Exceptional EA is pleased to showcase Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to Canada, England, the Netherlands, Scotland, South Africa and the USA, and now make our way to Brussels, Belgium to visit with Chantal Sneijkers.
Care of Dogs, and Off into Traffic
I get up every morning around 6:00 a.m. I have to because the traffic jam I’m facing every day is quite heavy so I try to leave quite early. I have some coffee and some bread, take a shower and take care of my two German Shepherds.
My trip to the office is normally a 35 minute drive but due to traffic jams, it takes me 75 minutes. It doesn’t bother me any more; I’m used to it and I know every small road in order to avoid traffic jams. In that way sometimes I see a great sunrise in the middle of the Brussels landscape.
I listen to the national radio to catch some news but sometimes I’ll have a CD with my favourite singer, Marco Borsato (he’s Dutch and I adore him). What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? You will hear me with every disco song.
At the Office
Morning Routines: Most of the time, I am the first one to enter the office. I love it. It gives me time for my morning ritual: having a coffee, checking my mail and calendar for the day. After I have checked my mailbox and my agenda, I prepare everything my manager needs during the coming day. I attend a lot of meetings so I have to be prepared.
Arriving early also gives me time to do some EUMA (European Management Assistants) work. EUMA is the association of management support professionals, and I am EUMA’s Deputy European Chairman.
Primary Responsibilities: I work at a commercial television station. My boss is the programme director; she is responsible for what our viewers see on their screens. However, this also means she deals with press communication, marketing, digitalization and acquisition. In the media, a programme manager’s job is quite heavy and so my days are heavy, as well. She counts on me 24/7 because we are live all the time. It’s a heavy job but I love doing it.
How long is your work day? I start my day between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. and I never leave the office before 6:00 or 6:30 p.m.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? Most of the time I eat some soup with bread. During the summer I sometimes switch to a salad. Quite often my manager and I have lunch outside the office; this gives us some quality time to spend together.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I sometimes work from home, but that’s rather exceptional. I have a lot of meetings during the day and it’s not always possible to reschedule them.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I have a heavy workload, so getting everything done within the deadlines is the most challenging.
Build a career of substance, with meaningful job content
What do you most enjoy about your career? I never know how my days are going to develop. I like that there is no routine.
On Saying “No”
That’s my big problem. It appears every year in my evaluation: “Chantal has to say ‘no’.” I’m working on it.
I was born and still live in Belgium, in a little town called Lede, between Brussels and Ghent. I’m a country person. I like to spend time with my husband, my family and friends and my two German Shepherds: a good walk, some good food and drinks and some shopping time. It’s a good balance of everything.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? At a fine restaurant with a glass of wine, or an evening in – on my sofa under a nice fleece blanket.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? California – I hope to go there when I turn 50.
Education and Professional Development
Tell us about education, professional development and role models or mentors: I’ve been a member of EUMA (European Association for Management Assistants) since 2002. I have always been a very involved member. I have been Chairman of the Belgian group, Conference Manager for the organisation of the 2007 annual conference in Belgium, and member of the European Committee as the European PR Officer. Since October 2014, I have served as the Deputy European Chairman.
Involvement in professional associations is professionally and personally enriching
Being a member of EUMA 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.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I like Facebook. It’s a window to the world and a great way to stay in touch.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A Belgian Traffic app, to get me to my office more easily
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? My lipstick and eye pencil
Heels or flats? Heels in the office, and flats for the commute.
Preferred scent: Mademoiselle, by Chanel
What might we find in your desk drawer? Everything I need for a day in the office and some personal stuff
Travel or travel planning advice? Use regular airlines and good hotel groups. Go for quality rather than the cheap option.
Inspirational reads? It’s not helping me, it’s relaxing me: I have all Danielle Steel’s books.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. Before I joined the commercial television station, I worked at the public television station’s sports department as a management assistant. In that role, I was able to attend the Olympic Games of Beijing in 2008. I was responsible for the logistics of our team and it was a great, unique experience.
Work hard and prove yourself
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? My main goal is to have content in my job. I don’t mind doing diary management but I want to know what I do and I want to understand it. As long as I have that, I’m happy.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Be discrete. Sometimes, early in my career, I got emotional and I wanted to help people so I talked too much. I’m still an open book but I have become much more discrete.
Your most effective time management strategy? Get to the office early, put on some good music and get on with the work. I accomplish a lot before everybody else comes in.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Be open, be transparent, give confidence.
For those interested in promotion: Work hard and prove yourself – the rest will follow.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with EUMA Chantal referenced may be interested in checking the following link. To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.