Day 7: 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Is this month flying by for you? At this time of year, 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 Seven of this year’s edition of 12 Days of Real Careers.


Some of the people featured in this series have moved on to different roles; their insights remain valuable. 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.

“It is important to speak up and regularly share your ideas and accomplishments with your supervisor”

Lisa Assetta, USA: “It’s important to find out the work style of your new executive in the beginning. This way, you can tailor your communications and work style accordingly.

Also discuss/stress how regular communication between the two of you is important and necessary to optimize mutual productivity; agree to a strategy to keep each other informed with daily or weekly in-person briefings, phone calls, or emails.”


“Learn to say no, and dare to say yes”

Maria Gottberg, Sweden: “I enjoy keeping current on many issues at once, and being quick and efficient while also being proactive .

… I always try to help where I can and those I work with know that’s a fact. If I say no, it’s because I can not help them; I have no hidden agenda, and they know it.

… Focus on work when you are at work, and focus on your family when you are at home.”

“I work hard to ensure that I am seen as a key member of the Executive Team”

Priscilia Gough, Canada (originally from South Africa): “I think the most challenging part of my career is to make people understand that the role of an EA is not just administrative. I work hard to ensure that I am seen as a key member of the Executive Team and that I can be part of the strategic decisions and discussions that are taking place.

I try to ensure I always have a seat at the boardroom table so that I know what is happening. This helps me anticipate issues that might arise and helps me be proactive in the work that I do.”

“Use your influence to introduce new ideas and systems”

Jacqueline McCumber, USA: ” I tell my emplMcCumber, Jacqueline - USAoyees all the time, ‘If you’re not ever uncomfortable, you’re not challenging yourself.’ When I am faced with doing something outside my comfort zone, I focus my attention on the detail that is causing me the most anxiety – and redirect my energy into increasing my awareness of that detail, project or system.

…  I started out as the Receptionist. As a young woman, I had to ensure that I continually relayed my willingness and ability to learn and take on more tasks – which meant asking senior management for more responsibility, standing my ground when necessary to highlight my maturity, and providing flexibility at times to show my understanding of what was required of me in times of crisis or chaos.”

“I try to embrace change, and never fear something new”

Marsden, Amy - UKAmy Marsden, from England and now in New Zealand: “I would say that I surprise everyone, including myself, at regularly stepping out of my comfort zone – I don’t just step, I leap into new things with all my energy and figure the rest out later.

… Although I am a planner in my work, I like to trust my gut feeling in most tasks (professional and private) and, if something feels right, I am happy to tackle the unfamiliar.

…  Technology is constantly changing, new features are added to existing programs, and we are expected to not only keep up, but also use technology in innovative ways. I try to embrace change, and never fear something new. The best way to learn is to learn by doing, and as such I tackle new software head on.”

“It’s important to look after yourself and ensure you have balance in your life”

Richardson, Melanie - UKMelanie Richardson, England: “I’m a big believer that you need to be constantly evolving, developing and moving out of your comfort zone. I see this as just as important for me even now, after so many years in the profession.

Over the years, more often than not I’ve  just said ‘yes’ to new things and then figured out afterwards how do to them! That’s required me to call upon my personal courage many times, to face my fears and to have to change deeply-entrenched behaviour – which isn’t easy.”

“Know your worth!”

Richmond-Karen-ScotlandKaren Richmond, Scotland: ” Know 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.”

“You want to be constantly learning and adapting”

Carolina Siqueira Silva, Brazil: “I stronSiqueira Silva, Carolina - Brazilgly believe that professional development is achieved though continued learning. I attended Executive Secretary Live in London this year and self-funded this, because I look at it as an investment in myself and my career. I look forward to enrolling in a post-graduate course or master’s degree next year.

I’m also doing a Project Management course online, which has helped me to improve execution of a lot of my current office tasks. Education and professional development do not only imply attending conferences, workshops, webinars and enrolling in degree studies; it also means taking advantage of experienced and knowledgeable professionals around you as mentors.”

“Build a career of substance”

Chantal Sneijkers, BSneijkers, Chantal - Belgiumelgium: “Being a member of EUMA (now IMA; International Management Assistants) changed my whole professional world. I learned and continue to learn so much that I bring to my office, and this has contributed to my career growth, and reaching the level and position I now hold.

Beyond that, I have met some great people from whom I also learned extra soft skills. As well, the cultural differences between the European countries have been personally enriching.”


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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