Day Eight: 12 Days of Real Careers

It’s Day Eight of this series, in which I’m bringing you excerpts from some more of my Real Careers interviews.

If you’re wanting to put this year to rest with some thoughtful perspectives on the career, check out all 12 days in this series.

Today, we’re looking at more Real Careers interview excerpts from around the globe. Here we go!


 Your future job may look different from your past and current jobs, so think forward

Angela Downey lives in Manchester, England. I asked for her views on the impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Her response? “It’s a culture change, but AI is another tool in the box to complement your role and it can be embraced. The assistant needs to adapt and rethink how to use these new skills. Your future job may look different from your past and current jobs, so think forward; adapt and integrate these technologies.”

Angela discussed ideas for those seeking promotion, but these comments also apply to to adapting to this evolving career. “Look ahead – what are the skills you need to grow?  Use training needs analysis to establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant training – be specific. Give to others: give your time, your knowledge, and your support; the rewards are endless.”

Angela expanded on the importance of networks and looking to the future. “Network; talk to people in the profession and learn their top tips and how they do the job. Read Victoria Darragh’s blog ( article, Where do we go from here? It poses pertinent questions, as it discusses shaping the role of the assistant as the business manager. Victoria suggests attending non-PA network events, as this will take you outside of the traditional role.”


Prepare ahead for performance appraisals: regularly update your CV or a separate document with your accomplishments

Susan Henderson was born in Brixton, South West London and has lived in Surrey, England since her teen years. I asked Susan about career progression, and she recommended, “Ensure you have a career plan and work on developing this with your boss to ensure your growth.  Know your worth and value yourself. Join online groups/networks via LinkedIn or, and subscribe to magazines such as PA Life, Executive PA or Executive Secretary with Lucy Brazier.”

Susan added, “Definitely get on social media (there is a whole community out there who will support you) and enhance your networking skills. Always show willingness to attend appropriate training and keep your IT skills up to date – there are always new tricks to learn.”

“Update your CV regularly with your accomplishments, or keep a separate document which you can refer to at appraisal time. If you do not keep a note, you are likely to forget something crucial which could cost you a promotion or a salary increase. Ask your firm to support your career development and invest in your training.”


I see challenges as opportunities, as they provide me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and rise to the challenge

Jennifer Robson is originally from Bangladesh, and has lived in Melbourne, Australia for years now. In her interview, Jennifer discussed four of her mentors – and how they’ve impacted her life and her career. Her parents were her first mentors: “They provided me encouragement and support and always encouraged me to not be afraid to step out and take on challenges.”

Jennifer also discussed the influence of her next two mentors. She noted, “It is important to have a mentor as s/he can provide a simple path of guidance to push you to take the first step, and guidance to figure out what is what we really want. A good mentor will share their invaluable experience, to help us to achieve our goal in the best possible way they know. I know I have personally benefitted from having various mentors along the journey.”


On saying no: Please do not allow other peoples’ priorities to take precedence over your own

Debbi Shaffer recently moved from Washington, DC to Florida. Knowing that many admin. professionals have difficulty with saying “no”, I asked Debbi to discuss her experience. She said, “I struggled for a long time with saying NO. I think many assistants have trouble saying no. I’ve learned the hard way it is okay to say NO. Not too long ago I over-committed myself to the point that I was on the brink of a breakdown.

I wasn’t taking care of myself or nurturing the relationships that are most important to me, because I was busy saying YES to everyone. Please do not allow other peoples’ priorities to take precedence over your own.”


I thrive on change, and see it as another challenge to overcome and to master

Shirwyn Weber lives in Cape Town, South Africa. In his interview, Shirwyn discussed his openness to change. “Digital innovation over the last few years has been fast and furious. This has come at a price for many admins, as keeping up with technology can be a bit daunting.  People are starting to adapt more easily now, with the advent of smart phones and tablets. I thrive on change, and see it as another challenge to overcome and to master.”

I asked Shirwyn to talk about the steps he takes when he realises he needs to move beyond his comfort zone. His answer? “… I always start planning the move. I never go unprepared beyond my comfort zone. I will then execute and do my best to make it a positive experience.”

When I asked Shirwyn if he had any role models or mentors, he identified Adam Fidler. “He has real world experiences that he bases his training and information on; he has researched the role and put together real world examples and tips. I have always looked to him for advice, and he is always willing to share and assist.”

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