Objective Setting for a PA

As a mentor, I get asked time and time again about objective setting for a PA. Do objectives even matter for a PA?

They most certainly do matter. Whatever you put down gets recorded for your whole career. I’ve known objectives set by a PA when she had just start with a firm come back to bite her in the behind when she was applying for a promotion several years later.

In my opinion, objectives need to show that you care about the firm you work for. They need to show that you really want the firm to succeed.

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A company I once worked for held Department Presentations every 6 or so weeks. These were 45-minute sessions where departments showcased their areas and explained how they fit into the rest of the firm. Not only were they a good way to understand what the departments did, but knowing their role within the firm proved invaluable. One of my objectives was to attend at least 4 of these presentations throughout the calendar year. It was Specific (no confusion around what it was), Measurable (HR kept record of attendees in each presentation), Achievable (who doesn’t have time for a 45 minute presentation once a quarter), Relevant (it helped me understand the bigger picture), and Time-Bound (one year!).

You'll know that I generally don't like smart objectives, but for this one, I think it was pretty important.


Something I always ask myself when setting objectives is “do they add value?”. When I was at school, I remember one of my objectives being set as “carry on as you are”. At the time I thought I was wonderful and brilliant. Now I think back and wonder what I ever had to work towards.

Are you able to set an objective where you are adding value to the firm? Are you able to make a process improvement in any way? I sometimes view objectives a little bit like a political manifesto. If your boss reads them and signs them off, then he has effectively given you the authority to pursue them. Do you have forms that need a physical signature? Maybe you could change process to sign it electronically? Did someone in your team ask you to help out with something that you could look into doing on a regular basis?

I think the main thing to remember here is that to achieve your objective, you need to show that you put every reasonable effort into achieving it. I once spent weeks and weeks trying to put in place an electronic approval system, only for the whole thing to be pulled at the very last minute because of budget cuts. In my view, my objective had been met. I’d found a solution to a problem. It was beyond my control that it could not be put into practice. I could even prove that I’d made efforts to overturn the decision to cut the system.

I’d love to hear what objectives you put down. Do you achieve them? Do you come across obstacles such as red tape or a disinterested boss that prevent you ever achieving them? Do you not bother with objectives and just like to come in, do your job, and go home? Whatever your view, I’d love to hear from you.

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