Real Careers: Kristin Parker

Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Arizona’s Kristin Parker.

Kristin Parker CAP, CPCU lives near Phoenix, Arizona. Here’s a look at her world.

At work by 4:30 a.m.

I am a firm believer in early to bed, early to rise, makes a wo/man healthy, wealthy and wise. I wake up at 3:30 am without an alarm clock;I’ve always been an early riser. I get ready for work, say goodbye to my fur babies, and I’m off. I am typically at the office between 4:00 and 4:30 am always with my diet soda in hand. While I am not a coffee person, I must have that diet soda!

We moved in 2012 and now I live about seven miles from my job. This means I have about 10-15 minutes of drive time to get to work each day. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I love most all 8os music, from rock to easy listening, Poison, Def Leopard, The GoGos, Duran Duran and Juice Newton, I love it all.


At the Office

Primary Responsibilities: I am responsible for handling my executive’s calendar, and all that entails. I ensure reminders are set the way he likes and that call-in details are available for every meeting. I am responsible for handling the logistics of all organizational activities. For example, if we move locations, I schedule all activities related to the move for all our employees. I also handle ordering supplies. In addition to these activities, I’ve been given responsibility by my executive for employee experience. This means creating and passing out a monthly surprise to recognize efforts.  This is typically something small, to thank people for the work they do. I partner and collaborate with my peers to handle department-wide events, and volunteer to help in handling campus-wide initiatives. In addition, I handle my executive’s corporate credit card reconciliation and ensure that all rules and regulations are adhered to.

Morning Routines: There’s no such thing as a typical day, but keeping my routine means I’m prepared for anything. I start each day by reviewing and clearing out my inbox, and then a peer and I go for breakfast in the cafeteria. We enjoy starting our days with a bit of conversation and nourishment. Before leaving for the day, I always ensure I’ve checked my calendar for the next day and am prepared for early activities the next day.

How long is your work day? I am usually at the office 11 hours a day, and I use the extra time in the morning to work on my professional development. I am off at 3:00 pm, and I do not work during my commute. When I get home, my work phone goes on the kitchen counter, and I don’t look at it again until the next morning.  When I’m at work, that’s all I’m focused on. When I’m at home, that’s all I’m focused on. This helps me keep a healthy work/life balance. Some might argue that working 11 hours a day is not a great balance; therefore, I value the time I spend at home with my family.

Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health?  My employer has provided sit/stand desks for all employees. This is a great option that supports the health of our workforce! I set a daily reminder to remember to stand.  My employer also has an incentive program where, if you earn enough points, you will receive a percentage off your group health insurance premiums.  This is a nice way to drive healthy behaviors. I’ve already earned my points for the year!

What might be a typical lunch?  I usually eat a bigger breakfast, and snack through the rest of the day without eating an actual lunch. Sometimes my breakfast buddy and I go to the cafeteria to see what they have for lunch, but I am not a regular lunch eater. I get things at breakfast to eat at my desk throughout the day.  This increases my ability to complete my daily tasks, and to be there when my executive needs me.

Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role?  My company offers several diversity and inclusion business groups for our organization. I believe we are up to eight! I am currently a member of Adelante, which is a USAA Hispanic Diversity & Inclusion Business Group, and I look forward to the opportunity to get more involved this year.


Dealing with Challenges

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I am a perfectionist and I take pride in doing my work to the best of my ability. This can make it tough to appreciate feedback in the moment, because I can take it personally even though I know how valuable it is. What I’ve learned is to listen and thank the giver in the moment. Then I take the feedback provided and think it over, considering ways to improve for the future.

On IAAP: It is helping me to come out of my shell At heart, I am an introvert

What do you most enjoy about your career? Partnering with my executive and helping to keep him organized. Staying ahead of him by providing what he needs before he needs it. I am known for having anything someone may need, from a safety pin to a Ziploc bag.  I enjoy being the person who’s known for handling/fixing things and being prepared.


On Saying “No”

I’m often asked for assistance throughout my day. If someone asks me to do something they can do themselves, I explain how they can handle it. If needed, I provide actual directions to complete the task. The more we can encourage people to handle things themselves, the more we can focus on the important tasks at hand.


