Day Three: 12 Days of Real Careers

This  #12DaysOfAdminProfessionals celebration of peers you respect is growing.

Here, on day three, I’m bringing you excerpts from some more of my Real Careers interviews. You can read  the full interview by clicking on an individual’s name below.

Are you ready? Here are some more gifts of experience, highlighting skills and professional approaches that benefit all.


Take risks; the best learning experiences may be those that most scare you

Margo Baptista hails from the town of Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador in the Canadian province of Newfoundland / Labrador. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a friend and fellow governance professional, someone who works with a board of directors. I have the utmost respect for Margo. When we discussed career development and progression, Margo recommended, “ Learn everything you can about the field. Be willing to put in the time and energy that is needed to learn and progress. Be flexible. Find ways to continuously improve – e.g., business processes, documents, etc.”

“Contribute to your profession – don’t stand on the sidelines. Take risks – often the best learning experiences are the ones that scared you the most when they first came to your attention. Listen – be attentive to the person you are with and hear what s/he is saying before offering your own opinion. Find your passion, work at something that inspires and fulfils you. Create your own destiny by developing a passion for learning in all aspects of your life.”


Problems aren’t problems, they’re just an opportunity to find a solution

Jane Brazzill comes from Wigan, Lancashire, UK and now lives near Manchester; she commutes to the city each day. In discussing insights that would have been helpful in the early stages of her career, she said, “You’re not just a secretary – you’re not just anything. You’re a crucial and integral part of the team … Don’t let anyone undermine you or make you feel less worthy.”

Jane also offered insights on time management: “If you’re like me and you’re constantly got a voice in your head telling you the million OTHER things that you have to do, keep a pad of paper on your desk and write down each of these to-do items as they come to you. Emptying them out of your head allows you to stay focused on the task at hand, and you won’t worry that you’re forgetting something important.”


There is a diplomatic and political aspect to our profession

Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito was born in Resende, Brazil (Brasil) and now lives in the city of Brasilia.

When I asked about the most challenging aspect of her role, Marcela said, “I believe that is handling different people and their opinions and behaviours. I defend that the only thing we cannot express widely in our career is a preference for someone or something. There is a diplomatic and political aspect to our profession, because we communicate among staff at all levels in a number of organisations. It is mandatory to command others’ confidence to ensure our work is productive and fluid.”


Attend industry events, and read publications related to your industry

Kelly McAulay comes from the small town of Bellshill, Lanarkshire in Scotland, and now lives in Glasgow.

If you’re wanting to progress within your career, consider Kelly’s insights. “Make time for training and learning – ask for the opportunities and, if your company won’t invest in you, then invest in yourself. Just as importantly, network like your life depends on it!   By networking, you build contacts and relationships, and are able to keep up to date with the industry – there are often many free learning opportunities to support your professional development.”

Kelly attends as many courses and industry events as she can each year. She spoke to the relevance of networks, saying, “Being involved in these networks has been a great learning opportunity for me and has been invaluable for both my personal and professional development.”


When you are at work, be at work; when you are home, be present for your family

Deirdre McGovern was born and raised in Queens, New York. She lives in Floral Park, NY. We discussed the impact of social media on the admin. professional’s role. Deirdre said, “Social media has allowed me not only to connect with others in the administrative profession; it has also helped me become very knowledgeable about different opportunities for training. It is also a plethora of information about new tech and apps that can make our lives easier.”

We also discussed digitizing offices. Deirdre told me, “I have been working on going paperless for the past year by utilizing the most amazing desk scanner! Many/most of my files are now electronic. I utilize many different apps that I have learned about through social media.  I plan all our meetings utilizing Doodle; I have been using It’s Time!, a free app that acts like a tickler file for reminders.  I just created a Voxer account.”


Your time and opinions are just as valuable as those of any other member of the team

Janice Parker comes from Melbourne, Australia and now lives in London. She offered observations on prioritising your role and contributions: “Your time and opinions are just as valuable as those of any other member of the team. Do not be afraid to put time in your manager’s diary to catch up or discuss more serious topics. If the meeting is moved, reschedule it as soon as possible and do not let your colleagues make you feel that their meeting should go before yours (unless it is business critical). Do not be afraid to speak up and be heard; you will have interesting things to say and your colleagues will want to listen.”

Janice also discussed time management. “For me, it is using the colour categories in Outlook – both mine and my manager’s calendars are rainbow coloured as every kind of meeting, event and task has been allocated a colour. It helps that I can look at our diaries and immediately see where there are internal, external meetings and events. I also use the colour categories for my emails so that, at a glance, I can see each morning what I need to action based on how I have allocated the email.”


Never say never

John D. Shaw was born in Camden, Tennessee andlives in Seattle, USA. In his interview, John discussed the value of good relationships. He said, “All relationships need to be nurtured and a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’ can go a long way.”

John’s recommendations? “Make sure you have a record of special occasions in peoples’ lives. Sending an unexpected ‘happy birthday’ wish to a contact lets them know they matter to you. I prefer sending hand-written notes – it’s more personal. I’ve been very fortunate in having a wide-ranging professional network and have maintained many of these relationships for over 20 years.”


Upskill yourself by attending training, development and networking events wherever possible

Louise Whitehead was born in Yorkshire, and lives there now. This world traveller is highly committed to networking and professional development. Louise serves on the General Advisory Board of EPAA, the UK’s Executive and Personal Assistants Association. Louise discussed both education and professional development: “I do have a degree but I remain unconvinced as to the necessity of it for a PA. I do, however, believe strongly in the importance of professional development, and I look for training and development opportunities wherever possible. I regularly attend networking and developmental events in my own time”

“I never want to stop learning and adding skills and experience to benefit me and my Executives. I feel strongly about raising the profile of the PA/EA industry and giving it the recognition it deserves, and am always looking for new ways to do this and champion our role.”

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