Day Two: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 2 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’m happy to bring you Day Two of this year’s edition of 12 Days of Real Careers.

If you’re just catching up on this celebration of insights and fellow assistants, have a look at yesterday’s post to learn more.

Think of these 12 Days as gifts of experience and wisdom that we can all incorporate. To read the full interview from any of these individuals, just click on her or his name.


Saying no will get you a lot further than saying yes and piling the pressure on yourself

Stacy, Carys - UKCarys Stacey, England: “I’ve been an assistant for a few years now and when I first started I never said no. To anyone. To any request. What a nightmare! ‘No’ is a complete sentence and I’ve come to realise that actually saying no will get you a lot further than saying yes and piling the pressure on yourself.

My tip would be to be honest but diplomatic. It’s nice to be able to provide a solution to people asking for your help, but it’s not your responsibility to constantly be a problem solver – especially if the people asking you are not your direct manager. If your boss asks you to do something, always manage their expectations and if what they’re asking of you is unrealistic, tell them – politely, of course!”

If your company won’t invest in you, then invest in yourself

McAulay, Kelly - ScotlandKelly McAulay, Scotland: “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.


 Each employer afforded me the opportunity to learn something new and see business from a different perspective

Angela Parker - GermanyAngela Parker, Germany: “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.

Through my EUMA (now IMA) membership and regular participation in the trainings and conferences offered by the association, I am keeping my skills current and abreast of all the latest trends in my profession.”

Make sure you build a solid relationship with your boss

Cookson, Bonnie - EnglandBonnie Cookson, England: “Always have confidence. Make sure you build a solid relationship with your boss and never be afraid to approach him or her.  You need them as much as they need you.

For career growth, make sure you get into a community where you can meet other people in the industry and learn from their experiences too. Keep up to date with what’s happening in your network – attend industry events, and use social media as a platform to promote yourself.”

Dream, dare and do it

Jannie OoOosterhoff, Jannie - the Netherlandssterhoff , The Netherlands: “Be clear about your ambitions and your added value. You are the director of your own career.

… I have been an active IMA member since 2015. I’m also a member of the Dutch Association of Executive Secretaries (NVD). In addition, I also regularly attend network meetings that are unrelated to my profession. Networking is very important for a management assistant.”

Volunteer as a means of exposing your skills and demonstrating your potential

Florence Katono, Uganda: Katono, Florence - Uganda“Most admins usually count years of experience and, in a way, equate it to progress. I encourage my colleagues to take a bold decision and choose career progression.

Invest in your career. It may not pay off immediately but, when it does, it pays handsomely … Volunteer. Competition in the career world is very stiff. For one to expose their skills, it would be wise for them to volunteer. It’s the best way of making others know your potential. Seize opportunities; they could be all you ever needed. Find role models and mentors.”

People respect your honesty

Thomas, Catherine - WalesCatherine Thomas, Wales: “ The NHS Wales PA Network is something I am very proud off. It came to life after a conference 10+ years ago, where Susie Barron-Stubley spoke about the value of PA networks. By the time I had commuted back to Wales from London, I had written a business plan illustrating how we were going to implement a network in my organisation. My Director didn’t bat an eyelid at my idea. She did, however, challenge me to implement the network across NHS Wales and not just the six PAs reflected in my business plan!

I owe a lot to Susie Barron-Stubley. I will always be grateful to her for her encouragement to start to network and to my Director Sally Attwood for the push.”

Instead of saying no: ask questions, assess the situation and give alternative solutions

Bryson, Craig - EnglandCraig Bryson, England (originally from Zimbabwe): “I never say no; I ask for more information, such as deadlines and what’s needed. I then assess the situation and give a couple of alternative solutions.

Record and monitor your work, so that when you have your performance appraisals (360), you can easily confirm what you do from day to day. There are a lot of free online courses that you can take to better yourself,  and this will show how you’re productive, enthusiastic and willing to give your all.

…  I was so proud to receive an award from the PA Magazine in 2015, and to have been asked to serve on the Board of Directors of EPAA, The Executive & Personal Assistants Association.”

Always work at expanding your knowledge and skill sets

Nora_OnishiNora Onishi, USA: “If you don’t articulate what you’d like to accomplish or where you’d like to go, you’ll find yourself exerting a lot of energy without getting anything done or getting anywhere. You’re like a ship that has lost its rudder and is adrift in the ocean.

It’s a good practice to set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals. Write them down to make them real and not just a dream. If the goal is large, break it down into smaller ones and set a deadline to keep from wandering off course. The deadline will also force you review and modify your goals to reflect any changes going on in your life.”

Click any name below for the full interview from any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers


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