Kristin’s World

Map of worldI was born in Charles City, a small town in northeast Iowa.  When I was a teenager we moved to Arizona, where I’ve lived since. While here, I lived for a short time in Parker, the hottest part of the US, but most of my time in Arizona has been spent in the greater Phoenix area.  At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? My grandfather lived on a farm, but I do prefer the city.  It’s nice to visit the country life, but I prefer having things to do.

How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I enjoy spending time away from work with my family and fur kids.  I will admit I love spending time on my couch or in my bed watching TV.  My husband loves to get away from the city and to the outdoors, so sometimes he gets me to go on a camping outing with him. Truth be told, I’m much more interested in a pampered getaway, or “glamping” instead of camping, but I try to be a good sport.

How long have you been in this career?  I have held the title officially now for three years, but I feel like I’ve always been one. I remember organizing our toys when I was a kid. My previous manager used to utilize me for administrative work even though that was not my field, and she still will reach out for assistance.  What was your first such role? Well, my first –  and so far, only – official role is with an executive, supporting about 70 people. He recently took on another department, so I will soon be supporting him with a department of about 250 people.

Volunteering for extra projects and completing them diligently helped create a buzz about my abilities, making me a more valuable applicant

What might we find in your desk drawer? Notepads. The fact is that I love paper. I have more than 10 notepads and 10 Post-it notepads in my drawer right now, and many have been there for over three years. Spending time at the office supply store has been a love of mine since I was a kid.

How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role?  It was an internal job posting. My previous manager also had me assisting her director. I later learned that our director spoke to my current boss and told him he would be crazy not to hire me. Volunteering for extra projects and completing them diligently helped create a “buzz” about my abilities, making me a more valuable applicant.

Continuing education is extremely important, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot

How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I decompress by watching TV and I reward myself with my favorite snacks. On Sundays, we get together as a family. We go to lunch at a restaurant and then we come home to play cards. Hand and Foot is our favourite card game.

Your ideal holiday or travel adventure?  I would love to visit Hawaii. I enjoy road trips, and the family has travelled several times from Arizona to Iowa to visit relatives. My husband enjoys off-roading, and sometimes I go with him. I’ve had the opportunity to go to Cancun once, and really enjoyed beach living and exploring the ruins in the area there.  I was not excited about the humidity there, but you take the good with the not so good.


Education and Professional Development

I am a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), and hold a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation. I also hold several designations in the insurance industry. I feel that continuing education is extremely important, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. I watch several webinars free of charge every month, and have subscribed to a couple more, so on average I watch at least four webinars per month.

On average, I watch at least four webinars per month

How does your membership in IAAP help you? It is helping me to come out of my shell. At heart, I am an introvert, and it is helping me get comfortable participating in groups. 

Do you hold (or have you held) a leadership role within IAAP? I was asked by a peer to take over as a LAN director for our Chapter and have been handling those responsibilities for almost a year now. My, time flies! What impact has this leadership role had upon your career? It provides me a way to socialize in a small, safe group, and to work on my stage fright with public speaking.  It will provide me experience for interviews and performance evaluations.

Networking has provided a sounding board, and another way of looking at things

What are the primary means of communication for members of your Chapter? We utilize Facebook and I use it to share learning resources. I am also active on LinkedIn, and share information there as well.  

Describe any positive benefits your networking has had on your career, and/or for your employer. Networking has provided a sounding board, and another way of looking at things. When I’m asked to do something new, I now have additional resources to help me figure out the best ways to get started.

Inspirational reads? I have several books by the top names in my field.So far, I’d have to say I’ve found Laura Stack’s books the most helpful and inspiring.

Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? Organization, attention to detail, and my work ethic

Role models or mentors? I have a great group of peers at my job. While I was working in the insurance department, I watched these admins do an awesome job. Now I have the honour of working side by side with them.

Have you received any awards or recognition as an admin. professional? I received a performance award from my employer for my customer service, and I have received several kudos from my peers. The one I am most thankful for is my Eagle Admin award.  Before I held the title, I completed this program which required 90 hours of Skillsoft courses. Even though I was not an Admin at the time, my company paid for my trophy which is why it is displayed proudly at my desk.

When I’ve decided on a goal, I immediately map out how I’m going to achieve it

Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. I’m proud of my Charter Property Casualty Underwriting (CPCU) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designations.  Earning the CPCU required me to complete 11 exams on insurance, both personal and commercial, and financial aspects.  The CAP was one exam covering several different domains. Both involved a lot of work, which is why I am proudest of them both.

