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A thought for your day, with my good wishes …

We’ve got more in common than that which divides us

– Brendan Cox

Day Five: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 5 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’m happy to bring you Day Five 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.

 

I try to embrace change, and never fear something new

Marsden, Amy - UKAmy Marsden, from England and currently 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. For those familiar with Myers Briggs tests, this is very much an ENFP characteristic I hold. 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.”

Opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared

Barbara J. (BJ) Parrish, USA: ” Be a continParrish, Barbara J. -USAuous learner who is always seeking self-improvement, including the soft skills areas such as communication, teamwork, and emotional intelligence. Opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared; be prepared when it knocks for you. Don’t wait for things to happen; make things happen.

Take on projects to learn a new skill or engage with people with whom you don’t normally work. Keep your eyes and your options open. Be fearless!”

Always bring your A game; make yourself indispensable and always be positive

rees-helen-englandHelen Rees, England: “Plan ahead. Look through your day at the start and identify hotspots, potential conflicts and potential moments of calm. Don’t keep checking email all the time; make specific time slots where you tackle emails so that you can get your other work done.

Don’t promise what you can’t achieve or deliver – if you are asked to take on a task, people would usually prefer an honest answer that gives a realistic timescale for completion (or reasons why it’s not possible) than for you to say yes and then not be able to deliver.”

Everything I am and everything I have conquered until now is because of my educational and professional interests and dedication

Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito, BrazilMarcela Silva da Conceição Brito  - Brazil-cropped: “In my first job, I was afraid of everything and everyone. I remember that I really wanted to do my best and not make any mistakes, so I did not know to say ‘no’ … I have learned that my competence and the way people must see me as an exceptional executive assistant are not related to the numbers of times I could say, ‘yes’.

Instead, they have to understand that I am committed first to my priorities in the role. So, nowadays I never say ‘no’ directly, but I ask a person about his/her priority related to the request. If it is urgent, I explain that I am also working on an important matter for the office or for my boss and, unfortunately, I will decline. Then I give him/her options, indicating someone who can help him/her. I learned to understand that people do not want your ‘yes’ all the time, but that they really need your help. If you help them, you will fulfill your mission.”

It is important to be assertive but not aggressively assertive

Harding, Paula - UKPaula Harding, England: “Over the years, my confidence and ability to say no have grown. I have realised that, whilst I can do anything, I can’t do everything. I know I am the most organised that I can be, I know I work as hard as I can, and I know that I work as many hours as I need to get my work done. That gives me a real confidence when saying no.

Sometimes the answer isn’t a straight no. It is more about managing expectations. Relationship building is a key skill for assistants, and this is crucial when managing an ever-changing workload and priorities.”

I spend time reading articles and blogs relevant to my profession

Laura Swallows, USA: “Swallows, Laura - USAI think the most important conversations you should have with a new executive are around expectations, boundaries and communication. It’s important to clearly define expectations early on and understand how and when they plan to communicate with you.

… I started Executive Assistants in CLE after my own struggle finding a mentor in this specific field. In each of my EA roles, I’ve either been the only EA in the company or one of two. Without much of an EA network, but with a determination to learn how to succeed in this career path, I took it upon myself to research local EA organizations or networking groups and found zero. That’s when I decided to utilize LinkedIn to build my own networking group. Our first meeting had six attendees, and now I’m working on coordinating our next meeting with my now 60+ members!”

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

Cathy Harris, SouHarris, Cathy - South Africath Africa: “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!

… 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.

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.”

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

 

Yours

A thought for your day, with my good wishes …

Inspire your life with action.

Make your own life.

Make your own hope.

– Bradley Whitford

Weekend Poll Results: 2018 Office & Network Holiday Parties

With thanks to all who participated, here are your responses to my questions about December office and network/association holiday parties, if you have them. Here are the results.

What do you call these gatherings?

For 57% of respondents, your organisations use the term “Christmas” parties; 48% use the term “holiday” or “seasonal” parties.

When it comes to venue, budget was the top consideration for the second time in four years. Sixty-four percent of respondents’ office events have a budget of $5K or less. At the other end of the spectrum, 14% have budgets greater than $20K.  The majority of respondents, 61%, reported that the budgets for these events are unchanged from 2017.

What about the tone?

Once again, almost eight out of every 10 such events are informal in nature. Buffet dinners are the norm for half this year’s respondents, while 43% of your events have plated meals. Canapes are on the menu for 7% of respondents.

Only 11% of respondents reported that you bring in live musicians for your holiday events. Nineteen percent rely on their venues’ pre-recorded mixes, while 30% turn to deejays. Another 41% said music isn’t a factor at your events.

Once again, the majority of respondents (70%) will rely on their selected venues for decor. The other 30% reported that their organisations bring in their own florals/other decor.

