduates from 2011, about her career so far and the role of an Executive PA in a private household and in a small business.

I have had two very different PA jobs, and in both jobs no two days were the same. OMBS taught me so much about what to expect in the working world but it’s not until you are in the driving seat that you really start to learn what being a PA is all about.

I have worked both as a PA in a private household and currently am in a small office as PA to a chartered surveyor. In my current job, my boss works incredibly hard, which is motivating and makes the day very productive and exciting, and in the other job, sometimes my boss would not wake up until lunch time and didn’t have a job of her own, which was demoralising and unpredictable. Some people thrive on uncertainty but I like to feel organised and know how the day will pan out, which of course is not always possible.

As well as two permanent PA jobs, I did a lot of temping and in every case I have had to be able to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds which included anything from the royal family to contractors fixing the plumbing.

What do I do all day?

My current day starts with opening the office (I love being first there) at about 8:50 am, listening to voicemails, forwarding emails, opening post, returning calls and, most importantly, putting the kettle on! I often have to do a lot of audio typing so if my boss has left me a tape or two from the night before, I try and get it done before he arrives so it’s ready for him to check.

I work in a very small team; currently I am the only PA  and I look after three Directors. We talk about our weekends, previous evenings and plans for the week and I really value the fact that we are all able to have a good “work/life” balance. When I was a private PA, we NEVER talked about the life we had outside of work because the boss wanted us to be entirely dedicated to her and the job we had of looking after her. Also, working as a private PA, the days were very long and there was never much time to have a life outside of work. In that job, I was part of a much bigger team of staff and it was so important we all got on. Not every private PA job is like that but my friends who currently do it would say it is incredibly busy and long days.

I tend to take a late lunch and always try and take a whole hour although that is not always possible. I prefer having longer mornings and shorter afternoons. It’s so important, even if you are SO busy, to get out of the office, even just for 20 minutes.

The busy-ness of my day depends on whether my boss has lots of emails to reply to, (I type them) or reports to write, (I type those too). Sometimes one of the directors brings his dogs to work and that is always a welcomed distraction and an excuse to get out and take them for a walk.

I am able to walk (45 mins each way) to and from work which is incredibly fortunate and also the best possible start and end to my day.  I place high importance on the length and method of travel on my commute. The idea of multiple buses and / or trains makes me very anxious and I would urge anyone looking for their first job to think carefully about where they live in relation to their office.

What are you doing now?

In my current job my main boss does not own a mobile phone(!) so I am very lucky that I am not contactable outside of office hours and I don’t have my work email on my phone either. I realise other people are not as lucky as me. I don’t always understand some of the more complex work that my boss does, but I have to remember it’s not my job to understand his work, and it’s always okay to ask.

The best part of my current job is that we all have a great sense of humour and nobody takes anything too seriously. Everyone has bad days and it’s not nice when the boss takes something out on you or if you are blamed for something that wasn’t your fault. You just have to remember we are all human and nothing is perfect. A good boss would first apologise and then quickly move on if that ever happened.

I am able to leave on time most days and my boss is always very apologetic when that is not the case. The boss wants to leave on time too!

Being a PA is (mostly) a very rewarding job and no matter how good or bad a day can be, it is a real privilege being the gate keeper and the one confidante that a boss relies on the most.

Miranda attended Oxford Media & Business School for the 9 month course. The skills she learned set her on her way to a great career.