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 Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Turkey, the USA and Wales, and now make our way to Athens, Greece to visit with Eleni Rizikianou.
A Positive Start to the Day
A good day starts with an early rise and shine at approximately 6:00 a.m. every day. I have a quick shower and a quick breakfast as I look at the news online. I have a 20 km / 12 mile drive to work from home, so I need to be ready and take off at 7:00. I always listen to music when I drive and it’s not rare for me to sing while I’m driving. If you want to achieve high performance you need to also be in a high mood, don’t you think?
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? My playlist has a variety of choices, including mainstream songs from the last 40 years, but also many highly sentimental Greek songs.
At the Office
Morning Routines: Of course the first thing I do when I arrive at the office every day is to open the windows for fresh air. Then, I make myself a hot coffee to start my office day. Next I start my computer and check the emails, the media and my to do list (whatever some may say, a to do list, properly structured, is important for an assistant).
Primary Responsibilities: I am the PA to the CEO, but also the supervisor of the other three assistants in the office. It’s my responsibility to organise daily tasks and follow up on progress. My duties include procurement transactions, customer care and communication, payroll, accounting, invoicing, travel arrangements, IT tasks, supervising the work of the other assistants, providing secretarial help to all colleagues as needed, and actively participating in the decision making progress.
What does a typical day, if there is such a thing, look like? You raised the question properly, because there is no such thing as a typical day. Some of the tasks that must be done every day, though, include checking messages, following up on running tasks, coordinating with colleagues, and redefining priorities with the CEO and the other assistants. From there, the day will evolve according our daily projects and whatever may unexpectedly come up. Our work has no predictability as it depends on random events, such as a flood, an earthquake and other unexpected events. The company’s core services are loss adjustments and risk surveys.
How long is your work day? Thankfully, my work day lasts eight hours. Of course sometimes we will work past the traditional hours, but this is not something that happen very often. The company’s policy is to not overwork their employees.
What might be a typical lunch? A typical lunch would be a sandwich at my desk. I don’t like to get away from the office as I get distracted a lot, so I prefer to eat a sandwich while checking on the news.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? You know that a committed employee, as I would like to think of myself, cares about the company all the time. So yes, I will work from home if that is necessary, especially if we are dealing with something unexpected such as a big fire or something like that.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? My opinion has value and it is taken under consideration. So I think twice before I speak, because I have learned to note many factors in order to express a point of view: Is what I am saying feasible? How does it affect the others? How does it affect the company? Is there any other possible solution?
I don’t believe in luck; I believe in making things happen
What do you most enjoy about your career? I’m not just a company’s employee. I am a member of a team that manages the company day by day, with a specific plan. There are ups and downs, of course, but with results and progress. I don’t believe in luck; I believe in making things happen.
On Saying “No”
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.
Never be afraid to express your opinion with courtesy and high emotional intelligence
I love to travel, spending time with my friends, partying, going to the cinema, the theatre and cultural events. I also enjoy staying at home and reading a lot.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? My preferable reward is a weekend on the mountains or by the sea.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? That would be staying in (at least) a four-star hotel with all the amenities. What can I say? I like being spoiled!
Education and Professional Development
Education: As I didn’t have a degree when I started my career, I would say that my education was not a source of support. I chased my career step by step. Of course this happened 25 years ago, and these days I don’t think I could go anywhere without a degree.
Being a EUMA member has helped me a great deal
Peer and Professional Associations: I am a EUMA (European Management Assistants) member. I was National Public Relations Officer for EUMA Greece from 2010 to 2014 and currently I am the Website Coordinator for the European site. Being a EUMA member has helped me a great deal in terms of understanding the diversity of other countries, and understanding the role of the modern assistant. It has also given me the opportunity to work in a business environment with other assistants; it was and still is a big school for me.
I am also a member at large of IAAP, the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Slideshare and Levo. Facebook is more personal and fun, while I use Linkedin professionally. I also use Twitter professionally but also for media. I use Instagram is mainly for photos and Pinterest is for everything.
To be linked in on social media is a one-way road. You can’t say you don’t like social media channels, or you don’t know how to use them. If you are a professional assistant, you will find the way.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A flexible app that could allow you to share files, meetings and news with your colleagues
My opinion has value and is taken under consideration – and so I think twice before I speak
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Clinique super powder and Mac eyeliner
Heels or flats in the office? Flats. For your commute? Also flats. Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Camber and El Naturalista
Preferred scent: CK1, Bulgari Omnia, and Prada Milano
What might we find in your desk drawer? Pencils, a ruler, highlighters, finisher, Blanco, and a stapler
Trust is something to be gained
Inspirational reads? Authors: Irvin Yalom, Jorge Bucay, John Steinbeck, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nikos Kazantzakis and Oscar Wilde
Books: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry… Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck … Siddhartha by Herman Hesse … Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse … A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith … and many, many more!
Role models or mentors? Many people gave me examples, good and bad, through their behaviour over the years. My parents were my first mentors because they taught me to be the person I am today. My managers were my mentors because they inspired me to grow and they pushed me to my limits. I have met wonderful people through the years, people I admire and who inspire me by their work and attitude.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. This was always a tough question for me. At first I couldn’t find any and then I realised I’m proud of myself for everything I do. I am proud of hiring the right assistants for our team, of being able to see behind the resume and understand candidates’ strengths and weaknesses – and embrace them both.
I usually deal successfully with conflicts, and I have the ability to calm others by listening actively to what they have to say.
I am also proud of being able to study at the age of 46! Yeah!
On time management: the ability to accept the change of priorities is key
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would like to be a trainer of assistants within the next two years, have my own blog, and earn the IAAP’s (International Association of Administrative Professionals’) CAP (Certified Administrative Professional) certification.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Be kind, stay away from gossip, be honest and never be afraid to express your opinion with courtesy and high emotional intelligence. Trust is something to be gained by your principals, so be the kind of person who adds value to the team.
I have the ability to calm others by listening actively to what they have to say
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Honesty is the best policy, but to know how to maneuver is even better.
Talk with your manager, get to know each other. Learn how s/he wants things to run at the office and put your personal vibe to the procedure. Understand your executive’s background. This could give you the kind of information you need about her/his management style. Ask about the company’s history, and show your interest in the organisation for which you work. Let your manager know about your personal values and goals, which should also be reflected in your work, not only in your words. The alignment of words and actions shows professionalism.
On Eleni: Knowing who I am and where I want to go
Your most effective time management strategy? Every one of us has seen all time management tools fail during a busy day. Nevertheless, I believe that the ability to accept the change of priorities is the key. Don’t try to stick to what was previously decided. Be flexible and constantly separate the urgent from the important.
Control freaking never helped anybody or their environment. So try to be calm and businesslike in your day to day tasks.
The alignment of words and actions shows professionalism.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: A manager should learn to trust her/his assistant the same way the assistant should learn to trust the manager. If you want your assistant to reach full potential, you need to ensure you don’t micromanage. Let your assistant utilise his or her skills and knowledge. Trust is the base of a successful business relationship – and, as a matter of fact, of every relationship!
For those interested in promotion: 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.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Eleni referenced may be interested in checking the following links.
- EUMA: European Management Assistants
- IAAP: International Association of Administrative Professionals