Day 6: 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Each December, I look back on the many Real Careers interviews I’ve conducted with impressive assistants since 2015. Today, I’m happy to bring you Day Six of this year’s edition of 12 Days of Real Careers.


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, click here to learn more.

I am not afraid to have “courageous conversations”

Sarah Duncan, USA: “I am not afraid to have ‘courageous conversations’ and feel that trust and respect come together as a package. You cannot have one without the other and you need both to successfully support any executive (or law firm partner).

… Keep learning. Take as many classes as you can and remember to include EI (emotional intelligence) and relationship building in those classes.”


“I like change; to me, change equals growth”

Joanne Gallop, New Zealand: “OGallop, Joanne - New Zealandn a personal note, my husband and I sit down … every New Year’s evening and review what we have achieved over the year and what we want to achieve the following year.

I use this for my work life, as well. I plan my personal and professional development and career progression. Don’t forget to review what you have achieved – you’d be surprised how much you’ve done!”


“Volunteer as a means of exposing your skills and demonstrating your potential”

Florence Katono, Uganda: Katono, Florence - Uganda“Most admins usually count years of experience and, in a way, equate it to progress. I encourage my colleagues to take a bold decision and choose career progression.

Invest in your career. It may not pay off immediately but, when it does, it pays handsomely … Volunteer. Competition in the career world is very stiff. For one to expose their skills, it would be wise for them to volunteer. It’s the best way of making others know your potential. Seize opportunities; they could be all you ever needed. Find role models and mentors.”

“I believe that getting more digitized will broaden our job opportunities”

Solveig Kristensen-fargeSolveig Kristensen, Norway: “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.”

“Being positive about life can get you through anything”

Melanie SheehySheehy, Melanie- England, England: “A lot of it is up to you as an individual, though, and how much you want succeed in life and make your job your own … take on more work that is outside your remit. Also, it’s all about the little things! Get them right and you will go far.

For me, just being a working mum and seeing that I am achieving my goals at work but also seeing that my boys are happy is an accomplishment. The other accomplishment is seeing how far the Manchester PA Network has come … and to finally say we can recognise PAs in Manchester with the Manchester PA of the Year awards.”

“Strive to be the best, but also support others as you go along”

Marc Taylor-Allan, England: “Build a pTaylor-Allan, Marc -Englandersonal brand, and build that brand around who you work for. Strive to be the best, but also support others as you go along. I always think that promotion and career development come with being the master of your craft, so be a sponge and absorb everything.

Have a dynamic task list. Capture the tasks and activities you must do on a list and update it regularly during the day. Revisit this list frequently and add new items as soon as they appear. Make sure your list gives you a quick overview of everything that’s urgent and important, and remember to include strategic and relationship-building activities as well as operational tasks.”

“Being aware of what you want, both in business and in private life, is essential”

RC-Netherands-Truus van den Brink-HavingaTruus van den Brink-Havinga, The Netherlands (interview to follow in early 2020: “Goal setting is important, however, I think being aware of what you want, both in business as in private life is essential. That also involves goal setting for a good life. Search for the balance.

… Establish good business relationships, especially with colleagues you need; however, also be clear  about what you expect from them and on deadlines. In the long run, people appreciate that. Recognize people for what they do for you. Be visible in the organization and ask anything you want to know.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask, don’t be afraid people may not like you, and don’t try to save the world”

Catherine Williamson, England: “ResearcWilliamson, Catherine - Englandh development, training and networking opportunities. Never to be afraid to ask (the worst answer can be no). Not to be afraid that people might not like you, and not to try and save the world.

… (In 2013) I co-founded a network of PAs in Westminster (Network PA SW1) with a friend, Gill Quirk, who works in Whitehall, where our government departments are predominantly based. It’s gone from strength to strength and I’m incredibly proud of that.”

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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