Day Six: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 6 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’m happy to bring you Day Six 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.


Take charge of your own career; ask for extra training as and when required

Whitehead, Louise - UK - 2017Louise Whitehead, England: “There are so many PAs whose advice and friendship I value deeply – it can be an isolating role, and I am grateful for the support and friendship we offer each other.

I do have a degree but I remain unconvinced as to the necessity of it for a PA. I do, however, believe strongly in the importance of professional development, and I look for training and development opportunities wherever possible. I regularly attend networking and developmental events in my own time, and I also attend conferences … a fantastic way to learn new skills and meet fellow PAs to share knowledge, skills and support.”

I believe that getting more digitized will broaden our job opportunities

Solveig Kristensen-fargeSolveig Kristensen, Norway, on digitization: “I believe that our work days will be more flexible than today and … that we will be more efficient by working even more with digitalized apps, web pages and online programs. This will reduce the manual work and make us better able to monitor and track many of our tasks.

I believe that getting more digitized will broaden our job opportunities, meaning you may be able to get a job in a company situated in a country or area further from where you live.

Focus on two things: 1) Work on keeping an open mind and eye to all the new digital developments; know what is going on and do not fall behind by thinking this is too complicated for me or not interesting at all. 2) Work on your social skills. This is what will separate us humans from all the AI in the future, and this is what will be our one and only asset that the AI can not take from us.”

Get to know some of the people with roles you aspire to, to see what their career path has been

Lesley Dexter, England: “Don’t think that you can’t get to the same position as people who inspire you; their career paths are probably not that different to your own.

… There are many wDexter, Lesley - UKays of keeping up to date with professional developments, not least networking and meeting other EA/PAs, either in person or by linking on social media.

The main aim of our East Midlands PA Network is to connect EAs and PAs through training and networking opportunities to share best practice, inspire each other, and develop collaborative relationships.”

I have no problem saying “no” to someone if their request goes beyond established boundaries

Stacey BreBrewer, Stacey - USAwer, USA (watch for Stacey’s upcoming interview, which I’ll publish January 23/19): “My involvement within IAAP (the International Association of Administrative Professionals), in terms of the educational and leadership development opportunities, has been the single most contributing factor to my professional success as an admin. The knowledge and skills I’ve gained helped me stand out among my peers and heavily influenced my being offered my current position.

Also, simply having this vast network of like-minded individuals at your finger tips is an invaluable resource. The executives I’ve supported have always been impressed by my vast IAAP network and my ability to leverage those connections in ways that benefitted them as well.”

Have conversations that not only find solutions, but build relationships

Katherine Vaillancourt, CVaillancourt, Katherine - Ontarioanada; originally from the Philippines: “You have to do what you love. I not only enjoy being an EA; I love it. I thrive on not knowing what will happen the next day, but also know that I am making a difference in someone’s life.

Also, you can’t stop learning; by continuing to learn, you not only advance yourself but it gives you a bit of an edge on what’s up and coming!”


Never stop learning; it is beyond arrogant to think you know everything about the profession

Kerry Dawson, England: “If yoDawson, Kerry - UKu have an issue, somewhere in the world is someone who has had the very same problem and has worked through it. Ask for help on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. The PA profession can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Network, network, network. The whole world is at your fingertips. It has never been so easy to network with subject matter experts and you don’t even have to leave the house to do it. Make social media work for you if you can’t network face-to-face.”


Never take your networks for granted or abuse them; make sure you give them the attention required

Stacey King, AusKing, Stacey - Australiatralia: “Getting out of your comfort zone can be frightening, and this is where having a mentor who will have an honest conversation with you will help you recognise when it’s time to move beyond your comfort zone. When I have identified an area I need to address, I reach out to specific people in my network; this is initially a request to catch up over coffee. I have found that my connections are more than happy to share their expertise, make recommendations and offer ongoing encouragement.

I am quite reserved and will do my best to not draw attention to myself in a social setting. I shared this little secret of mine with Stephanie Paulissen and Maria Wallace, Australian Institute of Office Professionals (AIOP) ACT Committee members, when I joined the Committee. They both have been very supportive and encourage me to speak publicly every month; this is something I will continue to do in 2018.”

Know your worth!

Karen Richmond, Scotland: ” Richmond, Karen - ScotlandKnow your worth! Looking back to when I started as a PA in a factory office, I’m amazed at how sexist attitudes were (from both male and female colleagues).  I’m glad that has changed, but I do think it is important for young people to realise how valuable they are to an organisation and to realise their self worth.

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.”

Prepare ahead for performance appraisals: regularly update your CV or a separate document with your accomplishments

Susan Henderson, EnHenderson, Susan - Englandgland: “Ensure you have a career plan and work on developing this with your boss to ensure your growth.  Know your worth and value yourself. Join online groups/networks via LinkedIn or, and subscribe to magazines such as PA Life, Executive PA or Executive Secretary with Lucy Brazier.

Definitely get on social media (there is a whole community out there who will support you) and enhance your networking skills. Always show willingness to attend appropriate training and keep your IT skills up to date – there are always new tricks to learn.

Update your CV regularly with your accomplishments, or keep a separate document which you can refer to at appraisal time. If you do not keep a note, you are likely to forget something crucial which could cost you a promotion or a salary increase. Ask your firm to support your career development and invest in your training.”

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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