Exceptional EA

Weekend Poll: Gearing Up for the 2018 Holidays

Here we are, at the midpoint of December and rapidly approaching the end of 2018!

You no doubt have a busy couple of weeks ahead, and so let’s get straight to my latest Weekend Poll, in which I ask …

How do you gear up for and spend the holidays?

Please take a couple of minutes to complete the poll below, and I’ll publish results this coming week.  

Hint: One star is the lowest possible rating; click on all three to represent the best possible rating you could give.
Yes; statutory holidays onlyYes; both statutory holidays AND paid leaveYes; both statutory holidays AND leave without payNo
It's a given; no work for me over the holidaysI'll answer phone calls from colleaguesI'll check and respond only to urgent mattersI'll check email periodicallyI'll be working/catching up & checking emailI'll check email daily
Small, low keyParties with a good crowdI like a mix of both

Day Seven: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 7 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’m happy to bring you Day Seven of this year’s edition of 12 Days of Real Careers.

You’ll find a number of well deserved nods to some impressive professional associations, peer groups and networks within today’s excerpts. These represent a mere sampling of the many professional associations from which readers benefit year ’round.

If you’ve just now come across this annual celebration of insights and fellow assistants, have a look at this post to learn more. You’ll also find links at the base of this article to all interviews featured to date within this year’s 12 Days.

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

Your growth and development are as much your responsibility as anyone else’s

Craig Harris, England: ” In recent yeaHarris, Craig - Englandrs I’ve realised more how important it is to keep training and to keep learning in order to be at the top of your game.

I am a member of EPAA, The Executive & Personal Assistants Association, who are amazing. Their mission is to champion, promote and develop the assistant profession and, although this is a fairly new association, the changes they are making are amazing. They are really getting out there and speaking to assistants to understand what they need and how they can support us. It really helps make you feel part of a community who all want to help. We have some great tools and training available to us via EPAA.

I’m also part of The Charity PA Network, which aims to join together assistants who work in the charity and not for profit sector. I think working as an assistant in the charity sector throws up its own challenges, and it’s great to have a platform to discuss these and meet others working in a similar position.”

You are an extension of your boss; let that guide your actions

Michela Luoni, Italy: “After Luoni, Michela- Italyattending Executive Secretary LIVE in 2013, I was keen to stay in touch with professionals of such value and afterwards I joined EUMA (now IMA; International Management Assistants) … (an) association represented in 25 countries. So, I’ve been building an international and high quality network. I warmly encourage everyone to join a professional association where available, in order to keep learning, remain up to date on the latest trends and evolve with the role.

Try to be always one step ahead of your boss, give him/her solutions and not problems, and speak up for yourself when necessary.”

Note: Michela is also active within Italy’s own Secretary.IT

I love the variety of my role; it certainly keeps you on your toes

Amanda Snowball Moscrop, England: “I am aSnowball, Amanda - Englandn active member of the Manchester PA Network The network has helped me secured some amazing friendships for which I am eternally grateful. As a lone PA in my workplace, it is extremely isolating and the network has enabled me to gain support and advice from its members.

In addition, when I started in my current role, I was totally new to Manchester. The network helped me via visiting venues and restaurants, and I was able to draw on these experiences for recommendations to the partners.”

Settings boundaries isn’t easy for everyone, but it’s necessary

Megan Bishop, USA: “The first time I attended the annual conferenBishop, Megan - USAce hosted by ASAP, the American Society of Administrative Professionals, was one of the biggest ‘aha’ moments of my life. I realized I wanted to be a career EA. I had no idea there was so much support for the administrative role. I’ve met some stellar admins and connected with many vendors and tools that make me better in my role.

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, such as free monthly webinars with Office Dynamics, free membership with ASAP, annual conferences, and resources such as Udemy, Lynda, edX and Coursera.”

Take chances and roads less travelled, and always learn from your mistakes

Breda Shanahan, Republic of Ireland: “My parents are my rShanahan, Breda - Republic of Irelandole models. They always worked very hard and instilled this in me from a young age. My two bosses are my mentors!

