Day 11: 12 Days of Real Careers

It’s Day 11 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 articles.

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


It is your inner confidence that makes you successful

Diana  lives in Berlin, Germany. When I asked Diana about her role models and mentors, she mentioned a couple. Referring to Laura Schwartz, Diana commented, “Laura is not only a very inspiring person; she has proven that you have to be open to new roles and responsibilities in order to grow. Be flexible in your job and take every opportunity that may arise. This will bring you sooner or later to your next career level. In her case, she started as a volunteer at the White House and later worked as Director of Events during the Clinton Administration. Laura is nowadays a successful speaker, author and, to me, a true role model. I greatly admire her professionalism as well as her down to earth personality.”

As many readers will know, Diana has since established her own Facebook page, The Socialista Projects. She has begun speaking at conferences and events, and has launched a #WeAreInThisTogether campaign that resonates with admin. professionals in a number of countries.


Develop effective systems and play to your strengths

Giulietta Driver was born in Birmingham, England and lives in London. In her interview, Giulietta spoke about the impact of her role model, Rosie Hunter. “I often joke that it was Rosie who is responsible for any ounce of efficiency I have in me! Rosie taught me to how to develop effective systems and told me to always play to my strengths. She always had faith in me, and that goes a long way.”

Giulietta highlighted key conversations in working with a new executive. “Also, discuss your executive’s level of tech-savvy. I’ve worked for people who struggle with a phone, yet others who do everything on their tablet. I’ve learned never to assume, and to always be patient when teaching them how to use a bit of tech!”


Seize opportunities

Florence Katono is from Mukono District, near Kampala,  the capital city of Uganda. I asked Florence for her thoughts on time management. She said, “Be organised. A few minutes of organizing saves the day. Everything at its time. That’s how I have managed to strike a balance between a busy personal and career life. One thing at a time. I used to think that having all work assignments spread out on my computer was being efficient. However, I have learnt that if you just concentrate on one at a time, you would be able to accomplish more.”

“Automate. Vickie Sokol believes that assistants spend late hours in the office because of the failure to use technology optimally, like rushing to send a meeting reminder at 7:00 a.m. instead of using the delay delivery option. Know your prime time. It’s best to understand when one’s energies are highest. I am a nocturnal animal. I usually love to do things when the world is silent.”


Be willing to put in the time and develop yourself

Helen Le Poidevin lives in Guernsey, in the English Channel off the coast of France.

In her interview, Helen discussed taking responsibility for your own career development. “Be willing to put in the time and develop yourself. A PA needs to be up to speed with the latest technologies in case an exec requires our help. Learn as much as you can and, if your employer does not support you by sending you on courses, there are lots of online materials to help you. I would also suggest joining a PA network where the connections you make can come in very handy.”


Discuss with your principal how much autonomy you have

Sally Lloyd was born in was born in Swansea, Wales and now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. She offered practical advice: “Don’t spend time trying to get people to like you. If you’re a nice/good person, they’ll like you in time, anyway! Don’t worry if they don’t (they are clearly idiots!).”

Sally discussed the benefits of peer to peer mentoring, and highlighted the impacts her role models have had. She said, “Jamie is the first manager I’ve ever had who takes my personal development as seriously as his own. He always checks in on the next stage of things, as well as being an all round great boss. I have quite a lot of extracurricular activities and he’ll always spend a couple of minutes talking through them and offering advice. It’s super useful to have this amazing advice at my fingertips, and to continue to learn from him!”


Find out about the operational plan or strategic objectives and where your executive and you fit in

Maria Marsh was born and continues to live in Warrington, a town in Cheshire – between Manchester and Liverpool. In her interview, Maria spoke about early conversation topics assistants should hold when working with a new executive. “I do the induction and training for our PA and admin roles. The most important aspect is to get the communication correct from the beginning, and adapt styles where necessary. Find out all those likes/dislikes and the executive’s preferred style – and then work to that style.  It is an ongoing and developing process that requires regular check-ins. Also, find out more about the operational plan or strategic objectives and where your boss/executive and you fit in.”

In discussing the importance of CPD, or Continuous Professional Development, Maria noted that all higher education she’s achieved as an adult has been undertaken while being a working mother. She encouraged peers to “… Dream bigger and reach higher.”


