Day Four: 12 Days of Real Careers

This  #12DaysOfAdminProfessionals celebration of peers you respect continues to grow.

In tandem, here on Day Four, I’m bringing you excerpts from some more of my Real Careers interviews. You can read any given interview by clicking on the individual’s name below.

If you’re ready for some inspiring reads, here are  more gifts of experience, highlighting skills and professional approaches that benefit all.

I’ve been learning to do things I couldn’t have even studied in school because the field didn’t exist

Suzanne Benderski lives in Syracuse, New York. She spoke from experience in saying, “When I was in my early twenties, I was very focused on the immediate tasks and situations. Now, I would tell my younger self to keep more of an eye on the end game and longer-term goals, and not to be so short-sighted – especially in some of my decision-making. There are things to be learned even from bad situations; accept the lessons.”

Suzanne also focused on continual learning. She said, “I’ve spent many, MANY hours in the past few years learning everything I can about managing social media platforms and advertising – attending seminars, workshops and webinars, and reading, reading, reading. I’ve been learning to do things I couldn’t have even studied in school because the field didn’t exist! Continual professional development is crucial. The world is moving at break-neck speed, and you have to always keep learning.”

I have never let a lack of budget for secretarial and PA training stop me from learning

Kerry Dawson is from South Yorkshire. In her interview, she spoke about being a lifelong learner. “Throughout my role as a PA, I have always learnt something new or a different way to do something. I learn from my colleagues, through attending professional development courses, and networking both online and face-to-face on a weekly, if not daily, basis.”

“Development doesn’t have to be a professional course; it can be as simple as having a conversation with a friend over coffee, and the very best development you can have is learning how to adapt your working style to best fit with your boss.  I have never let a lack of budget for secretarial and PA training stop me from learning. If I hadn’t taken control of my own personal development, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Our roles can be very isolating, but all we have to do is look outside the office walls to find a world of experience at our fingertips.”

In any new role, get to know everyone before attempting to change the way things happen

Sherri Eckworth lives in North Norfolk. In addition to offering the sage advice, above, for newcomers to an office, Sherri offered her thoughts on time management. “Prepare, prepare, prepare and don’t be worried about double or triple checking. Organisational skills have to be top of my list and, by compartmentalising my day and assigning projects a set amount of time, I am more likely to stick to a deadline and be successful.”

Treat every day as a learning opportunity, and be kind and respectful on your way up the promotion ladder

Melissa Francis is from West Sussex. She encouraged peers to “Be brave when looking at job opportunities, and put yourself forward for as much training and development as you can comfortably take on. Treat every day as a learning opportunity and be kind / respectful on your way up the promotion ladder; this in turn is usually reciprocated. Networking is incredibly important and can really help to build your personal brand.”

Melissa also spoke about the importance of investing in yourself. “After starting a family, I took my ICSA Certificate as a prerequisite to a Team Leader role at the Bank; at the time, not having the qualification meant not being eligible to step on to the managerial ladder. From then on I made a commitment to invest in me, my learning and development – and actively looked for opportunities to develop my knowledge of the business I work for in order to enrich my working day.”

You can’t achieve anything if you don’t know what outcome you want

Amanda Hargreaves lives in Altrincham, Cheshire. Asked what advice would have been helpful in the early days of her career, Amanda offered, ” I would say listen and learn, and be confident – but not overly confident.”

She also recommended some focused conversations for admin. professionals working with a new executive or principal. “How do they like to work with an assistant? Weekly meetings? Monthly? What are their expectations? …  and initiate these kind of conversations yourself; don’t wait for them to tell you.”

Let your boss know you want to better yourself, and follow that up with action

Dalya Perry-Bernstein lives near Liverpool. She spoke about the importance of networking: “In the early stages of my career, I had no idea of the power of networking. I would advise any PA to get out there and network as much as possible. I remember travelling to London and walking into my first big networking event on my own back in 2010, being quite nervous and ending up having the most fantastic day! To this day, I still keep in touch with the PAs I met at that event.”

Dalya offered these thoughts on career advancement. “Speak with your boss and let him/her know you want to better yourself. Attend CPD events or gain a qualification. Make sure you go for a role with potential for career progression. Embrace extra projects that may not be typical PA tasks.”

It’s essential to adapt to change, be it digital or otherwise, if you want to survive in the profession

Melanie Richardson lives in Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, England.

As you can imagine, in a career that’s spanned almost 35 years and for someone who learned to touch type on a manual typewriter, there have been huge changes in technology – and so I’ve had to adapt constantly.  I think it’s essential to adapt to change, be it digital or otherwise, if you want to survive in the profession.

Align your goals with the objectives of the organisation

Julia Schmidt is from Brazil and lives in Norway. Asked about time management, she offered that it “…  has a lot to do with the right prioritisation. Therefore, my most effective strategy is doing first the tasks I like less. It will avoid procrastination. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing. It is bad management. Another important element is creating realistic deadlines.”

Julia also touched on elements of a successful career. “Successful EAs pursue their company’s objectives and align their own goals with the objectives of the organisation. Work systematically, learn and share knowledge as much as possible. As my CEO used to say, ‘Systematic work works always’. ”

The importance of networkng for those in isolated roles

Amanda Snowball lives in Bollington, Cheshire. While networks are beneficial in general, they can become even more meaningful for those who work in somewhat isolated roles.

As Amanda said, “I am an active member of MPAN (Manchester PA Network), and have been a member for two years now. The network has helped me secured some amazing friendships for which I am eternally grateful. As a lone PA in my workplace, it is extremely isolating and the network has enabled me to gain support and advice from its members.”

“In addition, when I started in my current role, I was totally new to Manchester. The network helped me via visiting venues and restaurants, and I was able to draw on these experiences for recommendations to the partners.”

Do not wait passively to be told something

Carla Stefanut is from Milano, Italy. She’s a voracious reader. In addition to her native language, she studied English French and German in college, majoring in English interpreting and translation. Carla makes regular use of social media, and not only for personal purposes. As Carla put it, ” EAs/PAs are a fifth of the world’s working population and, if we make ourselves visible, we become not only brand ambassadors for ourselves or for our company, but for our profession, too.”

Carla also advocated for being well informed. She said, “… it is my opinion that an EA, no matter her/his role or position, should be constantly informed – and not only about one’s industry, but also on what happens around the world.  In a global economy, nothing exists in isolation any more.” Carla encouraged people to learn from experiences, including their failures.

There is no Assistant who knows everything, so don’t pretend to

Matthew Want lives in Staines, England. In his interview, he discussed the importance of technology: “Always keep up to date with the latest technology trends and any other pieces of information that may help you and your executive to move forward. ”

Matthew also discussed transparency and networking. “Keep on top of your game and be yourself. There is no Assistant who knows everything, so don’t pretend to. If there is something you don’t know, make sure to ask your colleagues. If you’re working as the only Assistant in the organisation, try to go networking or use social media to meet other Assistants. Networking and social media are great ways to meet other Assistants, who always make great contacts to help you advance your job role and career.”


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