I’m a member of the Association of Professional Administrators in Ireland (APAI).  Networking is a really valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from others’ success, attain new contacts and showcase your organization.

I read and share lots of the articles they publish, and it also helps me to connect with EAs and PAs within my organization and externally.

Ask for feedback – and ask those who you know will be brutally honest

Kim Glover, England: “Glover, Kim - England I attend quite a few breakfast events – either networking events hosted by others, or our Exeter PA Network monthly breakfast events, which start at around 7:00 a.m.  A note from Shelagh: Kim is the founder of this network.

Join a network. Identify a mentor. Understand whether your organisation has a competency matrix in place for your role, which should highlight what steps are needed to progress to the next level.  Talk them through with your boss and agree on objectives, and what support you need from your boss/organisation in order to achieve them.

Ask for feedback – and ask those who you know will be brutally honest. If there are things about the way you behave or present yourself  that are holding you back from getting that promotion, then you need someone who’s going to be really honest with you about them, otherwise you will never have the opportunity to do something about it.”

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.”

One doesn’t have to be friends with every person in the company

Kemetia Foley, USA: “Be professFoley, Kemetia - USAional. Dress professionally. Ask questions. Understand the corporate culture and mission of your employer/company. Invest in a headshot photo and make certain you have a relevant LinkedIn profile. Engage with other administrative professionals and leaders in the office support domain. My quote: ‘Administrative professionals are only as good as their resource network.’

I belong to IAAP, the International Association of Administrative Professionals, and have earned its certification, Certified Administrative Professional with a speciality in Organisational Management. I have held many leadership roles with IAAP, and am just finishing up my term as Local Area Network Director for Washington, DC. I also have memberships in The American Society of Administrative Professionals and National Business Education Association.”

It’s important to look after yourself and ensure you have balance in your life

Melanie Richardson, England: “I’m a member of The PA Hub, which is a regional PA networking group run by Marion and Jon Lowrence. I’m also a Fellow of the UK’s Executive & Personal Assistants Association (EPAA) run by Victoria Darragh.

I’m a big believer that yoRichardson, Melanie - UKu 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.”

Click any name below for the full interview from any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers


A thought for your day, with my good wishes …

Don’t give up on your dreams,

or your dreams will give up on you

– John Wooden

Day Six: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 6 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’m happy to bring you Day Six 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 this post to learn more.

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


Take charge of your own career; ask for extra training as and when required

Whitehead, Louise - UK - 2017Louise Whitehead, England: “There are so many PAs whose advice and friendship I value deeply – it can be an isolating role, and I am grateful for the support and friendship we offer each other.

I do have a degree but I remain unconvinced as to the necessity of it for a PA. I do, however, believe strongly in the importance of professional development, and I look for training and development opportunities wherever possible. I regularly attend networking and developmental events in my own time, and I also attend conferences … a fantastic way to learn new skills and meet fellow PAs to share knowledge, skills and support.”

I believe that getting more digitized will broaden our job opportunities

Solveig Kristensen-fargeSolveig Kristensen, Norway, on digitization: “I believe that our work days will be more flexible than today and … that we will be more efficient by working even more with digitalized apps, web pages and online programs. This will reduce the manual work and make us better able to monitor and track many of our tasks.

I believe that getting more digitized will broaden our job opportunities, meaning you may be able to get a job in a company situated in a country or area further from where you live.

Focus on two things: 1) Work on keeping an open mind and eye to all the new digital developments; know what is going on and do not fall behind by thinking this is too complicated for me or not interesting at all. 2) Work on your social skills. This is what will separate us humans from all the AI in the future, and this is what will be our one and only asset that the AI can not take from us.”

Get to know some of the people with roles you aspire to, to see what their career path has been

Lesley Dexter, England: “Don’t think that you can’t get to the same position as people who inspire you; their career paths are probably not that different to your own.

