How’s your first weekend in December unfolded? I hope it’s been great!
Each December, I look back on the many Real Careers interviews I’ve conducted with high performing assistants since 2015.
I do so with a daunting challenge in mind: curating and then presenting readers with 12 days of insights that represent this career and the international community of women and men who follow me here and on social media.
I’ve already received some lovely messages from readers who are glad to see me continuing this tradition in 2019. I hope that you also find these 12 days of posts both inspirational and practical as we wind down another year.
To read my full interview with any of these individuals, just click on her or his name below. If you’re just catching up on this annual celebration of insights and fellow assistants, have a look at Friday’s post to learn more.
“You can conquer anything with an open mind and a positive attitude”
Monika Bercheter-Petterson, Norway: “When working with top executives you will find that all of them have different working styles, personalities and expectations. Nobody comes with a manual. You are in charge of making their days smooth, perfectly organized, efficient and productive.
… Being organized and having very good communication skills and excellent time management are of the essence. Having a broad cultural background is definitely an advantage. I enjoy the fast-paced environment I work in and the responsibilities I am entrusted with. All of that makes the job so interesting and challenging. I love my job. I would not have it any other way.”
On professional development: “establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant trainings”
Angela Downey, England: “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).”
“Leave negative energy at the door”
Erika Giesl, Canada: “Always acknowledge your coworkers when you arrive and depart. Leave negative energy at the door. Ask for assistance when needed, and don’t assume anything. Productivity increases when everyone works together.
… There is always room for improvement/growth, although it also may depend on the company you are employed with and its organizational chart. If there is no room for a promotion, then look into other opportunities. Sometimes a promotion can be a newly formed position, bringing forth skills that you are currently not utilizing. Demonstrating over and above skills or volunteering to be part of another department team project can illustrate your potential.”
“… 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”
Stacey King, Australia: “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.”
“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”
Nora 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.”
“Opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared; be prepared when it knocks for you”
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!”
I think many assistants have trouble saying no. Please do not allow other peoples’ priorities to take precedence over your own.
Debbi Shaffer, USA: “(I’ve learned) … not to be afraid to voice my ideas, observations and opinions. By keeping quiet, I was doing a disservice to both myself and my executives.
For someone who hated school, I now spend a great deal of time and energy on learning. I belong to multiple continuing education platforms and take courses all the time. If someone tasks me with something I don’t know, I find a course and learn it.”
“A challenge all depends on how you view a situation and approach it”
Megan Williamson, England: “A challenge all depends on how you view a situation and approach it; I thrive on being busy and love getting my teeth into a task – and the rewarding feeling gained once it’s completed keeps me motivated and ready for the next one.
… (on seeking promotion): “… if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you have aspirations, make sure to make time to discuss this with your exec at the appropriate times and keep a log of what you want to develop and how you would do this; doing your homework makes the conversation a lot more productive. Although they might not act straight away, showing you’re keen and driven will ensure they consider you for opportunities that arise.”
Click any name below for my full interview with any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers
- Day One: Stephanie Bergsieker (USA), Jane Brazzill (England), Paula Harding (England), Paula Moio (Angola, Portugal, England), Eleni Rizikianou (Greece), Carla Stefanut (Italy), Teri Wells (South Africa)
- Day Two: Monika Bercheter-Petterson (Norway), Angela Downey (England), Erika Giesl (Canada), Stacey King (Australia), Nora Onishi (USA), Barbara J. (BJ) Parrish (USA), Debbi Shaffer (USA), Megan Williamson (USA)
- Day Three: Beth Arzy (England; interview to be published in early 2020), Susan Henderson (England), MistiLynn Lokken (USA), Kelly McAulay (Scotland), Renée Neverson (USA), James Sobczak (USA), Catherine Thomas (Wales), Bettina Wemanis (Sweden)
- Day Four: Stacey Brewer (USA), Bonnie Cookson (England), Susan Engelbrecht (South Africa), Maria Cirillo (Sweden; interview to be published in early 2020), Melissa Francis (England), Debra Peltz (England), Breda Shanahan (Republic of Ireland), Laura Swallows (USA), Katherine Vaillancourt (the Philippines and Canada)
- Day Five: Lorna Cowan (Northern Ireland), Denise Delamain (England), Erin Floss (USA), Declan Halton-Woodward (England), Cathy Harris (South Africa), Else-Britt Lundgren (Sweden), Catherine Marshall Penasa (USA), Dalya Perry-Bernstein (England), Helen Rees (England)
- Day Six: Sarah Duncan (USA), Joanne Gallop (NZ), Florence Katono (Uganda), Solveig Kristensen (Norway), Melanie Sheehy (England), Truus van den Brink-Havinga (Netherlands), Marc Taylor-Allan (England), Catherine Williamson (England)
- Day Seven: Lisa Assetta (USA), Maria Gottberg (Sweden), Priscilia Gough (South Africa and Canada), Jacqueline McCumber (USA), Amy Marsden (England and New Zealand), Melanie Richardson (England), Karen Richmond (Scotland), Carolina Siqueira Silva (Brazil), Chantal Sneijkers (Belgium)
- Day Eight: Nicole Blanchette (Canada), Aimee Browne (England), Jean Coco (USA), Laureen Dailey (Canada), Kerry Dawson (England), Sherri Eckworth (England), Julia Schmidt (Brazil and Norway), Barbara Unger (Canada), Shirwyn Weber (South Africa), Lesley Dexter Young (England)
- Day Nine: Suzanne Bendersk (USA), Tonya Beattie (USA), Chantalle Freeborough (Canada), Amanda Hargreaves (England), Karin Hélène (Sweden), Karine McKee (England; interview to follow in early 2020), Maria Marsh (England), Jennifer Robson (Australia), Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito (Brazil), Matthew Want (England)
- Day 10: Rebecca Agyirba Afful (Ghana; interview to follow in early 2020), Megan Bishop (USA), Dawn Becker (Canada), Alison Boler (England),Juliana Carneiro (Brazil and The Netherlands), Giulietta Driver (England), Beth Ann Howard (USA), Cindy Moeser (Canada), Angela Parker (Germany), Liza Young (Scotland)
- Day 11: Brenda Edwards (England; interview to follow March 6), Sarah Howson (England), Deirdre McGovern (USA), Anita Olsen (Norway), Janice Parker (Australia and England), Christabell Pinchin (Canada), John D. Shaw (USA), Peyton Tickner (USA; interview to follow in early 202010), Donna Venditti (Canada), Emily Walker (England)
- Day 12: Margo Baptista (Canada), Craig Bryson (England), Bianca Constance (USA), Debbie Grimshaw (England), Sofie Koark (Sweden), Juanita Mort (USA), Jannie Oosterhoff (Netherlands), Carys Stacey (England), Sally Thomas (USA), Louise Whitehead (England)