Exceptional EA

Forward

A thought for your day, with my good wishes …

You can’t look back;

you have to keep looking forward

– Lucy Liu

Day Four: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 4 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’m happy to bring you Day Four 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.

Don’t take anything personally

Eden, Debs - EnglandDebs Eden, England: “Learn from more experienced assistants, and never dismiss anyone – we all have knowledge that can be shared. Be a master of all trades; as an assistant, you’ll be asked to do all sorts of things, and you’ll need to be able to turn your hand to any tasks. Be interested in people, and in personal development – never stop learning and growing.

(on some of her role models and mentors): My great friend Victoria Darragh is incredible – she has a commercial brain that is astonishing and can get through so much work; she’s a great inspiration and a great friend. I also have a coach, Tracie Jolliff.  I made a decision in 2014 to invest my own money in a leadership coach and it’s been an incredible journey … Working with Tracie has helped me believe that I can achieve anything I want.”

You need to earn trust to own your mandate to act and make decisions

Sofie Koark, SwedKoark, Sofie - Swedenen: “… keeping up with the fast pace and deeply understanding the business, organisation, processes, systems, KPIs (key performance indicators) and company culture from the inside and out is always a challenge. If you are not at the same information level as your executives, you will not be able to be a business partner. Being curious and genuinely interested helps. I read everything that passes me by, participate in meetings, and ask when I don’t understand. You need to be at a certain level and earn trust to own your mandate to act and make decisions on behalf of the CEO/management.

… You are a leader in a support role. Lean in and steer towards what you enjoy doing and are good at. Learn as much as possible about the business and understand how the company makes money. Build a great internal and external network. Be a good ambassador. Understand that you are working in sales no matter what you do. And have a good sense of humor about it all!”

Dream bigger and reach higher

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.”

I don’t believe in luck; I believe in making things happen

Rizikianou, Eleni - GreeceEleni Rizikianou, Greece: “Never stop learning, never stop developing, never stop being a better person. Take responsibility and never put the blame on anyone; we are 100% responsible for everything that happen to us. Always keep in mind that you can’t change anyone, but you can change how you are dealing with everyone. So: change, adapt, grow up, move, lead by your example and be the kind of person who is valuable for the whole team.

… Every person has to set their own boundaries and has to find the way to do it. We owe it to ourselves in every aspect of our lives. There is no magic tip; it is constant personal development; it is knowing who I am and where I want to go. There is no such thing as an easy going life. Every one of us has to find our own path and walk it in our unique way.”

A good assistant is adroit at defusing conflicts and tension

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.”

Step out of your own way; see the bigger picture

Marshall, Catherine - USACatherine Penasa, USA: ” Essentially, I developed a network of mentors to help me along my career path and give me good advice. The challenging part of this was listening when sometimes I wanted to do things my own way, and trying to see the bigger picture. Once I was able to see the bigger picture, taking and following good advice was a benefit in my career.

My career role model or mentor has been an amazing woman named Ann Dahlke. I met her when I joined the (International Association of Administrative Professionals) IAAP. She took me under her wing and taught me how to take advantage of opportunities to gain experience and growth …  I thought to myself that I wanted to have a successful career just like hers. Since I met her, she has been there every step of my career so far, and I hope we can always remain friends no matter what our careers hold for us.”

You should believe in yourself and accept that mistakes are just part of the learning process

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.”

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.”

You must build a bond of trust and transparency

Matthew Want, England: ” (Want, Matthew - EnglandMake) sure you don’t try and run before you can walk. When I first started I really wanted to be like other aspiring assistants I met, but I soon learnt that they had once been where I was and that only by being patient and learning what the role fully entails would I be able to reach that level.

(Make) sure that you have a clear strategy of what needs prioritising for your boss and yourself. It is key that you make sure you are continually on top of what your boss needs so you can make her/his workload easier – and, in return, helping manage the workload for yourself.”

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

 

People

A thought for your day, with my good wishes …

Would you just take 10 seconds with me

to think of the people who have helped you

become who you are

– Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)

Day Three: 2018’s 12 Days of Real Careers

Day 3 - 12 Days of Real CareersI’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 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.

 

Align your goals with the objectives of the organisation

Julia Schmidt, NoSchmidt, Julia - Brazil/Norwayrway (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.

… Continuous improvement must be included in any career plan. I am studying something new all the time. It opens doors and gives you confidence.  I speak five languages, and have a bachelor’s degree and two masters. I am now studying Business Administration. I am doing a short version. I want to improve my financial knowledge since I am working with a CFO.”

Listen more and talk less

Adamson, Rebeka - New ZealandRebeka Adamson, New Zealand: “Listen more and talk less. I had an ego in my early working life, and was not prepared to listen to experienced colleagues. I was opinionated and closed-minded; I think I burned a few bridges by behaving this way. Looking back, I had access to fantastic mentors who could have made a much bigger impact on my career if I’d let them.