… There are many wDexter, Lesley - UKays of keeping up to date with professional developments, not least networking and meeting other EA/PAs, either in person or by linking on social media.

The main aim of our East Midlands PA Network is to connect EAs and PAs through training and networking opportunities to share best practice, inspire each other, and develop collaborative relationships.”

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

Stacey BreBrewer, Stacey - USAwer, USA (watch for Stacey’s upcoming interview, which I’ll publish January 23/19): “My involvement within IAAP (the International Association of Administrative Professionals), in terms of the educational and leadership development opportunities, has been the single most contributing factor to my professional success as an admin. The knowledge and skills I’ve gained helped me stand out among my peers and heavily influenced my being offered my current position.

Also, simply having this vast network of like-minded individuals at your finger tips is an invaluable resource. The executives I’ve supported have always been impressed by my vast IAAP network and my ability to leverage those connections in ways that benefitted them as well.”

Have conversations that not only find solutions, but build relationships

Katherine Vaillancourt, CVaillancourt, Katherine - Ontarioanada; originally from the Philippines: “You have to do what you love. I not only enjoy being an EA; I love it. I thrive on not knowing what will happen the next day, but also know that I am making a difference in someone’s life.

Also, you can’t stop learning; by continuing to learn, you not only advance yourself but it gives you a bit of an edge on what’s up and coming!”


Never stop learning; it is beyond arrogant to think you know everything about the profession

Kerry Dawson, England: “If yoDawson, Kerry - UKu have an issue, somewhere in the world is someone who has had the very same problem and has worked through it. Ask for help on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. The PA profession can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Network, network, network. The whole world is at your fingertips. It has never been so easy to network with subject matter experts and you don’t even have to leave the house to do it. Make social media work for you if you can’t network face-to-face.”


Never take your networks for granted or abuse them; make sure you give them the attention required

Stacey King, AusKing, Stacey - Australiatralia: “Getting out of your comfort zone can be frightening, and this is where having a mentor who will have an honest conversation with you will help you recognise when it’s time to move beyond your comfort zone. When I have identified an area I need to address, I reach out to specific people in my network; this is initially a request to catch up over coffee. I have found that my connections are more than happy to share their expertise, make recommendations and offer ongoing encouragement.

I am quite reserved and will do my best to not draw attention to myself in a social setting. I shared this little secret of mine with Stephanie Paulissen and Maria Wallace, Australian Institute of Office Professionals (AIOP) ACT Committee members, when I joined the Committee. They both have been very supportive and encourage me to speak publicly every month; this is something I will continue to do in 2018.”

Know your worth!

Karen Richmond, Scotland: ” Richmond, Karen - ScotlandKnow your worth! Looking back to when I started as a PA in a factory office, I’m amazed at how sexist attitudes were (from both male and female colleagues).  I’m glad that has changed, but I do think it is important for young people to realise how valuable they are to an organisation and to realise their self worth.

Use every opportunity to work with different people. You can learn so much from peers, those in different roles, different executives, etc. Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries a little and step outside your comfort zone now and again. Look at all the online resources available and, if you are unable to network with peers within your organisation, join one of the many online networks and groups available. Just go for it.”

Prepare ahead for performance appraisals: regularly update your CV or a separate document with your accomplishments

Susan Henderson, EnHenderson, Susan - Englandgland: “Ensure you have a career plan and work on developing this with your boss to ensure your growth.  Know your worth and value yourself. Join online groups/networks via LinkedIn or pa-assist.com, and subscribe to magazines such as PA Life, Executive PA or Executive Secretary with Lucy Brazier.

Definitely get on social media (there is a whole community out there who will support you) and enhance your networking skills. Always show willingness to attend appropriate training and keep your IT skills up to date – there are always new tricks to learn.

Update your CV regularly with your accomplishments, or keep a separate document which you can refer to at appraisal time. If you do not keep a note, you are likely to forget something crucial which could cost you a promotion or a salary increase. Ask your firm to support your career development and invest in your training.”

Click any name below for the full interview from any of the Real Careers alumni featured in 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers