Yes, I know I’m probably a bit biased, but I truly believe that being a PA or Administrator is the most difficult job in an office environment.
Master of All Trades
We must know how to take 2 phone calls, set up an excel spreadsheet, book a conference call and send several emails – all at the same time. Simultaneously, we must be able to review 2 inboxes, update 3 calendars, book dinner for 7 with parking, location map and 2 vegetarian options, knock up a PowerPoint presentation, courier a package to China and book three hotel rooms and three flights.
We must know how to speak all languages and have visited all the countries in the world: and therefore know every restaurant and every hotel. We must have a complete understanding all local customs and visa and vaccination requirements for all nationalities and countries.
We can personally affect the food on the flight, traffic lights on the way to the airport, the condition of your hire car, the weather, as well as the economic situation and currency exchange rate fluctuations.
We must possess magical powers from the Hogwort’s School of Admin Wizardry which enable us to get a room in a fully booked hotel and seats on fully booked planes and trains. We must also have the skills and necessary contacts to arrange for planes to start and land at your desired destinations at your preferred times.
We must sympathetically understand that – even though you asked for a Friday flight – you really wanted to travel on Saturday because it’s your wife’s birthday on Friday and you can’t miss it again. If you arrange a meeting with somebody over the phone and don’t tell us, we telepathically know and will book and prepare a meeting room and arrange drinks.
We are the Haynes Manual of the photocopier, the air conditioning units and the coffee machine. We know the names of all your important clients, your children, their birthdays, and their favourite colours.
We know all of your passwords, your passport number and the postcodes from your last three addresses by heart.
We are, quite simply, the Master of All Trades.
We must agree to go for a drink after work with you, even though you are a pedantic feminist. We enjoy listening to you go on about how hard you’ve had to work to get to where you are, the people you have had to impress, and the sacrifices you have had to make. It takes every ounce of our being to not hit you round the face with the half bottle of Laurent Perrier that you always make us share (you cheapskate – remember we know that you live in a massive house in Maida Vale).
We smile as you give us a folder containing all of your receipts and leftover currency from your last 16 business trips, telling you that we don’t mind spending the next 4 days uncrumpling them and trying to work out which ones are taxis in Korea and which ones are coffees in Japan. We don’t mind that most of these receipts are randomly stapled together.
We love it when you complain that the printer has broken again. Mainly because we get a thrill from re-routing your print job from tray 5 to the main tray because you’ve printed it out in US legal size. Again.
We laugh our little hearts out when you bob over to us and ask for some more help with that Word document. We think you are so cute when the issue is that there aren’t any fonts that come in half sizes, you’ve set the paragraph spacer to 2, or that you’ve accidentally justified right and can’t get it back.
We give you an affectionate eye roll when you refuse help to put your rolodex of business cards onto your phone. We get it. We too struggle finding a contact when there’s too many to scroll through.
The highlight of our day is when we get to make small talk with you about how far we commute in from, what gym we go to and from where we buy our lunch.
It’s so funny when we ask you back and you don’t realise that we already know where you live because we’ve sent taxis there to take you to the airport when you’ve been on the 0645 flight to Zurich.
Actually, we don’t have to like everyone. But we have to pretend that we do. Which is way harder.
We are, quite simply, Everyone’s Friend.
We know everyone
We know that it’s Alan from Marketing’s birthday today and we have sent over some donuts from you. We know that Peter will only stay in room number 98 at the Marriott hotel when he is visiting from Paris and we know that Helen’s PA, Marjorie, always leaves the office at six minutes to five because her train home runs once an hour.
We know that Henry flies from Gatwick and Susan flies from Heathrow. We know that Tim will only use those pens with the cushioned grip, and we know that Barry is incapable of working his computer so all communication needs to be verbal. Or written in quill.
We know that Rebecca is vegan, except for cheese, and Paul has a dog called Boris which he entertains with his dog monitor app every afternoon when he thinks no one can see him.
We know that Dave is the only person who can work the air conditioner. We have back ordered several hundred of his favourite coffee pods and stashed them away to use as bribes when it gets chilly.
The Next You?
We already answer all your emails and prep you for all your appointments. It can’t be that hard, can it?
We know that 50% of what you do is schmooze, and we’re already a dab hand at that. We know, before you do, that Janet from Accounts needs that file from you before the end of the day. And we have already updated it for you.
We know you are expecting a call from your best client because you went out for drinks with them last night and you came in this morning wearing your red tie so you must have struck a good deal. We have already cleared your diary for next Tuesday for the meeting that he will ask you for.
We give you our opinion on whether Marcus from Business Development deserves a promotion. We know that he’s putting the hours in because he ordered his wife flowers last week as an apology, and it’s not even her birthday or their anniversary.
So whilst we probably don’t have the experience or kudos that you do to take over your job completely, we could certainly stand in for a few days. You could lay in your sick bed safe in the knowledge that your best interests are being handled by someone who actually has no interest in becoming the next you.
So no, we don’t want to be the next you. Because being us is way more interesting and no one could do our job as well as we do.