What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? When there is something that I’m uncomfortable doing, I’ve found it’s easier to jump in and do it rather than sitting there and thinking about it. It will bother me more to worry about it than it will to just get started, so I get started.

What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? Obtaining my Microsoft Office Certification (MOS) – I use Microsoft daily, and feel this certification will be a valuable tool in my arsenal

Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I do enjoy studying material relevant to my career, and my next goal is to complete the Microsoft Office Expert designation.


The Digital Age

imageDo you publish to, and/or monitor social media as part of your professional responsibilities?  I monitor a Facebook group page for my IAAP LAN. I monitor requests to join the group, approve and welcome those new to the group. I utilize this outlet to share free webinar resources, our IAAP LANs events, articles, and ebooks for my members.  What are your preferred forms of social media? Facebook and LinkedIn

Do you maintain, monitor and/or publish to a website as part of your professional responsibilities? No, but I am looking to put my professional portfolio on a website.

What apps do you make use of in your professional life? Workday, Secure Mail, Skype and Outlook  Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? Improved voice recognition

When I get home, my work phone goes on the kitchen counter, and I don’t look at it again until the next morning

Have you used technology to digitize processes or materials in your workplace? I’ve utilized OneNote to create a Procedure Manual. This has helped in onboarding new peers, and has been shared with all admin on our campus.

Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? Yes.  Tell us about both the positive and adverse impacts that 24:7 availability via smartphones, etc. may have had on your quality of life. Although they provide me a phone, when I get home, it goes on the kitchen counter, and I don’t look at it again until the morning.

Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital (relying on portals and/or PDFs of meeting materials), or paper-based? Digital all the way

It’s not unusual to read that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increasingly impact employment prospects across a range of occupations. What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age?  Don’t be afraid of technology, and if you don’t know how to use it, learn how.  Don’t worry about what is to come, focus on the now and being the best you that you can be!


Travel Planning

Travel or travel planning recommendations? I have used only our company’s Concur site to schedule travel for my executive. Except for the Cancun trip, which was an all-inclusive package, most of my personal travel has been road trips here or there. I found that I really enjoyed the all-inclusive option and having less worries. In the future, I’ll always check out these kinds of packages.

What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and expense tracking? We don’t use any apps or programs for tracking expenses. My executive takes a picture of a receipt with his phone and texts it to me. I email it to my work email address, and then print it out. We do use the Carlson Waggonlit travel app, and we have also used TripIt.


Lessons Learned

You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Make sure you keep a living resume that you update regularly. Tailor your resume for each job, so it is specific to the job you apply for. Get at least 10 examples to showcase your work and practice your interview responses with a friend or family member.

Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews.I like to breathe deeply to relax before an interview, and assume a power pose for two to four minutes (think Wonder Woman) to increase the confidence I project.

What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Be open for change and prepared for anything. Each day will be a new adventure. Identify those who you can go to for advice and cultivate those relationships.

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? Inquire about the executive’s preferred method of communication – text, email, or IM. Ask about expectations for returned communication.

What have you learned about goal setting? When I’ve decided on a goal, I immediately map out how I’m going to achieve it. I make sure I identify any tools or resources needed to help me in achieving my goal. I set a timeline so I ensure I meet my deadlines and can identify and take action if I’m falling behind.

Your most effective time management strategy? I’ve found that listing my tasks in Outlook has helped me a lot. I have it open all day, and my to do list is right there for me.

What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? I would advise a meeting with your executive to determine their priorities and expectations. Learn about the kinds of activities you will be responsible for scheduling.  While new in my position, I learned I would be asked to schedule lunches, sometimes with very little notice. Creating a list of popular restaurants that provided catering was very helpful.

When I’m at work, that’s all I’m focused on.

When I’m at home, that’s all I’m focused on.

For those interested in promotion: Network with those in the field you’re interested in, and gain insights. Ask people what they love about their career and any advice they have for a newcomer.



… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Kristin mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.

To explore a range of resources recommended by readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page or click here to see all professional associations and networks recommended by peers.

Exceptional EA showcases Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to 23 countries to date: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates , the United States of America and Wales.

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