Thankfully, I have learnt my lesson and have grown from adopting a much humbler approach; I strive to be a good role model for others beginning their careers. “

Use training needs analysis to establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant trainings

Angela Downey, EnglanDOWNEY, Angela - Englandd: “It (Artificial Intelligence) is already here, and maybe there’s room for all of us! It’s a culture change, but AI is another tool in the box to complement your role and it can be embraced. The assistant needs to adapt and rethink how to use these new skills.  Your future job may look different from your past and current jobs, so think forward; adapt and integrate these technologies.

… Look ahead – what are the skills you need to grow?  Use training needs analysis to establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant trainings – be specific. Give to others: give your time, your knowledge, and your support; the rewards are endless. Work regularly with a mentor. Use positive and creative thinking techniques to create your personal brand and get a USP (unique selling point).”

Saying yes to everyone means you’re spread too thin; learn to negotiate

Pinchin, Christabell - CanadaChristabell Pinchin, Canada: “‘No’ was not in my vocabulary early in my career. The past few years I have learned to say ‘no”. I want to help and be accommodating, but by saying yes to everybody, you are spread too thin and you can’t do your best work. My advice for others is to start small.  Learn to say ‘No, but …’ For example: ‘No, I do not have the time to help write that report, but I would be able to find a bit of time to do a final proof for you if that would be helpful.’

… Don’t be afraid to step up. Take on opportunities when presented, but don’t sit back and wait for them … put yourself out there. Be brave and share your ideas and opinions, and remember to be supportive even when your idea isn’t taken.”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking about any kind of assistant position just as a means to an end to get some ‘better’ job

James Sobczak, United StaSobczak, James - Chicago, USAtes: “There are a number of ways to think about career growth, whether it’s gaining more knowledge, insight and wisdom in your position, or shifting to a new position in a different area of the enterprise, or taking on a project as part of a department-wide or company-wide initiative that you would otherwise not be able to do. There could be promotions to senior-level or C-Suite assistant positions, and there could be promotions to the management track if that is what you wish. Consider each carefully.

You also need to really consider what a promotion means to you, what kind of promotion you want, and whether you will be happy and fulfilled in the long run, both personally and professionally.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking about any kind of assistant position just as a means to an end to get some ‘better’ job. This profession is both a means AND an end, and an immensely satisfying and gratifying one at that.”

Don’t be afraid to ask, don’t be afraid people may not like you, and don’t try to save the world

Catherine Williamson, England: “ResearcWilliamson, Catherine - Englandh development, training and networking opportunities. Never to be afraid to ask (the worst answer can be no). Not to be afraid that people might not like you, and not to try and save the world.

… (In 2013) I co-founded a network of PAs in Westminster (Network PA SW1) with a friend, Gill Quirk, who works in Whitehall, where our government departments are predominantly based. It’s gone from strength to strength and I’m incredibly proud of that. The highlight was when a group of PAs decided to set up an internal PA network following one of our meetings.”

Be aware of the issues and developments taking place in your industry, and keep on top of current affairs and the trends in the world around you

Cowan, Lorna - Northern IrelandLorna Cowan, Northern Ireland, on career advancement: “Network. Take the time to get to know other PAs; not only will it provide you with an invaluable support network, but you never know what contacts they have or knowledge they can share that can help you in your day to day role as well as your career progression.

Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Never stop learning; even if it doesn’t directly relate to your day job, you never know what contacts you’ll make and how that information can be used. Be aware of the issues and developments taking place in your industry, and keep on top of current affairs and the trends in the world around you. Be prepared for anything!”

Take ownership of your development and don’t wait for someone to hand you an opportunity

Lokken, MistiLynn -USAMistiLynn Lokken, USA: “ As admins, we have constant access to high-level data and information in our teams. Read the reports and presentations that are sent to your executive and be able to understand the information. If there is something you don’t understand – ask someone. Most importantly, take ownership of your development and don’t wait for someone to hand you an opportunity. Never stop networking!

… I have had the honor of several mentors throughout my career, including a manager early on who took me under her wing and changed my life. Bridgette saw more in me than I saw in myself and invested time in my development over the course of several years. I am a better person today thanks to her, and have committed to paying it forward by mentoring others.

Don’t let anyone undermine you or make you feel less worthy

JanBrazzill, Janee Brazzill, England: “You’re a crucial and integral part of the team … Don’t let anyone undermine you or make you feel less worthy.

I love being the go to person who, if she doesn’t know the answer, knows someone who does. I’m pretty sure I’m plagiarisng or paraphrasing when I say this but, ‘Problems aren’t problems, they’re just an opportunity to find a solution’.

 If you’re like me and you’ve constantly got a voice in your head telling you the million OTHER things that you have to do, keep a pad of paper on your desk and write down each of these to-do items as they come to you. Emptying them out of your head allows you to stay focused on the task at hand, and you won’t worry that you’re forgetting something important.”

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