A safe return home

Most organisations are expecting people to be responsible in their drinking choices; while 26% of organisations offer taxi or Uber rides home, and another 7% provide overnight accommodation, it’s generally a case of organisations encouraging responsible choices.

Network and professional association events

Less than half the respondents reported that you’ll attend a holiday party hosted by a professional network or association. One reader perceived an assumption associated with the question. Those who reported that they do attend such events reflected on the value of networking, team spirit, spending time with friends who enjoy shared passions … and not needing to monitor or watch out for colleagues’ wellbeing!

You’ll find all the data below, including indications of just how much people do or don’t look forward to such events.

THE DATA

18_3842 Holiday-Sphere-Lights-Copyright-Shelagh-Donnelly

Note: Information below reflects the percentage of respondents who selected specific responses from multiple choice options.

1. How much do you look forward to office parties?

Enjoy-Office-Holiday-Parties

Thirty-eight percent of respondents a “1”, the lowest possible rating. Another 46% gave a “2” rating, and 15% of respondents gave a “3”.

2. Do you coordinate Christmas/holiday parties for your organisation?

  • Yes: 71% of respondents
  • No: 25% of respondents
  • I don’t, but a colleague does and I’ve turned to that person in providing my responses to this poll: 4% of respondents

3. Which of the following most closely reflects the term your organisation uses to refer to such events?

  • Christmas party/event: 57% of respondents
  • Holiday party/event: 37% of respondents
  • Seasonal party/event: 11% of respondents

4. How far in advance do you plan the office holiday party?

  • I plan the event ASAP after the prior year’s event: 18% of respondents, compared to 17% of you in 2017, 9% in 2016 and 7% in 2015.
  • I plan the event less than a month in advance: 18% of respondents, compared to 17% of you in 2017, 9% in 2016 and 13% in 2015
  • I plan the event 2-3 months in advance: 32% of respondents, compared to 31% in 2017, 18% in 2016 and 20% in 2015
  • I plan the event 3-6 months in advance: 32% of respondents, compared to 34% in 2017, 46% in 2016 and 40% in 2015

5. Which of the following is the dominant consideration in venue selection for your office holiday party?

  • Budget: 43% of respondents, compared to 44% in 2017, 8.5% in 2016 and 19% in 2015
  •  Capacity: 18% of respondents, compared to 12% in 2017, 8% in 2016 and 6% in 2015
  •  Location: 14% of respondents, compared to 17% in 2017 and 2016, and 13% in 2015
  • Venue reputation: 11% of respondents, compared to 8% in 2017, 33% in 2016 and 38% in 2015
  • Strategic considerations: 7% of respondents, compared to 2% in 2017, 8% in 2016 and 6% in 2015
  • Ambience: 7% of respondents, compared to 15% in 2017, 8.5% in 2016 and 13% in 2015

6. What is the budget for your 2018 office holiday party?

  • Less than $1,000: 43% of respondents, compared to 22% in 2017, 0% in 2016 and 7% in 2015
  • $1,000 – $5,000:  21% of respondents, compared to 26% in 2017, 37% in 2016 and 40% in 2015
  • $5,001 – $10,000: 7% of respondents, compared to 26% in 2017, 18% in 2016 and 33% in 2015
  • $10,001 – $15,000: 7% of respondents, compared to 10% in 2017, 9% in 2016 and 0% in 2015
  • $15,001 – $20,000: 7% of respondents, compared to 0% in 2017, 9% in 2016 and 7% in 2015
  • more than $20,000: 14% of respondents, compared to 16% in 2017, 0% in 2016 and 14% in 2015

7. How does the budget for your 2018 office event compare with the 2017 budget?

  • Unchanged: 61% of respondents
  • Greater than the 2017 budget: 7% of respondents
  • Less than the 2017 budget: 32% of respondents

8. Does your guest list include out-of-towners?

  •  No: 54% of respondents, compared to 56% in 2017, 12.5% in 2016 and 43% in 2015
  •  Yes: 46% of respondents, compared to 44% in 2017, 87.5% in 2016 and 57% in 2015

9. Would you describe the tone of your office holiday event as formal or informal?

  • Informal: 79% of respondents, compared to 78% in 2017, 87.5% in 2016 and 80% in 2015
  •  Formal: 21% of respondents, compared to 22% in 2017, 12.5% in 2016 and 13% in 2015

10. Which best describes the food service for your holiday event? 

  •  Buffet dinners: 50% of respondents, compared to 37% in 2017, 22% in 2016 and 36% in 2015
  •  Plated meal: 43% of respondents, compared to 29% in 2017, 67% in 2016 and 29% in 2015
  • Canapes: 7% of respondents, compared to 31% in 2017, 11% in 2016 and 36% in 2015 

