I’m happy to bring you Day Four 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.
Don’t take anything personally
Debs Eden, England: “Learn from more experienced assistants, and never dismiss anyone – we all have knowledge that can be shared. Be a master of all trades; as an assistant, you’ll be asked to do all sorts of things, and you’ll need to be able to turn your hand to any tasks. Be interested in people, and in personal development – never stop learning and growing.
(on some of her role models and mentors): My great friend Victoria Darragh is incredible – she has a commercial brain that is astonishing and can get through so much work; she’s a great inspiration and a great friend. I also have a coach, Tracie Jolliff. I made a decision in 2014 to invest my own money in a leadership coach and it’s been an incredible journey … Working with Tracie has helped me believe that I can achieve anything I want.”
You need to earn trust to own your mandate to act and make decisions
Sofie Koark, Sweden: “… keeping up with the fast pace and deeply understanding the business, organisation, processes, systems, KPIs (key performance indicators) and company culture from the inside and out is always a challenge. If you are not at the same information level as your executives, you will not be able to be a business partner. Being curious and genuinely interested helps. I read everything that passes me by, participate in meetings, and ask when I don’t understand. You need to be at a certain level and earn trust to own your mandate to act and make decisions on behalf of the CEO/management.
… You are a leader in a support role. Lean in and steer towards what you enjoy doing and are good at. Learn as much as possible about the business and understand how the company makes money. Build a great internal and external network. Be a good ambassador. Understand that you are working in sales no matter what you do. And have a good sense of humor about it all!”
Dream bigger and reach higher
Maria Marsh, England: “I have always negotiated my training at the interview / recruitment stage. I don’t think I could work for a company that did not support my development. You are never too old to learn, and I still enjoy going to conferences and trying new things.
(On working with a new principal/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.”
I don’t believe in luck; I believe in making things happen
Eleni Rizikianou, Greece: “Never stop learning, never stop developing, never stop being a better person. Take responsibility and never put the blame on anyone; we are 100% responsible for everything that happen to us. Always keep in mind that you can’t change anyone, but you can change how you are dealing with everyone. So: change, adapt, grow up, move, lead by your example and be the kind of person who is valuable for the whole team.
… Every person has to set their own boundaries and has to find the way to do it. We owe it to ourselves in every aspect of our lives. There is no magic tip; it is constant personal development; it is knowing who I am and where I want to go. There is no such thing as an easy going life. Every one of us has to find our own path and walk it in our unique way.”
A good assistant is adroit at defusing conflicts and tension
Emily Walker, England: ” If you are new to working with an executive, you may need to change your mindset. When you are an executive assistant, you should not be working reactively. You do not wait for your executive to designate tasks; you create your own work. You are proactive, you plan ahead, you anticipate their needs before they even realise it is a need.
You protect their reputation, and how they are perceived can also reflect on you. If your executive is late submitting their report, are you effectively managing their time? They may be the executive, but sometimes you need to be the one to direct their activity to ensure they are achieving their goals.”
Step out of your own way; see the bigger picture
Catherine Penasa, USA: ” Essentially, I developed a network of mentors to help me along my career path and give me good advice. The challenging part of this was listening when sometimes I wanted to do things my own way, and trying to see the bigger picture. Once I was able to see the bigger picture, taking and following good advice was a benefit in my career.
My career role model or mentor has been an amazing woman named Ann Dahlke. I met her when I joined the (International Association of Administrative Professionals) IAAP. She took me under her wing and taught me how to take advantage of opportunities to gain experience and growth … I thought to myself that I wanted to have a successful career just like hers. Since I met her, she has been there every step of my career so far, and I hope we can always remain friends no matter what our careers hold for us.”
You should believe in yourself and accept that mistakes are just part of the learning process
Debbie Grimshaw, England: “My first role model in life was my lovely Mum, whom sadly I lost to breast cancer when she was 43. As she climbed the career ladder, she taught me values and self-worth. I watched her progress, studying hard in every spare moment while working shifts and taking care of three young daughters and our family home. She was never afraid to roll up her sleeves and muck in with the team when they were short staffed.
She said I should always listen, be a caring friend and someone to depend on. She always looked for the good in people and was there to lend a hand to someone in need. I learnt from her that you should never give up; that you should believe in yourself and accept that mistakes are just part of the learning process … There are not enough words to describe just how important the lessons from my mum have been to me throughout my career, and the powerful influence she continues to be even though she isn’t around.”
Carry yourself with grace and dignity, and watch and learn from those you respect
Bianca Constance, USA and originally from Canada: “All of my academic degrees were in music – opera and voice, to be specific. My only business-related class was a typing class that I took when I was a freshman in high school. I stumbled into the world of the administrative professional because I could answer the phone, type very fast and was a quick study. There was no such thing as professional development when I started.
After I joined IAAP (the International Association of Administrative Professionals), I realised that professional development was very important. It completely changed my outlook on my job and my work, making me realize that this really was my career. I had always taken great pride in my work, but now it was different. It brought me out of my shell at work. I started reading all the trade papers and periodicals that my executives read and kept up-to-date on happenings in my industry, freely sharing my observations with my executive – much to her delight, I might add. She, in turn, would share my insights with her colleagues, the company’s management committee, which increased my visibility within the company.”
You must build a bond of trust and transparency
Matthew Want, England: ” (Make) sure you don’t try and run before you can walk. When I first started I really wanted to be like other aspiring assistants I met, but I soon learnt that they had once been where I was and that only by being patient and learning what the role fully entails would I be able to reach that level.
(Make) sure that you have a clear strategy of what needs prioritising for your boss and yourself. It is key that you make sure you are continually on top of what your boss needs so you can make her/his workload easier – and, in return, helping manage the workload for yourself.”
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