Day 5: 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers

We’re almost halfway through this year’s 12 Days! Welcome to Day Five of this year’s nuggets – as one reader commented yesterday –  from some of the many Real Careers interviews I’ve conducted with high performing assistants since 2015.

In keeping with the international nature of this series, the photo below is of an advent calendar I saw in Neuer Garten (the New Garden), in Potsdam, Germany – which I visited a couple of years ago thanks to friend Diana Brandl.


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, start with a look at last Friday’s post to learn more.

“Be aware of the issues and developments taking place in your industry, and keep on top of current affairs and the trends in the world around you”

Cowan, Lorna - Northern IrelandLorna Cowan, Northern Ireland: “Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Never stop learning; even if it doesn’t directly relate to your day job, you never know what contacts you’ll make and how that information can be used.

Be aware of the issues and developments taking place in your industry, and keep on top of current affairs and the trends in the world around you. Be prepared for anything!”

“It’s not immodest to speak about yourself or to be proud of your achievements and how far you have come in your career”

Denise-Delamain-England-RC.jpgDenise Delamain, England: When you start a new role or have a new executive start with you, I’d really recommend booking some time with them as soon as possible.

Ask them what they are looking for in an assistant and how you can help them. Tell them about projects you’ve undertaken in the past so they get to know your strengths and competencies. Don’t sit back and wait until you’re asked – yes, you or they could be finding their feet in an new organisation, but the only way to move forward in the relationship is to show them what you’re capable of. It’s not immodest to speak about yourself or to be proud of your achievements and how far you have come in your career.

“Map out strategic connections”

Erin Floss, USA: “Very early in my career, goal setting was challenging for me; I felt unsure of where to begin. I was focused on the tasks I completed on a daily basis and found it difficult to expand them into goals. What I realized was the importance of linking the value of the tasks I complete to my leader’s strategic priorities. Once I had mapped out those strategic connections, I was able to quickly document my work as goals that support my leader’s strategic goals.

This was a gratifying mind shift for me. Suddenly, even the most basic administrative tasks had strategic value. ”

“Network, and show your worth”

“Don’t wait for something to happen; make it happen”

Cathy Harris, SouHarris, Cathy - South Africath Africa: “… 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.

… 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!

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.”

On IMA: “You develop a better understanding of different countries and cultures”

Else-Britt Lundgren, Sweden: “IMA is a unique network; you have the national as well as the international network, in which you develop a better understanding of different countries and cultures – which is so necessary in our global business world. I have definitely benefited from improving my  leadership skills.

This is the case, too, with my project management skills and having gained a better understanding of different businesses. Through networking at our events, you keep pace with trends in our profession and you can often create your own contacts with whom you share ideas, experiences and learning.”

“Step out of your own way; see the bigger picture”

Marshall, Catherine - USACatherine 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.”

“Let your boss know you want to better yourself, and follow that up with action”

Dalya Perry-Bernstein, England: “In the early stages of my career, I had no idea of the power of networking. I would advise any PA to get out there and network as much as possible. I remember travelling to London and walking into my first big networking event on my own back in 2010, being quite nervous and ending up having the most fantastic day! To this day, I still keep in touch with the PAs I met at that event.”

“… Speak with your boss and let him/her know you want to better yourself. Attend CPD events or gain a qualification. Make sure you go for a role with potential for career progression. Embrace extra projects that may not be typical PA tasks.”

“Always bring your A game; make yourself indispensable and always be positive”

rees-helen-englandHelen 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.”

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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