Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Breda Shanahan of County Limerick in the Republic of Ireland.
Breda Shanahan is an Executive Assistant at Kerry Group. Here’s a look at her world.
The human alarm clock
My day usually kicks off at 6:45am when my five-year-old human alarm clock appears by my bedside! Then it’s a healthy breakfast followed by a large cup of tea and a quick scroll through LinkedIn and my emails. I drive to and from work, which takes 30 minutes each way. I enjoy this time in my car; it’s quite therapeutic!
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I like to listen to news and weather updates during my commute, and occasionally I will call family members for a quick catch up.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: I assist two senior executives across two separate functions within our organization: the Kerry Agribusiness General Manager and the Vice President of Kerry Business Services. Key responsibilities include coordinating business reviews and management routines, serving as an internal and external point of communication, and undertaking project management as required. I ensure the preparation and delivery of all aspects of meetings, and manage all travel requirements, expenses and other general duties.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be honest and eager to learn.
Morning Routines: On arrival at the office, I will review calendars, action any priority emails, check voice mails and prepare a fresh to do list. I make more tea and, after that, the day can take any direction! How long is your work day? My core hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? I very recently started to walk for 10 – 15 minutes two or three days a week. If we don’t look after ourselves, we are unable to look after others!
What might be a typical lunch? We are very lucky to have a nice onsite restaurant with many healthy eating options. I normally go with a healthy wrap for lunch, or a hot meal on a cold day.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Prioritizing and balancing the workload to maximize my time
I really enjoy connecting with new people across the globe every day
What do you most enjoy about your career? I am incredibly proud to work for Kerry Group, a world leader in taste and nutrition and a leading supplier of value consumer brands.
I am incredibly proud to work for Kerry Group
Our organization started from very humble beginnings and has grown into a global giant, making it one of Ireland’s greatest success stories. I really enjoy connecting with new people across the globe every day. I love all aspects of my role. No two days are ever the same!
On Saying “No”
I struggle with saying “no”. However, I am improving … You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no!
Take chances and roads less travelled, and always learn from your mistakes
I was born in Co. Kerry. I currently live in Co. Limerick and work in Co. Cork! The South West is the best! At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Country mouse all the way! How do you like to spend your time away from the office? Reading and gardening
How long have you been in this career? 6.5 years What might we find in your desk drawer? Hairbrush, lip balm, perfume and stationery!
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? With a glass of wine and catch up on TV!
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? When and if we get sunshine in Ireland, I love to travel around our beautiful Emerald Isle with my family! Outside of Ireland, I would choose the Greek Isles, Santorini in particular, or cruising the Caribbean.
Education and Professional Development
Peer and Professional Associations: 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.
How has your APAI membership helped you? I read and share lots of the articles they publish, and it also helps me to connect with EAs & PAs within my organization and also externally. What are members’ primary means of communication? LinkedIn – I am a huge fan.
Networking is a really valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from others’ success, attain new contacts and showcase your organization
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? I’m an excellent communicator, organized and detail orientated and a master of time management.
Role models or mentors? My parents are my role models. They always worked very hard and instilled this in me from a young age. My two bosses are my mentors!
Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. I won the 2011 Best Travel Professional in Ireland award at the Irish Travel Trade Awards.
What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and expense tracking? I use Concur for tracking expenses, and also as a travel booking tool.
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. Write down some of the key things you want to get out of your job search before you embark upon it.
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Study the company and know your CV!
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Take chances and roads less travelled, and always learn from your mistakes.
What are a couple of suggestions you’d offer that new assistant on the block, in terms of how to build effective business relationships within the office? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be honest and eager to learn.
Your most effective time management strategy? Keep your inbox clean, and keep a to do list. Review it each morning and prioritize tasks in order of importance.
Advice for a new parent returning to the workplace? Take it one step at a time and ease yourself back in gently.
I’m an excellent communicator, organized and detail orientated and a master of time management
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive / principal?
For those interested in promotion? Offer solutions, establish a development plan and look the part.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Breda mentioned may be interested in checking the following.
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