Day 4: 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers

December is flying by almost as quickly as the year itself. Today, we’re on to Day Four of this year’s insights gleamed from some of the many Real Careers interviews I’ve conducted with high performing assistants since 2015.

Winter Skate 2480 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

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 last Friday’s post to learn more.

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

Stacey BreBrewer, Stacey - USAwer, USA: “My current executive and I recognized from day one that our partnership would be much stronger if we initially invested the time to specifically develop our working relationship on a much deeper level beyond the standard daily interactions.

In addition to our weekly operational meeting, we also scheduled a weekly lunch meeting for the first six months to just really get to know each other. The more quickly the two of you can gain insight into each other’s past experiences and thought processes, the better; it will be well worth the investment in the long run.”

“Make sure you build a solid relationship with your boss”

Cookson, Bonnie - EnglandBonnie Cookson, England: “Always have confidence. Make sure you build a solid relationship with your boss and never be afraid to approach him or her. You need them as much as they need you.

For career growth, make sure you get into a community where you can meet other people in the industry and learn from their experiences too. Keep up to date with what’s happening in your network – attend industry events, and use social media as a platform to promote yourself.”

“Communication is vital”

Susan Engelbrecht, South Africa: “Start practicing your assertiveness techniques in small situations, such as telling your friend that you don’t want to watch a certain movie. Build upon each experience and soon you will find yourself to be assertive in other situations, too.”

“I have many mentors in the PA/EA fraternity who have assisted me in some way or exposed me to new ideas and opportunities … I have also mentored several PAs throughout my career. I like to believe that I have made an impact on their lives in the same way my mentors did to me.”


“Do not be afraid of asking for development”

Maria Cirillo -Sweden -Foto Jonas Bilberg

Maria Cirillo, Sweden (interview to be published in early 2020), on seeking promotion: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get, but earn it. Be prepared for the extra responsibility and work and go for it! If you’re somewhere where you’ve hit a wall and there truly is no where for the growth that you need to excel, it may be time to move on.

If you feel you’d like to move up but don’t feel quite ready, I highly recommend a coach or mentor; there are lots of great ones out there who were Assistants themselves and their guidance/advice comes from a place of experience and growth.”

“Treat every day as a learning opportunity”

Melissa Francis, England, on seeking promotion: “Be brave when looking at job opportunities, and put yourself forward for as much training and development as you can comfortably take on.

Treat every day as a learning opportunity and be kind/respectful on your way up the promotion ladder; this in turn is usually reciprocated. Networking is incredibly important and can really help to build your personal brand.”

“Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen”

Debra Peltz, EnglandDebra-Jacobs-Peltz-England: “Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. Ask your leader or seek out opportunities to attend training and development sessions – it could be a free webinar or session you find online.

If you see a role that you are interested in pursuing but don’t yet have the right experience or skills, find out what you would need to do in order to gain them so that you would be in a better position next timeIt could be as simple as brushing up on your Microsoft skills.”

“chances and roads less travelled, and always learn from your mistakes”

Breda Shanahan, Republic of Ireland: “My parents are my rShanahan, Breda - Republic of Irelandole models. They always worked very hard and instilled this in me from a young age. My two bosses are my mentors!

I’m a member of the Association of Professional Administrators in Ireland (APAI).  Networking is a really valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from others’ success, attain new contacts and showcase your organization.

I read and share lots of the articles they publish, and it also helps me to connect with EAs and PAs within my organization and externally.

“I spend time reading articles and blogs relevant to my profession”

Laura Swallows, USA: “Swallows, Laura - USAI 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!”

“Have conversations that not only find solutions, but build relationships”

Katherine Vaillancourt, the PhilipVaillancourt, Katherine - Ontariopines and Canada: “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!”



Shelagh-Donnelly-Grouse-Mtn-2018-4944-Copyright-Shelagh-DonnellyClick any name below for my full interview with any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers

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