Day Two: 12 Days of Real Careers

Earlier this week, I issued a challenge to readers – and they’re responding to  #12DaysOfAdminProfessionals!

If you’re just catching up on this celebration of fellow admin. professionals, have a look at Monday’s post to learn more.

In the interim, I’m happy to bring you Day Two of my 12 Days of Real Careers. Think of these 12 Days as gifts of experience and wisdom that we can all incorporate.


Carry yourself with grace and dignity, and watch and learn from those you respect

Bianca Constance hails from Montreal, Canada and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. She’s lived in the New York metropolitan area for over two decades.

I asked Bianca about role models and mentors. Her experience? “My mentors/role models have all been the silent variety. I have never had a bona fide mentoring relationship with anyone but I certainly did do a great deal of observing. The executive for whom I worked encouraged me to join a professional organisation, and was a great one to watch in action.  She carried herself in the ruthless, male-dominated business world with such grace and dignity.  When her peers treated her with disrespect, she never sank down to their level and was always a class act in all her dealings.”

IAAP members will know Bianca by name, if not personally. She’s served on that association’s International board, and on the board of directors for The Foundation of IAAP,  the charitable arm of IAAP.  Bianca reflected, “Being an active member of IAAP has allowed me to go places that I would otherwise never have gone. I have a network of friends and colleagues that spans the globe – Canada, South Africa, Uganda and the United Kingdom, to name but a few.”


Be aware of issues and developments in your industry, and in external environments

Lorna Cowan works in Belfast and lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland. She’s an advocate for networking, listening and learning.

Lorna’s recommendation for career success? “Network. Take the time to get to know other PAs; not only will it provide you with an invaluable support network, but you never know what contacts they have or knowledge they can share that can help you in your day to day role as well as your career progression. Ask questions and really listen to the answers.

Never stop learning; even if it doesn’t directly relate to your day job, you never know what contacts you’ll make and how that information can be used. Be aware of the issues and developments taking place in your industry, and keep on top of current affairs and the trends in the world around .”


It’s important that we work together to push ourselves and our profession forward

Craig Harris is from Essex, and now works in London. In his interview, Craig discussed the importance of goal setting, networks and more: “I think it’s always important to have some goals set for yourself. I’m currently trying to broaden my network and meet other assistants working in different sectors. I think it’s important that as a profession we work together to push ourselves and our profession forward.”

Craig also offered thoughts for admin. professionals who are seeking promotion. “Firstly, I would sit down and really think about what it is you want to get from the change. Is it that you want more responsibility, or is there a different side to the business that you would like to explore? Or, is it that you’ve seen an opportunity to earn more? Whatever the reason, really think about it before taking any steps forward.” Click on Craig’s name, above, to see the balance of his thoughts on advancement.


There are no limits to what you can do with this role; you decide

Sofie Koark lives in Stockholm, Sweden. Her motto? ” Solve the problem.” This problem solver also offered pragmatic advice: “Expect that your manager will have little time to support you. Be a do-er so that people can count on you. There are no limits to what you can do with this role; you decide. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t let others mistake you for having a junior role in the company because of your title. You are a leader in a support role. Lean in and steer towards what you enjoy doing and are good at. Learn as much as possible about the business and understand how the company makes money. Build a great internal and external network. Be a good ambassador. Understand that you are working in sales no matter what you do. And have a good sense of humor about it all!”

Sofie’s thoughts on time management? “Don’t be a perfectionist or a control freak. Leave things when they are good enough, which will release time for more things. Send a first rough draft for approval to your executive and see if you are on the right track before putting in more work at something. Have a yearly planning calendar and recurring reminders so you don’t have to invent the wheel over and over again and missing recurring deadlines.”


Look at matters from different perspectives

Germany’s Angela Parker was born near the North Sea coast, in Oldenburg in northwestern Germany. She has lived in the USA, and calls Ludwigshafen, on the Rhine River, home. Angela credited her teachers for lessons that serve her well today. “Particularly, my German and English teachers opened my mind and taught me to look at things from many different perspectives and argue my case in a logical manner.”

Angela, whom I had the privilege of meeting this October, puts her language skills to good use. “Ever since I was a teenager, I have always wanted to work with people from other countries. I have always worked for companies with international business ties and it has been enlightening in so many ways. I have worked for machine builders, logistics companies and wholesalers of varying sizes and corporate structures. Each employer afforded me the opportunity to learn something new and see business from a different perspective.”


No isn’t a word that naturally occurs in the vocabulary of admin. support, but it is one we need to learn to tactfully use

Helen Parker, who works in Bristol, is proud to be a genuine Cockney from London. She grew up in south Wales, and now lives in Portishead. When I asked Helen about her readiness to use the word no, she  said, ” ”No’ isn’t a word that naturally occurs in the vocabulary of admin. support, but it is one we need to learn to tactfully use in order to avoid being completely overwhelmed.”

Helen also offered thoughts on working effectively with a new executive/principal. “Opening up frequent dialogue early on is key to understanding each other’s style of work and to gain an insight into your executive’s priorities and methods of working. As the assistant, you need to adapt to their wants and needs, but don’t be afraid to offer your own ideas and suggestions.”


I am a part of all that I have met

Karen Richmond hails from South Derbyshire and lives in North Lanarkshire, in the Central Belt of Scotland.  When I asked her about role models, Karen said, “I feel privileged to have met and worked with some amazing people in my career. So far, I have learned a lot from all of the different Executives and Heads of Department I’ve worked with – and also from the different PAs and administrative staff I’ve worked alongside. I’m a great fan of the quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses: ‘I am a part of all that I have met’.”

Karen offered encouragement for young admin. professionals: “Know your worth! Looking back to when I started as a PA in a factory office, I’m amazed at how sexist attitudes were (from both male and female colleagues).  I’m glad that has changed, but I do think it is important for young people to realise how valuable they are to an organisation and to realise their self worth.”


I compete with myself

Barb Unger was born in London, England and lives near Canada’s city of London. Barb acknowledged having struggled with saying no, “… so my executive coached me early on in my role that it’s okay to say no, especially when the request does not immediately support where my focus should be. I enjoy supporting and helping others, yet when I determine that I need to say ‘no’, I say it respectfully, along with providing resources and potential solutions that the individual can take away to complete it themselves, or within their team. Many times people ask you to do something as you have shown you are capable of such; yet there are others who are also capable and would welcome the opportunity to show it. Saying  ‘no’ allows someone else the opportunity to shine.

Want to know how Barb competes with herself? Click on her name, above, and check out her interview.


My opinion has value and is taken under consideration – and so I think twice before I speak

Eleni Rizikianou lives in Athen, her birthplace. When she voices her views, it’s based on reflection: “My opinion has value and it is taken under consideration. So I think twice before I speak, because I have learned to note many factors in order to express a point of view: Is what I am saying feasible? How does it affect the others? How does it affect the company? Is there any other possible solution?”

We also discussed time management. “Every one of us has seen all time management tools fail during a busy day. Nevertheless, I believe that the ability to accept the change of priorities is the key. Don’t try to stick to what was previously decided. Be flexible and constantly separate the urgent from the important.”

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