11. What kind of music arrangements are typical for your office holiday event?

  • Music isn’t a factor: 41% of respondents, compared to 33.5% in 2017, 34% in 2016 and 13% in 2015
  •  We have a DJ: 30% of respondents, compared to 19.5% in 2017, 22% in 2016 and 13% in 2015
  •  We have live musicians: 11% of respondents, unchanged from 2017, and down from 22% in 2016 and 40% in 2015
  •  We rely on the venue’s muzak/pre-recorded mix: 19% of respondents, compared to 36% in 2017, 11% in 2016 and 27% in 2015

12. Please describe decor planning for your office holiday event.

  • We rely on the venue for decor: 70% of respondents, compared to 75% in 2017, 50% in 2016 and 67% in 2015
  •  We bring in our own florals/other decor: 30% of respondents, compared to 25% in 2017, 50% in 2016 and 33% in 2015 

13. Do you plan on offering door prizes at your office holiday event? 

  • No: 75% of respondents, compared to 50% in 2017, 75% in 2016 and 71% in 2015
  • Yes, we have a budget for this: 14% of respondents, compared to 29% in 2017, 12.5% in 2016 and 7% in 2015
  • Yes; we have a budget for this and also resource complimentary prizes through contacts: 7% of respondents, compared to 8% in 2017, 12.5% in 2016 and 21% in 2015
  • Yes; we turn to suppliers, partners or other contacts for this: 4% of respondents, compared to 8% in 2017 (the first year I asked this question)

14. How does your organisation support safe returns home from office holiday events?

  • It doesn’t; this is seen as each individual’s responsibility: 33% of respondents, compared to 31% in 2017
  • We encourage individual responsibility: 30% of respondents, compared to 40% in 2017, 42% in 2016 and 50% in 2015
  • We provide taxi/cab rides home: 19% of respondents, compared to 16% in 2017, 17% in 2016 and 13% in 2015
  • We reimburse for Uber rides home: 7% of respondents
  • We provide overnight accommodation: 7% of respondents, compared to 3% in 2017, 17% in 2016 and 0% in 2015
  • We encourage use of public transit: 4% of respondents, compared to 10% in 2017, 8% in 2016 2016 and 0% in 2015

15. Do you attend any holiday parties hosted by a professional network/association?

  • No: 54% of respondents  (2018 is the first year I’ve asked this question)
  • Yes; I attend one each year: 32% of respondents
  • Yes; I attend more than one each year: 14% of respondents

16. How much do you look forward to professional network/association holiday parties?

chart02

Fifty-two percent of respondents a “1”, the lowest possible rating. Another 16% gave a “2” rating, and 32% of respondents gave a “3”.

17. Please name the professional network(s)/association(s) whose holiday parties you attend. Note: While organisations received repeat mentions, I listed each organisation only once.

  • AIOP – Australian Institute of Office Professionals
  • Executive Assistant network (national) (local) assistant networks
  • IAAP
  • IMA
  • IMA Netherlands Christmas Dinner
  • Institute of Public Administration Australia (EA Series)
  • PAFSA
  • PA Hub
  • US/PS
  • There is no question in this poll about WHETHER or not we have a party. The whole premise is that everyone DOES. It’s like Christmas itself. Assumed, expected, you’re considered ‘weird’ if you don’t want to get involved. It should not be taken as an assumption that every individual, or every organisation, participates. You should have had a question near the top that says WILL your organisation be having a party this year? What about all those who say no? I would be interested to see how many there are.

18. Do you volunteer/help with the organisation of your professional network/association holiday parties?

  • No: 63% of respondents
  • I have in the past; not this year: 22% of respondents
  • Yes: 11% of respondents
  • I hadn’t thought of that; I’ll let organisers know I’m available to help with next year’s event: 4% of respondents

19. What do you most value about the holiday parties/events hosted by a professional network(s)/association(s)?

  • Connecting with my peers
  • Networking (this received repeat mentions)
  • Interaction with fellow EAs
  • Casual networking, corporate gratitude
  • I do not have to play monitor and order people to go home when they drink too much!
  • Great way to wrap up the year and connect in a relaxed way
  • Meeting my peers in an informal setting
  • The shared passion and regard for the administrative profession and a chance to celebrate and thank the volunteer committee members of my organisation (AIOP)
  • My local network doesn’t host one but they have recently expanded and this could be a good inclusive option for 2019. I may offer voluntary support!
  • Celebrating the season with cohorts; collaborating on community projects
  • I don’t. Our regional PA Network is focused on CPD & learning-led events. We do have a social element to them, of course, but we don’t tend to organise a social-only event. We struggle enough with budget for the learning events. In my workplace, we don’t have a singular Christmas event, teams & departments organise their own (we are open 7 days a week, 363 days a year, so someone is always working, and teams are widespread with very different make-ups and dynamics, so ‘one size fits all’ really doesn’t work.
  • It’s a fabulous opportunity to say hello to old friends as well as good to meet you to new ones. It’s not so much the seasonal celebrations but rather the networking and team spirit that exists within the association.