If you haven’t already, here’s to that day very soon when you’ll be turning off your office computer or laptop for the holidays. The good news is that you can catch the remainder of my annual 12 Days of Real Careers from all sorts of devices! Today, I’m happy to bring you Day 10 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 since their interviews; 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.
“I enjoy coming up with solutions to unanticipated problems; this makes it possible for me to think quickly and analytically and deploy my creativity”
Rebecca Agyirba Afful, Ghana (interview to follow in early 2020): “Know your coworkers by their names and take particular interest in them. By that I do not mean getting into their personal lives but make them know you care about them. Be helpful to them and they will come to your aid when you also need their help.
… Take advantage of learning opportunities, invest in your own career development, know your job well, and when opportunities for growth/promotion present themselves take full advantage of it.”
“The number one thing I’ve learned when it comes to mapping out your career goals is that it’s all on you; no one will do this for you”
Megan Bishop, USA: “The number one thing I’ve learned when it comes to mapping out your career goals is that it’s all on you; no one will do this for you. That may be a bit scary to some, but it’s also invigorating. You’ve got a clear blue sky – where do you want to go?
… I urge you to map out your own career. We are in a delightfully special role with no one singular path to promotion or growth. Also, frankly, many executives don’t entirely know what to do with us. Talking about being a career EA might get you some odd looks from executives. So, I encourage you to dream big and think about what you want to learn. Then utilize all of the existing resources out there …”
“Research how AI could help you in your role both currently and in the future”
Dawn Becker, Canada: “… I can and do say no. If what is being requested of me does not support my primary responsibilities to the Boards, the CIO and CEO, I will quite often say no.
… research how AI could help you in your role both currently and in the future. Be on the front of AI – not behind it.
By moving some routine aspects of the role to technology, those in this profession will have the opportunity to specialize in areas and demonstrate the value this profession brings to business.”
“Write a ‘business plan’ for what you would like to achieve and how you would like to achieve it”
Alison Boler, England: “I will always keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. When I was asked to make a speech to PAs for the first time five years ago, I felt terrified. But pushing myself through that comfort zone actually changed my life and I am now more confident and I will never be scared again to push myself.
… If you don’t have an annual review, then ask for one! Be prepared, even write out a ‘business plan’ for what you would like to achieve and how you would like to achieve it.”
“If you find training you are interested in, ask for it. If the first answer is no, ask again in six months.”
Juliana Carneiro, The Netherlands, and originally from Brazil: “In Brazil, all the assistants need to have a university degree in Secretarial Education so, yes, education was highly important and a key thing for my career. When I say that I have a Bachelor’s degree in Secretarial Education, it opens a lot of doors.
… Learn, learn, learn, and talk to your executive about what you’re learning. If you find training you are interested in, ask for it. If the first answer is no, ask again in six months. If you don’t give up, your executive will understand that you mean business.”
“Ask for that training you deserve. It took me a few years to appreciate that training is as important for me as it is for my colleagues.”
Giulietta Driver, England: “I have a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Management. Whilst not obviously linked to my role, it gave me a really solid grounding in administration and finance. It’s really helped with things like Board administration, as I actually understand the finance terminology … I love my career, but I get annoyed by the perception that being a PA/admin is not a serious career, or is beneath someone with a degree.
… Ask for that training you deserve. It took me a few years to appreciate that training is as important for me as it is for my colleagues. Learning doesn’t have to be formal. I’ve learned a lot by chatting to other PAs over Twitter, and reading blogs and magazines.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and active. Employers DO look at these things (I know I have when recruiting), so it’s important to keep it fresh. I’m in a few groups as well, which has raised my profile.”
“Own your successes; it’s not bragging to share good news or good ideas”
Beth Ann Howard, USA: “Plan ahead. I spend the last few minutes of the work day planning the next day’s schedule, and I block off time on my calendar for the must-do list. I have a master to-do list with deadlines for important projects, but I know the must-do list is the urgent one.
Don’t spend too much time trying to solve a problem on your own—certainly try, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. It makes you more efficient and it helps you build connections.
Own your successes. It’s not bragging to share good news or good ideas, especially when they can help others be more successful, too – and those ideas are the things that get you noticed and recognized by forces higher up in the organization.”
“I have found that the most important thing for me is the personality fit with my executive(s)”
Cindy Moeser, Canada: “In my career, I have found that the most important thing for me is the personality fit with my executive(s). A bad fit can be very challenging and often demotivating. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to go with your gut when moving from one role to the next, and keep an eye out for red flags during the hiring process – if something does not feel right, there is a reason. I once ignored my gut to get out of a job that I was not enjoying and it landed me in an even worse situation.
For career growth, I would recommend that you network with other EAs and attend as many events as you can to understand the dynamics of this ever-changing role.”
“Each employer afforded me the opportunity to learn something new and see business from a different perspective”
Angela Parker, Germany: “Ever since I was a teenager, I have always wanted to work with people from other countries. I have always worked for companies with international business ties and it has been enlightening in so many ways. I have worked for machine builders, logistics companies and wholesalers of varying sizes and corporate structures. Each employer afforded me the opportunity to learn something new and see business from a different perspective.”
(on taking on a leadership role within her national network) “… I have always preferred to remain in the background. Over the past few months I have learned to venture out and take centre stage. The feedback I have received has been positive and I can see that I have developed as a person. Moreover, networking is always a good idea, to improve your visibility.”
“Continually strive to better yourself and to grasp every training opportunity”
Liza Young, Scotland: ” Don’t be afraid to ask – whether that be for time off for appointments, for training, for advice, for promotion. The worst scenario is that the answer will be ‘no’, but much can be learned even from that on communication and negotiation skills, and how to manage or be managed.
… Continually strive to better yourself and to grasp every training opportunity. Budgets are tight in the education sector, but it doesn’t have to cost: shadow somebody, be mentored by somebody, look out for in-house training courses. And be prepared to self-learn … This includes keeping up with changing technologies …”
Click any name below for my full interview with any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2019’s 12 Days of Real Careers
- Day One: Stephanie Bergsieker (USA), Jane Brazzill (England), Paula Harding (England), Paula Moio (Angola, Portugal, England), Eleni Rizikianou (Greece), Carla Stefanut (Italy), Teri Wells (South Africa)
- Day Two: Monika Bercheter-Petterson (Norway), Angela Downey (England), Erika Giesl (Canada), Stacey King (Australia), Nora Onishi (USA), Barbara J. (BJ) Parrish (USA), Debbi Shaffer (USA), Megan Williamson (USA)
- Day Three: Beth Arzy (England; interview to be published in early 2020), Susan Henderson (England), MistiLynn Lokken (USA), Kelly McAulay (Scotland), Renée Neverson (USA), James Sobczak (USA), Catherine Thomas (Wales), Bettina Wemanis (Sweden)
- Day Four: Stacey Brewer (USA), Bonnie Cookson (England), Susan Engelbrecht (South Africa), Maria Cirillo (Sweden; interview to be published in early 2020), Melissa Francis (England), Debra Peltz (England), Breda Shanahan (Republic of Ireland), Laura Swallows (USA), Katherine Vaillancourt (the Philippines and Canada)
- Day Five: Lorna Cowan (Northern Ireland), Denise Delamain (England), Erin Floss (USA), Declan Halton-Woodward (England), Cathy Harris (South Africa), Else-Britt Lundgren (Sweden), Catherine Marshall Penasa (USA), Dalya Perry-Bernstein (England), Helen Rees (England)
- Day Six: Sarah Duncan (USA), Joanne Gallop (NZ), Florence Katono (Uganda), Solveig Kristensen (Norway), Melanie Sheehy (England), Truus van den Brink-Havinga (Netherlands), Marc Taylor-Allan (England), Catherine Williamson (England)
- Day Seven: Lisa Assetta (USA), Maria Gottberg (Sweden), Priscilia Gough (South Africa and Canada), Jacqueline McCumber (USA), Amy Marsden (England and New Zealand), Melanie Richardson (England), Karen Richmond (Scotland), Carolina Siqueira Silva (Brazil), Chantal Sneijkers (Belgium)
- Day Eight: Nicole Blanchette (Canada), Aimee Browne (England), Jean Coco (USA), Laureen Dailey (Canada), Kerry Dawson (England), Sherri Eckworth (England), Julia Schmidt (Brazil and Norway), Barbara Unger (Canada), Shirwyn Weber (South Africa), Lesley Dexter Young (England)
- Day Nine: Suzanne Bendersk (USA), Tonya Beattie (USA), Chantalle Freeborough (Canada), Amanda Hargreaves (England), Karin Hélène (Sweden), Karine McKee (England; interview to follow in early 2020), Maria Marsh (England), Jennifer Robson (Australia), Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito (Brazil), Matthew Want (England)
- Day 10: Rebecca Agyirba Afful (Ghana; interview to follow in early 2020), Megan Bishop (USA), Dawn Becker (Canada), Alison Boler (England),Juliana Carneiro (Brazil and The Netherlands), Giulietta Driver (England), Beth Ann Howard (USA), Cindy Moeser (Canada), Angela Parker (Germany), Liza Young (Scotland)
- Day 11: Brenda Edwards (England; interview to follow March 6), Sarah Howson (England), Deirdre McGovern (USA), Anita Olsen (Norway), Janice Parker (Australia and England), Christabell Pinchin (Canada), John D. Shaw (USA), Peyton Tickner (USA; interview to follow in early 202010), Donna Venditti (Canada), Emily Walker (England)
- Day 12: Margo Baptista (Canada), Craig Bryson (England), Bianca Constance (USA), Debbie Grimshaw (England), Sofie Koark (Sweden), Juanita Mort (USA), Jannie Oosterhoff (Netherlands), Carys Stacey (England), Sally Thomas (USA), Louise Whitehead (England)