I’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 this 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.
Align your goals with the objectives of the organisation
Julia Schmidt, Norway (originally from Brazil): “Accept feedback as a gift. When I was young, I did not have the positive approach to feedback that I have today. It is a tool for improvement and a background to starting career development plans.
… Continuous improvement must be included in any career plan. I am studying something new all the time. It opens doors and gives you confidence. I speak five languages, and have a bachelor’s degree and two masters. I am now studying Business Administration. I am doing a short version. I want to improve my financial knowledge since I am working with a CFO.”
Listen more and talk less
Rebeka Adamson, New Zealand: “Listen more and talk less. I had an ego in my early working life, and was not prepared to listen to experienced colleagues. I was opinionated and closed-minded; I think I burned a few bridges by behaving this way. Looking back, I had access to fantastic mentors who could have made a much bigger impact on my career if I’d let them.
Thankfully, I have learnt my lesson and have grown from adopting a much humbler approach; I strive to be a good role model for others beginning their careers. “
Use training needs analysis to establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant trainings
Angela Downey, England: “It (Artificial Intelligence) is already here, and maybe there’s room for all of us! 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.
… Look ahead – what are the skills you need to grow? Use training needs analysis to establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant trainings – be specific. Give to others: give your time, your knowledge, and your support; the rewards are endless. Work regularly with a mentor. Use positive and creative thinking techniques to create your personal brand and get a USP (unique selling point).”
Saying yes to everyone means you’re spread too thin; learn to negotiate
Christabell Pinchin, Canada: “‘No’ was not in my vocabulary early in my career. The past few years I have learned to say ‘no”. I want to help and be accommodating, but by saying yes to everybody, you are spread too thin and you can’t do your best work. My advice for others is to start small. Learn to say ‘No, but …’ For example: ‘No, I do not have the time to help write that report, but I would be able to find a bit of time to do a final proof for you if that would be helpful.’
… Don’t be afraid to step up. Take on opportunities when presented, but don’t sit back and wait for them … put yourself out there. Be brave and share your ideas and opinions, and remember to be supportive even when your idea isn’t taken.”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking about any kind of assistant position just as a means to an end to get some ‘better’ job
James Sobczak, United States: “There are a number of ways to think about career growth, whether it’s gaining more knowledge, insight and wisdom in your position, or shifting to a new position in a different area of the enterprise, or taking on a project as part of a department-wide or company-wide initiative that you would otherwise not be able to do. There could be promotions to senior-level or C-Suite assistant positions, and there could be promotions to the management track if that is what you wish. Consider each carefully.
You also need to really consider what a promotion means to you, what kind of promotion you want, and whether you will be happy and fulfilled in the long run, both personally and professionally.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking about any kind of assistant position just as a means to an end to get some ‘better’ job. This profession is both a means AND an end, and an immensely satisfying and gratifying one at that.”
Don’t be afraid to ask, don’t be afraid people may not like you, and don’t try to save the world
Catherine Williamson, England: “Research development, training and networking opportunities. Never to be afraid to ask (the worst answer can be no). Not to be afraid that people might not like you, and not to try and save the world.
… (In 2013) I co-founded a network of PAs in Westminster (Network PA SW1) with a friend, Gill Quirk, who works in Whitehall, where our government departments are predominantly based. It’s gone from strength to strength and I’m incredibly proud of that. The highlight was when a group of PAs decided to set up an internal PA network following one of our meetings.”
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 you
Lorna Cowan, Northern Ireland, on career advancement: “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 you. Be prepared for anything!”
Take ownership of your development and don’t wait for someone to hand you an opportunity
MistiLynn Lokken, USA: “ As admins, we have constant access to high-level data and information in our teams. Read the reports and presentations that are sent to your executive and be able to understand the information. If there is something you don’t understand – ask someone. Most importantly, take ownership of your development and don’t wait for someone to hand you an opportunity. Never stop networking!
… I have had the honor of several mentors throughout my career, including a manager early on who took me under her wing and changed my life. Bridgette saw more in me than I saw in myself and invested time in my development over the course of several years. I am a better person today thanks to her, and have committed to paying it forward by mentoring others.
Don’t let anyone undermine you or make you feel less worthy
Jane Brazzill, England: “You’re a crucial and integral part of the team … Don’t let anyone undermine you or make you feel less worthy.
I love being the go to person who, if she doesn’t know the answer, knows someone who does. I’m pretty sure I’m plagiarisng or paraphrasing when I say this but, ‘Problems aren’t problems, they’re just an opportunity to find a solution’.
… If you’re like me and you’ve constantly got a voice in your head telling you the million OTHER things that you have to do, keep a pad of paper on your desk and write down each of these to-do items as they come to you. Emptying them out of your head allows you to stay focused on the task at hand, and you won’t worry that you’re forgetting something important.”
Click any name below for the full interview from any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers
- Day One: Susan Engelbrecht, Erin Floss, Priscilia Gough, Amanda Hargreaves, Else-Britt Lundgren, Paula Moio, Jennifer Robson, Debbi Shaffer, John D. Shaw
- Day Two: Craig Bryson, Bonnie Cookson, Florence Katono, Kelly McAulay, Nora Onishi, Jannie Oosterhoff, Angela Parker, Carys Stacey, Catherine Thomas
- Day Three: Rebeka Adamson, Jane Brazzill, Lorna Cowan, Angela Downey, MistiLynn Lokken, Christabell Pinchin, James Sobczak, Julia Schmidt, Catherine Williamson
- Day Four: Bianca Constance, Debs Eden, Debbie Grimshaw, Sofie Koark, Maria Marsh, Catherine Marshall Penasa, Eleni Rizikianou, Emily Walker, Matthew Want
- Day Five: Paula Harding, Cathy Harris, Amy Marsden, Barbara J. (BJ) Parrish, Helen Rees, Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito, Laura Swallows
- Day Six: Stacey Brewer (interview to follow January 23/19), Lesley Dexter, Kerry Dawson, Susan Henderson, Stacey King, Solveig Kristensen, Karen Richmond, Katherine Vaillancourt, Louise Whitehead
- Day Seven: Megan Bishop, Kemetia Foley, Kim Glover, Craig Harris, Michela Luoni, Amanda Snowball Moscrop, Melanie Richardson, Breda Shanahan, Chantal Sneijkers