I’m happy to bring you Day Five 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.
I try to embrace change, and never fear something new
Amy Marsden, from England and currently in New Zealand: “I would say that I surprise everyone, including myself, at regularly stepping out of my comfort zone – I don’t just step, I leap into new things with all my energy and figure the rest out later. For those familiar with Myers Briggs tests, this is very much an ENFP characteristic I hold. Although I am a planner in my work, I like to trust my gut feeling in most tasks (professional and private) and, if something feels right, I am happy to tackle the unfamiliar.
… Technology is constantly changing, new features are added to existing programs, and we are expected to not only keep up, but also use technology in innovative ways. I try to embrace change, and never fear something new. The best way to learn is to learn by doing, and as such I tackle new software head on.”
Opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared
Barbara J. (BJ) Parrish, USA: ” Be a continuous learner who is always seeking self-improvement, including the soft skills areas such as communication, teamwork, and emotional intelligence. Opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared; be prepared when it knocks for you. Don’t wait for things to happen; make things happen.
Take on projects to learn a new skill or engage with people with whom you don’t normally work. Keep your eyes and your options open. Be fearless!”
Always bring your A game; make yourself indispensable and always be positive
Helen Rees, England: “Plan ahead. Look through your day at the start and identify hotspots, potential conflicts and potential moments of calm. Don’t keep checking email all the time; make specific time slots where you tackle emails so that you can get your other work done.
Don’t promise what you can’t achieve or deliver – if you are asked to take on a task, people would usually prefer an honest answer that gives a realistic timescale for completion (or reasons why it’s not possible) than for you to say yes and then not be able to deliver.”
Everything I am and everything I have conquered until now is because of my educational and professional interests and dedication
Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito, Brazil: “In my first job, I was afraid of everything and everyone. I remember that I really wanted to do my best and not make any mistakes, so I did not know to say ‘no’ … I have learned that my competence and the way people must see me as an exceptional executive assistant are not related to the numbers of times I could say, ‘yes’.
Instead, they have to understand that I am committed first to my priorities in the role. So, nowadays I never say ‘no’ directly, but I ask a person about his/her priority related to the request. If it is urgent, I explain that I am also working on an important matter for the office or for my boss and, unfortunately, I will decline. Then I give him/her options, indicating someone who can help him/her. I learned to understand that people do not want your ‘yes’ all the time, but that they really need your help. If you help them, you will fulfill your mission.”
It is important to be assertive but not aggressively assertive
Paula Harding, England: “Over the years, my confidence and ability to say no have grown. I have realised that, whilst I can do anything, I can’t do everything. I know I am the most organised that I can be, I know I work as hard as I can, and I know that I work as many hours as I need to get my work done. That gives me a real confidence when saying no.
Sometimes the answer isn’t a straight no. It is more about managing expectations. Relationship building is a key skill for assistants, and this is crucial when managing an ever-changing workload and priorities.”
I spend time reading articles and blogs relevant to my profession
Laura Swallows, USA: “I think the most important conversations you should have with a new executive are around expectations, boundaries and communication. It’s important to clearly define expectations early on and understand how and when they plan to communicate with you.
… I started Executive Assistants in CLE after my own struggle finding a mentor in this specific field. In each of my EA roles, I’ve either been the only EA in the company or one of two. Without much of an EA network, but with a determination to learn how to succeed in this career path, I took it upon myself to research local EA organizations or networking groups and found zero. That’s when I decided to utilize LinkedIn to build my own networking group. Our first meeting had six attendees, and now I’m working on coordinating our next meeting with my now 60+ members!”
Don’t wait for something to happen; make it happen
Cathy Harris, South Africa: “Having been in my career for over 35 years, right now I enjoy sharing my experience and knowledge. Sharing what you know with others is so empowering and fulfilling!
… I found that educating myself in finances, project management, and office administration went a long way in keeping me up to speed as far as workplace skills were concerned.
Today, I strongly advocate for ongoing professional development and am involved with the official Certification for Office Professionals in South Africa, managed by the Office Professionals Association of SA.”
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