Want to achieve your goals? Remain positive and persevere

Paula Moio is from Luanda, Angola. She grew up in Portugal and now lives in London, England. Paula knows about perseverance: “… in 2000 I finally had my first job interview as an admin professional. Despite being told by a friend, who no doubt had my best interest at the heart, that I would probably not get the job because I had four factors against me – ‘being a foreigner, a mother, a woman and black’ – I was determined not to let that define me, and decided to go through the recruitment process anyway.”

“I got my first job at the BBC. The lesson I take and pass on to my beautiful daughters, now at university, is that in times of adversity you need to be humble, have an open mind and adapt. Work hard and be your best no matter what you do. Follow your instincts. Listen to your heart and trust your ability and judgment.” These days, in addition to her career in London, Paula travels to Angola to provide Angolan Executive Assistant education and training.


Don’t limit your focus: include courses beyond those relevant primarily to PAs

Catrin (Morgan) Martinole was born in Cardiff, Wales and continues to live there. In her interview, Catrin encouraged broadening one’s outlook: “Take charge of your own learning and development, and don’t just limit yourself to courses or subjects that are relevant only for PAs.”

Catrin also discussed her sense of responsibility. “I have a responsibility to keep my Exec safe by being proactive, forward looking, and informed about what’s going on in and around the business. I also have a responsibility to support my other Assistant colleagues in the business, and work together as a team to improve efficiency. If you’re lucky enough to have an internal network of PAs, you need to harness each other’s strengths and plug the gaps on each other’s weaknesses.”


Learn. Have a mentor, even if you don’t feel you need one.

Donna Olliver lives in Guernsey, off the South coast of England near France. She stressed the importance of ongoing development. “Learn. Have a mentor, even if you don’t feel you need one. It’s great to become a mentor and to be mentored. You learn so much.”

“Go on as much training as you can, and pass the knowledge on. No one knows everything, no matter how long you have been in the role. You can always learn.” Helen also discussed her role models: “I think that, if you have heard Victoria Darragh speak, you will just find something about her that makes you want to do better in your job. Cath Thomas and Marion Lowrence were also of great help when I initially set up Guernsey PA Connect. I’m sure that I will meet many more inspiring PAs along the rest of my journey.”


Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries a little and step outside your comfort zone now and again

Karen Richmond was born in  South Derbyshire, England and for the last 20 years has lived in North Lanarkshire, in the Central Belt of Scotland.

In discussing career growth and promotion, Karen offered these ideas: “Use every opportunity to work with different people. You can learn so much from peers, those in different roles, different executives, etc. Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries a little and step outside your comfort zone now and again. Look at all the online resources available and, if you are unable to network with peers within your organisation, join one of the many online networks and groups available. Just go for it.”


Spend time with successful people, and find out how to become like them

Melanie Stevens comes from  Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, in the heart of England. For more than a decade, though, she’s lived by the sea in Devon.

Melanie suggested that an assistant interested in professional growth find a mentor, “Someone you look up to; your boss, a colleague. It doesn’t have to be someone within your own organisation. Ask them how they got to where they are. What training have they attended, how have they managed to push themselves outside their comfort zone? Spend time with successful people, and find out how to become like them!”


Consider how you add value

Laura Swallows was born in  born in Dayton, Ohio and lives in Cleveland, USA. In her interview, she discussed the significance of effective communications with one’s executive. “I think that communicating your interest in career growth/promotion to your executive is essential to being successful. Discuss with your executive how you see yourself growing within the role, and how they view your growth. ” Laura encouraged considering ways to provide additional value to one’s executive.

I asked Laura for her thoughts on AI and virtual assistants. Her thoughts: “Some EAs I have worked with utilize virtual assistants to take on minor tasks that support them to, for example, make reservations, place supply orders, or find answers that require quick research. This is something I would consider in the future as my role expands and workload increases. However, as I mentioned, this would be a resource I would manage for simple tasks, not something my executive would pursue. Additionally, I think the success of an EA-Executive relationship is dependent upon comfort and trust in one another – which, in my opinion, is difficult to build virtually.”


Strive to be the best, but also support others as you go along

Marc Taylor-Allan is from Darlington, England and currently lives in Manchester. In discussing career development, he offered these thoughts: “Build a personal brand, and build that brand around who you work for.”

“Strive to be the best, but also support others as you go along. I always think that promotion and career development come with being the master of your craft, so be a sponge and absorb everything.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: