Honestly, what are the pros and cons of the role?

I have been planning to write a blog post around the pros and cons of the role for a while. I wanted to be totally honest but I thought well I can only really base the pros and cons of the role on my perspective and what I have experienced over the years and although I can share plenty of examples I might be limiting the picture somewhat. So I recently asked my lovely readers to complete a survey on the blog and also asked a few questions around the assistant profession itself and two such questions were – ‘what do you enjoy most about the role?’ and ‘what do you enjoy least about the role?’ So honestly, what are the pros and cons of the role? Here are the results:

The pros:

  • Making my boss the most effective, efficient and successful as he can be whilst enhancing the reputation of the business
  • Every day is different and I am able to be close to top management
  • I value the relationship and rapport I have built with the person I work for and the appreciation for a job well done
  • Meeting different people
  • Being the linchpin
  • The network of PAs
  • I really enjoy being involved in almost all aspects of my bosses lives
  • Exchanging ideas and influencing decisions at a high level
  • The scope to expand knowledge and skill sets.  The ability learn more about the company, industry, and business functions
  • Being a central figure in the company, the feeling of helping individuals and teams be more efficient
  • People depending on me
  • Busy days, I am always on my feet
  • The ability to have an impact in so many areas
  • There is always something to learn
  • The variety of projects we work on
  • You really can make the job your own if you are proactive and willing to take on new opportunities
  • Being relied on by my manager and having the authority to role things out in the team either by following instructions from my manager or because they trust my thoughts, way of working and let me go ahead and do things on my own
  • The possibility of working at any type of company (industry, finance, etc)
  • The ability to interact with all levels and help build company moral through employee engagement events and projects
  • I do have complete autonomy to do my job and flexibility with hours and the ability to work at home during bad weather in the winters
  • Seeing a successful outcome for the teams I support and knowing I assisted / made a contribution to the company’s “big picture”
  • Knowing what’s going on in the company through understanding what my group is responsible for and how it fits in to what the company’s mission as a whole is as well as knowing what’s going on in other departments
  • Being able to see how one person’s small contribution if done with compassion can create a ripple effect
  • The job is never dull

 The cons:

  • The lack of respect you get as you are ‘just a PA’
  • The one-upmanship
  • My boss doesn’t always understand how much time particular tasks demand
  • I don’t have any authority
  • The job can run into your personal time and it is hard to get a salary that will compensate that
  • I need a thicker skin when dealing with difficult colleagues. I find they tend to take out their frustration with the executive team on me. It can be a very lonely and isolated role
  • When people bombard me with emails and expect an immediate response
  • Calendar management – I find it boring
  • Being on call 24/7
  • Office politics
  • Filing
  • Taking minutes
  • The amount of interruptions we face on our daily routine
  • Being a dumping ground
  • Sometimes the role can put you in a position of being outside all  of the teams (neither part of the management team or part of your colleague’s teams)
  • Constant changes, sometimes I feel like I don’t have any influence over business decisions
  • The view that ‘anyone’ can be a PA which undermines the efforts of those of us who have made it a deliberate career choice and take our roles very seriously.
  • Sometimes I feel we have less opportunities than other positions. Also since we are always planning for others, no one plans anything for us
  • The bickering amongst PAs – all seems very protective and not willing to share knowledge or help each other
  • The plethora of completely pointless meetings
  • Other colleagues assume all the ‘rubbish’ tasks are for me to do as they don’t understand my role
  • You can end up doing some fairly boring repetitive tasks
  • The pay and just wishing for more mobility and flexibility. Its hard sometimes to be a lot of places at once
  • I work in an old fashioned culture where PA’s are still seen as secretaries
  • Your role is invisible – the better you are, the more seamless everything appears to be which is hard when trying to get career recognition, or pay rise..!
  • Being expected to drop everything the moment a more senior colleague wants me to do something
  • There can be more job then me

So what are my pros and cons? Well they are very similar to my readers. I love the variety and I love being able to support my executives make the decisions that ultimately affect the organisation. I can’t stand being a dumping ground for other people’s admin tasks and working with those that don’t understand the role or respect the work I do. I think I could have written a pros and cons list that would have been based on my observations but also would have reflected the views of other assistants because we do have similar experiences which makes me realise just how much we need to support each other!

Thank you to everyone that completed the survey, I will publish the full results in October.

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16 comments

  • Cheryl Erickson September 6, 2013   Reply →

    Sounds about normal – takes a special person to be an administrator of any type.

  • NG September 6, 2013   Reply →

    Its great to see all the cons and realize we are not the only one to struggle with it. It’s hard to get recognition and be given more responsibility and authority. Nicky, how did you get to your actual job, where it seems u can be part of big decisions n have influence over the business?

  • Michelle B September 6, 2013   Reply →

    Nicky – Great listing of pros and cons of PA/EA role! Many of them sure do hit the mark. Thanks for sharing. You certainly can relate to these group members!

  • Francesca September 8, 2013   Reply →

    Both lists show that being a PA can be a great career for the right person. It can also be a very thankless and demanding position.

    How you feel about your role as a PA depends on the company and individuals you work for and with. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve worked for individuals who appreciated what I brought to the position. Still there were times when I wished that I could move on into a more senior position. A position that would allow me to use my talent and skills gained over the years.

    Every role and job you take on will have its good side and bad side, it all come down to how you deal with all the responsibilities and challenges you have to deal with.

  • Tracy September 9, 2013   Reply →

    All of these hit the nail on the head! I love being a PA, but hate the lack of recognition & that some individuals think ‘you just type letters all day don’t you?’

  • Kim September 10, 2013   Reply →

    It’s lonely “almost at the top”!

  • Barbara R. September 12, 2013   Reply →

    This is a very relevant survey. I’m not surprised that we all experience the same or similar pros and cons in our various administrative positions, but I was very interested in reading how other people verbalize what I have been thinking (and feeling) throughout my career. My co-workers and I have discussed similar situations numerous times, and it’s interesting to know that these are worldwide concerns among other administrative professionals. Thank you for conducting this survey. I plan to use it as a talking point with my fellow administrative professionals. Nice job!

  • Motivational Keynote Speaker September 17, 2013   Reply →

    Well researched! I think a lot of those points, both positive and negative could be applied to many roles.

  • Elizabeth September 17, 2013   Reply →

    Great summary and I’m chuffed that one of my comments was used in the blog – thanks Nicky! I can relate to all of them, but especially the one about being outside of all teams (neither part of the management team nor part of other teams). Sometimes it feels as if there’s lots of stuff going on around me but I’m not really involved in any of it. It’s rather like being on the outside and looking in, which can be frustrating at times! Glad to know we all share the similar views.

  • Alena September 23, 2013   Reply →

    Can’t agree more! Great artictle! I can totally relate to both, cons and pros. While reading the cons I realized that most of these effect the way I feel about my job recently and reminded me of the people thinking that anyone can be an assistant and that you are there to do all the boring work they cannot be bothered to do themselves. I probably should have read these in the opposite order – cons first, pros second, as I still love my job.

  • Jane October 22, 2013   Reply →

    Love the pros and cons stated Nicky. My inner voice kept agreeing with each point I read through.

  • Donna January 22, 2014   Reply →

    Wonderful article. Agree with everything said.

  • Ann July 14, 2014   Reply →

    PAs are secretaries. I ought to know Ive been one long enough. It was just a title that was invented to give secretaries a “career ladder”.

  • Anonymous November 13, 2014   Reply →

    I concur!

  • Lorrie November 13, 2014   Reply →

    Great article. Helped me put some things into perspective. Sometimes I feel as if I’m the only one who experiences all those cons.

    Whomever said “It’s lonely “almost” at the top”… summed it up, nicely!

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