Day Three: 2020’s 12 Days of Real Careers

We’re on a roll

We’re on a December roll! This is the fourth year of my 12 Days of Real Careers tradition, in which we look back on the many Real Careers interviews I’ve conducted with high performing assistants from 25 countries to date.

Think of these interview excerpt as gifts of experience and wisdom that we can all incorporate.

To read my full interview with any of these individuals, just click on her or his name below.  


“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.”


“Develop a passion for learning in all aspects of your life”

Margo Baptista - Canada.jpgMargo Baptista, Canada: “Keep your mind open to all possibilities. Show up, give your best effort, ask lots of questions, and …  Learn everything you can about the field. Be willing to put in the time and energy that is needed to learn and progress. Be flexible. Find ways to continuously improve – e.g., business processes, documents, etc.

Contribute to your profession – don’t stand on the sidelines. Take risks – often the best learning experiences are the ones that scared you the most when they first came to your attention. Listen – be attentive to the person you are with and hear what s/he is saying before offering your own opinion. Find your passion, work at something that inspires and fulfills you. Create your own destiny by developing a passion for learning in all aspects of your life.”

“Keep building your skills and network”

Kimberleigh Deignan, USA: “Keep building your skills and network. Let your executive and talent acquisition team know of your desire for growth opportunities.

Taking on new tasks or responsibilities every year or quarter will increase your knowledge and skills. It may not seem like a lot at the time, but the incremental increase of skills is valuable. Set a goal for how many new (even temporary) projects or tasks you can add next year.”


“There are not enough words to describe just how important the lessons from my mum have been to me throughout my career, and the powerful influence she continues to be”

Debbie Grimshaw, England: “Grimshaw, Debbie - EnglandMy first role model in life was my lovely Mum, whom sadly I lost to breast cancer when she was 43. As she climbed the career ladder, she taught me values and self-worth. I watched her progress, studying hard in every spare moment while working shifts and taking care of three young daughters and our family home. She was never afraid to roll up her sleeves and muck in with the team when they were short staffed.

She said I should always listen, be a caring friend and someone to depend on. She always looked for the good in people and was there to lend a hand to someone in need. I learnt from her that you should never give up; that you should believe in yourself and accept that mistakes are just part of the learning process … There are not enough words to describe just how important the lessons from my mum have been to me throughout my career, and the powerful influence she continues to be even though she isn’t around.”

“Don’t wait for something to happen; make it happen”

Cathy Harris, SouHarris, Cathy - South Africath Africa: “… I found that educating myself in finances, project management, and office administration went a long way in keeping me up to speed as far as workplace skills were concerned.

… Having been in my career for over 35 years, right now I enjoy sharing my experience and knowledge. Sharing what you know with others is so empowering and fulfilling!

Today, I strongly advocate for ongoing professional development and am involved with the official Certification for Office Professionals in South Africa, managed by the Office Professionals Association of SA.”


“Take the time to create good relationships around you and communicate in a clear and empathic manner”

 Sofie Koark, Sweden: “You have to earn your own mandate and I think you do that by being professional and trustworthy. Take the time to create good relationships around you and communicate in a clear and empathic manner. I also think it important to show appreciation, be positive and have fun together with the people you work with. As assistants, we are often ambassadors for the company culture.

Don’t let others mistake you for having a junior role in the company because of your title. You are a leader in a support role and if you see yourself like that, others will too. Many of us are full members of our management teams.”

“Your time and opinions are just as valuable as those of any other member of the team”

Janice Parker, from Australia and living in England: “YoAnderson, Janice - Australia/Englandur time and opinions are just as valuable as those of any other member of the team. Do not be afraid to put time in your manager’s diary to catch up or discuss more serious topics. If the meeting is moved, reschedule it as soon as possible and do not let your colleagues make you feel that their meeting should go before yours (unless it is business critical).

Do not be afraid to speak up and be heard; you will have interesting things to say and your colleagues will want to listen.”


“Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen”

Debra Peltz, EnglandDebra-Jacobs-Peltz-England: “Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. Ask your leader or seek out opportunities to attend training and development sessions – it could be a free webinar or session you find online.

If you see a role that you are interested in pursuing but don’t yet have the right experience or skills, find out what you would need to do in order to gain them so that you would be in a better position next timeIt could be as simple as brushing up on your Microsoft skills.”

“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.”

“When you are an executive assistant, you should not be working reactively. You do not wait for your executive to designate tasks; you create your own work. “

Emily Walker, England: ” Emily Walker - UKIf you are new to working with an executive, you may need to change your mindset. When you are an executive assistant, you should not be working reactively. You do not wait for your executive to designate tasks; you create your own work. You are proactive, you plan ahead, you anticipate their needs before they even realise it is a need.

You protect their reputation, and how they are perceived can also reflect on you. If your executive is late submitting their report, are you effectively managing their time? They may be the executive, but sometimes you need to be the one to direct their activity to ensure they are achieving their goals.”

“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: “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.”

“I enjoy the pressure, the responsibility and the knowledge that you are positively contributing to the success of the company”

Weber, Shirwyn - South AfricaShirwyn Weber, South Africa: “I thrive on change, and see it as another challenge to overcome and to master … When I realize that I need to move beyond my comfort zone, I always start planning the move. I never go unprepared beyond my comfort zone. I will then execute and do my best to make it a positive experience.

AI and all things like that will only enhance the future; it will require a lot of development and training, but ultimately help us with our jobs. I recommend that people always keep learning and developing new skills. I feel well equipped for the future, as I grew up in an age where AI and all things internet-related were developed and expanded.”


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

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: