Welcome to Day Seven of the 2021 edition of my 12 Days of Real Careers tradition!
At this time of year, I look back on the many Real Careers interviews I’ve conducted with impressive assistants since 2015 and share insightful excerpts from just some of these interviews.
Enjoy today’s read, and see which excerpts particularly may be particularly helpful at this point in your career. Some people featured in this series have changed careers and, this year, I’m also including excerpts from association leaders on pandemic experiences. To read the full interview from any of these individuals, just click on her or his name.
“Develop a passion for learning in all aspects of your life”
Margo 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“There is always a way forward, and what may seem like a diversion just now may well become your new streamlined path for the future”
Rosemary McLennan, Scotland (Scottish PA Network), on the career in pandemic times: “The Great British spirit is has well and truly come to the fore during the pandemic. Employers and colleagues have refused to be daunted by physical and emotional challenges, and team spirit is stronger than ever before.
… Having a deep insight in to technologies available to support us at this time of remote working is key to keeping the business operating. There is always a way forward, and what may seem like a diversion just now may well become your new streamlined path for the future.
We have become far more proficient at using technology that enables us to connect remotely. We’ve also been able to enjoy working from home in a far more productive way.”
“I try to embrace change, and never fear something new”
Amy 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.”
“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 … 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.”
“It’s important to look after yourself and ensure you have balance in your life”
Melanie 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.”
“Feeling challenged is part of growing”
Anastasia Tertigka (Canada; originally from Greece): “I managed to successfully incorporate my European experience as an administrative professional in securing and adapting to my new career requirements in Canada, and in a short period of time.
I moved to the field of corporate governance management, which was new to me, and managed to deliver great results.”
“I believe in empathy, not in sympathy. I feel that if we spend some time learning the story and background of our colleagues, it is easier to understand how they work or what motivates them – and then we can work better as a team.”
“Ask questions, be curious, be willing to make mistakes, step out of your comfort zone”
Peyton Tickner, USA, on seeking a promotion: “Sign up for courses on advanced skills, ask for training, reach out to those who are in the position/level you are interested in advancing toward.
Ask for a mentor, get your resume and cover letter critiqued, ask questions, be curious, be willing to make mistakes, step out of your comfort zone, and just be you! Don’t be scared to ask for what you need to succeed in your career. All they can say is no, and then you move on.”
Click any name below for my full interview with any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2021’s 12 Days of Real Careers
- Day One: Beth Arzy (England and USA), Erin Floss (USA), Corrie Fourie (South Africa), Janice Parker (Australia, having returned from England), Karen Richmond (Scotland), Julia Robertson-Avenell (England), Peyton Tickner (USA), Julia Schmidt (Brazil and Norway), Carla Stefanut (Italy), Barbra Unger (Canada), Emily Walker (England), Catherine Williamson (England)
- Day Two: Suzanne Benderski (USA), Nicole Blanchette (Canada), Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito (Brazil), Kemetia Foley (USA), Helen Gallienne (England), Joanne Gallop (New Zealand), Jill Goertzen (Canada), Claire Grace, (England), Stephanie Henry (USA), Luciana Landini (Italy), Breda Shanahan (Republic of Ireland), Teri Wells (South Africa)
- Day Three: Leeanne Adu (England), Tonya Beattie (USA), Joanna Campbell (Canada and New Zealand), Maria Cirillo (Sweden), Kim Glover (England), Amanda Hargreaves (England), MistiLynn Lokken (USA), Maria Marsh (England), Lilian Kamanzi Mugisha (Uganda), Debbi Shaffer (USA), Matthew Want (England), Megan Williamson (England)
- Day Four: Rebeka Adamson (New Zealand), Juliana Carneiro (The Netherlands; originally from Brazil), Paula Harding (England), Beth Ann Howard (USA), Else-Britt Lundgren (Sweden), Michela Luoni (Italy), Jacqueline McCumber (USA), Christina Martinez (USA), Tholo Motaung (South Africa), Jacqui Prospero (Canada), Helen Rees (England), Laura Swallows (USA)
- Dave Five: Bonnie Cookson (England), Angela Downey (England), Katie Driver (England), Cathy Harris (South Africa), Florence Katono (Uganda), Phiandra Peck (USA), Jennifer Robson (Australia; originally from Bangladesh), Marc Taylor-Allan (England), Sally Thomas (USA)
- Day Six: Nina Aunula (Finland), Dawn Becker (Canada), Denise Delamain (England), Vicki Faint (NZ), Fiona Kelly (Ireland), Jacqueline (Jackie) M. Leib (USA), Karine McKee (England), Renée Neverson (USA), John D. Shaw (USA), Melanie Sheehy (England), Chantal Sneijkers (Belgium), Lesley Young (England)
- Day Seven: Margo Baptista (Canada), Alison Boler (England), Sofie Koark (Sweden), Rosemary McLennan (Scotland; Scottish PA Network), Amy Marsden (England; now in New Zealand), Angela Parker (Germany), Melanie Richardson, (England), Anastasia Tertigka (Canada; originally from Greece), Peyton Tickner (USA)