Day Two: 2020’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Did you enjoy yesterday’s read?   

More insights from assistants around the globe

I’m happy to bring you Day Two of this year’s edition of 12 Days of Real Careers.

If you’re just catching up on this celebration of insights and fellow assistants, have a look at yesterday’s post to learn more.

Think of these 12 Days as gifts of experience and wisdom we can all incorporate. To read the full interview from any of these individuals, just click on her or his name.

“Invest in your own career development”

Rebecca Agyirba Afful-GhanaRebecca Agyirba Afful, Ghana: “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.”


“It’s essential to futureproof our roles by keeping up with technology”

Arzy-Beth-UKBeth Arzy, USA and England: “I don’t fear AI or think it’s going to be the bitter end for Assistants. I think it can only be positive and help us with certain aspects of our roles, to free us up to be more creative and forward thinking. Smart technology for smart Assistants. I read somewhere recently that ’empowered machines will act as smart Assistants for us’, which is how I like to look at it.

… It’s essential to futureproof our roles by keeping up with technology, which seems daunting as everything’s moving at top speed! We also need to keep up with the networking, even if it’s something that’s out of my personal comfort zone …”

“I have no problem saying ‘no’ to someone if their request goes beyond established boundaries”

Stacey BreBrewer, Stacey - USAwer, USA: “My current executive and I recognized from day one that our partnership would be much stronger if we initially invested the time to specifically develop our working relationship on a much deeper level beyond the standard daily interactions.

In addition to our weekly operational meeting, we also scheduled a weekly lunch meeting for the first six months to just really get to know each other. The more quickly the two of you can gain insight into each other’s past experiences and thought processes, the better; it will be well worth the investment in the long run.”

Carry yourself with grace and dignity, and watch and learn from those you respect

Bianca Constance, USA and originally fConstance, Bianca - USArom Canada: “All of my academic degrees were in music – opera and voice, to be specific. My only business-related class was a typing class that I took when I was a freshman in high school. I stumbled into the world of the administrative professional because I could answer the phone, type very fast and was a quick study. There was no such thing as professional development when I started.

After I joined IAAP (the International Association of Administrative Professionals), I realised that professional development was very important. It completely changed my outlook on my job and my work, making me realize that this really was my career. I had always taken great pride in my work, but now it was different. It brought me out of my shell at work. I started reading all the trade papers and periodicals that my executives read and kept up to date on happenings in my industry, freely sharing my observations with my executive – much to her delight, I might add.  She, in turn, would share my insights with her colleagues, the company’s management committee, which increased my visibility within the company.”

“Make sure you build a solid relationship with your boss”

Cookson, Bonnie - EnglandBonnie Cookson, England: “Always have confidence. Make sure you build a solid relationship with your boss and never be afraid to approach him or her. You need them as much as they need you.

For career growth, make sure you get into a community where you can meet other people in the industry and learn from their experiences too. Keep up to date with what’s happening in your network – attend industry events, and use social media as a platform to promote yourself.”

“Find out more about the operational plan or strategic objectives and where your boss/executive and you fit in”

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.”

(On working with a new principal/executive): “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.”

“Accept feedback as a gift”

Julia Schmidt, NorwaSchmidt, Julia - Brazil/Norwayy (originally from Brazil): “Accept feedback as a gift. When I was young, I did not have the positive approach to feedback that I have today. It is a tool for improvement and a background to starting career development plans.

 Time management has a lot to do with the right prioritisation. Therefore, my most effective strategy is doing first the tasks I like less. It will (help us) avoid procrastination. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing. It is bad management. Another important element is creating realistic deadlines.”

“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 to 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.”

“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.”


“ Remember to include strategic and relationship-building activities as well as operational tasks”

Marc Taylor-Allan, England and Australia: “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.”

“Continually strive to better yourself and to grasp every training opportunity”

Liza Young, Scotland: ” Don’tYoung, Liza - Scotland 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 …”

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 2020’s 12 Days of Real Careers

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