Day 9: 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Are we there yet? – Almost!  Today, on Day Nine, we look at insights from your counterparts in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Sweden and the USA.

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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.

“Keep an eye on the end game and longer-term goals”

Benderski, Suzanne - USASuzanne Benderski, USA: “When I was in my early twenties, I was very focused on the immediate tasks and situations.

Now, I would tell my younger self to keep more of an eye on the end game and longer-term goals, and not to be so short-sighted – especially in some of my decision-making.

There are things to be learned even from bad situations; accept the lessons.”


“I want to do my very best for my executive and I can only do that if we’re on the same page”

Tonya Beattie, UBeattie, Tonya - USASA (watch for Tonya’s interview on February 6/19): “ When we land a new job, we’re fresh from impressing a room full of strangers with our skills and abilities and the talents we’re bringing to the team. A new assistant needs to come in with an open mind and be prepared to learn.

Things are probably going to be done differently than you’re used to, and it’s going to take you some time to figure out the systems. Be sure to give yourself some grace. You’re going to make some mistakes; learn from them and move on. Be friendly to everyone. You never know who you’re going to need to lean on down the road.”

“EAs are notorious for saying yes when they feel the answer should probably be no”

Freeborough, Chantalle -CanadaChantalle Freeborough, Canada: “Saying no to people is hard, but I’ve learned it is better to under promise than to not deliver! EAs are notorious for saying yes when they feel the answer should probably be no. Then they just magically make it happen. But that ‘magic’ includes putting added stress on themselves.

 … I often tell people I’m a lifer student. I finished my Office Administration Executive diploma at Georgian College, and continued to study part time to achieve a Teaching and Training Adults Certificate and AAA’s (the Association of Administrative Assistant’s) Qualified Administrative Assistant designation. Since then, I’ve been working on a degree program on a part-time basis. In the midst of studying, I engage in professional development – there are no two ways about it, it’s been advantageous to my career.”

“You can’t achieve anything if you don’t know what outcome you want”

Amanda Hargreaves, England: “When I went into my first admin. role, I had never worked in an office before; so I would say listen and learn, and be confident – but not overly confident.

… Take time to work out and plan what it is you want. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t know what outcome you want.

How long will it take to achieve this, how can you achieve this, who can help you achieve this?”

“My target for the coming year is to continue to develop and to advance in digitization”

Karin Hélène, Sweden: “I have always had a long-term goal for my career path and short-term goals for development and training.

… Become a member in a professional network; this will give you access to colleagues within your profession and you can get advice on how to further develop within your role. Talk to your manager and talk to Human Resources about what your career path could look like within your workplace. Ask for training and ask to attend seminars to keep in the forefront in all aspects.”

“Building connections at every level is key”

McKee-Karine-EnglandKarine McKee, England (interview to follow in early 2020): “Get to know who is who. Know the dynamics of an organization. This will help you to be able to navigate and take on tasks that your executive may have to otherwise do. You want to focus on freeing their time to focus on the vision overall and not the detail. You can manage the detail and you can help see the gaps of what can hinder achieving the goal.

… Be up to date with any trends and software packages that can help in the role. Do not be afraid to embrace the new systems; be the one to implement and help install the process around how the company should use it. Be part of the development and learn where the new gaps will be, and become skilled in these areas.”

“I have always negotiated my training at the interview/recruitment stage”

Marsh, Maria - EnglandMaria Marsh, England: “I have always negotiated my training at the interview/recruitment stage. I don’t think I could work for a company that did not support my development. You are never too old to learn, and I still enjoy going to conferences and trying new things.

… I do the induction and training for our PA and admin roles. The most important aspect is to get the communication correct from the beginning, and adapt styles where necessary. Find out all those likes/dislikes and the executive’s preferred style – and then work to that style. It is an ongoing and developing process that requires regular check-ins. Also, find out more about the operational plan or strategic objectives and where your boss/executive and you fit in.”

“It is important to have a mentor”

Jennifer RobsonAustralia (originally from Bangladesh): “It is important to have a mentor as s/he can provide a simple path of guidance to push you to take the first step, and guidance to figure out what is what we really want.

A good mentor will share their invaluable experience, to help us to achieve our goal in the best possible way they know. I know I have personally benefited from having various mentors along the journey.”

“Everything I am and everything I have conquered until now is because of my educational and professional interests and dedication”

Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito, BrazilMarcela Silva da Conceição Brito  - Brazil-cropped: “In my first job, I was afraid of everything and everyone. I remember that I really wanted to do my best and not make any mistakes, so I did not know to say ‘no’ … I have learned that my competence and the way people must see me as an exceptional executive assistant are not related to the numbers of times I could say, ‘yes’.

Instead, they have to understand that I am committed first to my priorities in the role. So, nowadays I never say ‘no’ directly, but I ask a person about his/her priority related to the request. If it is urgent, I explain that I am also working on an important matter for the office or for my boss and, unfortunately, I will decline. Then I give him/her options, indicating someone who can help him/her. I learned to understand that people do not want your ‘yes’ all the time, but that they really need your help. If you help them, you will fulfill your mission.”

“You must build a bond of trust and transparency”

Matthew Want, England: ” (Want, Matthew - EnglandMake) sure you don’t try and run before you can walk. When I first started I really wanted to be like other assistants I met, but I soon learnt that they had once been where I was and that only by being patient and learning what the role fully entails would I be able to reach that level.

(Make) sure that you have a clear strategy of what needs prioritising for your boss and yourself. It is key that you make sure you are continually on top of what your boss needs so you can make her/his workload easier – and, in return, helping manage the workload for yourself.”

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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