Executive Assistant vs. Personal Assistant – What’s the Difference?

6 mins read

This article discusses the differences between an executive and personal assistant.

Have you ever reached the end of a day and thought to yourself that there just wasn’t enough time to do everything you wanted? Many business owners and executives have to prioritize heavily throughout their day to make sure essential tasks and projects are completed, while other low priority items may be pushed to the next day. Sometimes this includes sacrificing certain work duties they enjoy doing to make time for the unexpected issues that pop up throughout their day, or realizing they sacrificed eating the entire day to accomplish their priorities. This is when executive assistants (EA) as well as personal assistants (PA) can be extremely valuable for a business owner or executive.

While executive assistants’ and personal assistants’ roles and skillset may overlap sometimes, there are key differences in their responsibilities which are delegated by the professional they are working for. Both positions can be equally valuable, and tend to need skills such as superior organization, professionalism, proficient communication, computer skills, and trustworthiness. In this article we explain what an executive assistant is, what a personal assistant is, common tasks for each, as well as the key differences between the roles.

Executive Assistant

Executive assistants are primarily involved in the business side of executives’ lives, and tend to work for members of top management, such as a CEO. In larger companies, an executive assistant will likely work for one executive, while in smaller companies the assistant may support multiple executives. While their role can vary greatly from company to company, or even from executive to executive, executive assistants support the business duties of the person they are working for by solving problems, managing schedules, and helping them to be as productive as they can be. To be successful, an executive assistant requires an in-depth understanding of the executive’s job, along with a clear picture of the company’s goals

Some of the common tasks an EA may handle include:

    • Scheduling and preparing meetings
    • Attending meetings on their behalf
    • Taking notes during meetings
    • Email inbox management, may respond to some e-mails
    • Managing phone calls and voicemail
    • Mail correspondence
    • Research
    • Creating reports
    • Creating organization systems
    • Business travel planning
    • Project support
    • Follow-up on action items or deadlines
    • Ensuring the executive has all supplies/tools they need

Personal Assistant

A personal assistant’s responsibilities tend to involve the personal life of an executive. While the role of a PA can vary depending on the person they are supporting, the company, or the industry, they typically help to manage the household and personal life of an executive. A personal assistant will typically be in their home while they are not there to take care of errands and tasks that the executive would otherwise handle in their personal time outside of work. The main goal of a PA is do the tedious and draining tasks the executive doesn’t enjoy, which then creates more time for the executive to do the things they love that recharge their energy. Personal assistants must be able to anticipate the employer’s needs, while also being prepared to deal with any unexpected circumstances that arise.

Some of the common tasks a PA may handle include:

  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal preparation and cooking
  • Purchasing household items, gifts, and more
  • Taking care of errands
  • Managing a personal schedule
  • Managing a family calendar
  • Handling personal phone calls
  • Managing private e-mail inbox
  • Managing mail
  • Scheduling appointments and meeting service providers
  • Basic household tidying
  • Organization projects
  • Planning events
  • Taking children or pets to appointments

Key Differences

Now that we have explained the typical roles of an EA as well as a PA, here are some of the key differences in their roles:

In Need of Assistance?

Both executive assistants and personal assistants have important responsibilities that help in supporting the business and personal life of business owners and high-level management executives, such as CEOs. These assistants are very valuable in helping to overcome the overwhelm that can arise in both business and personal life matters. Executive assistants tend to help in areas associated with the executive’s job and business, while a personal assistant tends to help with the household and personal matters. Depending on the executive and the delegation required, there are many that will hire an assistant who is able to perform both EA and PA support roles for them.

When it comes down to it, the assistant(s) that may need to be hired and the responsibilities they are given will depend on the assistance required, as well as your individual wants and needs for support within your role in the business and at home. With this information fresh in mind, it may be worth considering, are you in need of the assistance of an assistant?

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