Real Careers: Jannie Oosterhoff

Join me on a virtual trip to the Netherlands! 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.

Jannie Oosterhoff is an Interim (freelance) Assistant (Office and Business Support) and the National Chairman of IMA (International Management Assistants) Netherlands. Here’s a look at her world.

An Informed Start to the Day

Normally I get up at 6:00 a.m., but that also depends on where I have my assignment. After some quality time with the cat I have some breakfast and read a financial newspaper. After a quick check of social media, I’m on my way.

I drive to work and my commute will vary, depending on the location of my assignment. Who or what is on your commuting playlist or podcast? I have several phone calls during my commute, but I also listen to the news or music from one of my favorite music stations, 538.


At the Office

Primary Responsibilities: I ensure the effective running of all the activities of my clients. That means that I manage email accounts and diaries, plan various meetings, record minutes, guard proactive action lists, plan various events, make presentations and book travel. In addition, I also participate in projects.

Morning Routines: After wishing my colleagues a good morning and starting up the computer, I get water and tea. After checking the diaries and email, I start preparing meetings and work on my to do list.

How long is your work day? I usually work four days a week, between 8:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at an assignment, but I’m always available for my clients. I also work during the evenings and on weekends. As a self-employed person, I also dedicate time for administration and acquisition. Besides that, I also need time for IMA and for my Bachelor of Business Administration studies.

You are the director of your own career

Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you  or your clients adopted any steps to support good health? One of my previous clients arranged to have fruit available for us. Another arranged fitness subscriptions for the staff. Since I have a Fitbit, I have to walk a lot of steps each day. I believe in getting up and changing activities after one hour at the desk.

What might be a typical lunch? I’ll have sandwiches, fruit and soup at my desk. Sometimes I need some fresh air and I take a walk.

Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I’m always on the job and available for my clients.

Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role?  As an interim assistant, this depends on who you work for and how long the assignment lasts.

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? As an interim assistant, that would be ensuring that I add value to the organisation. What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy the variety of activities, the contacts with different people from different organisations, booking travel and being involved in the business.

If you say no and you also have a “Plan B”, it makes it much easier to say no

On Saying “No”

Sometimes I have to say “no” to people. But you can say it in different ways. If you say no and you also have a “Plan B”, it makes it much easier to say no.


Jannie’s World

Map of worldI was born and raised in the north of the Netherlands. Now I live with my cat in a suburb of Assen, a city in the northern Netherlands. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I prefer the city, but I also like the country life. On weekends, I usually spend time with my partner, who lives in a rural area.

How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I enjoy quality time with my partner, his three daughters, my friends and family. I also enjoy travelling.

How long have you been an admin. professional? For more than 25 years  What was your first such role? My first role as an admin. professional was at a road construction company. There, I was the only woman in a company that employed 60 men.

 How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I do so with a good book, or a nice dinner and a good wine with my partner. A few years ago, I did a significant wine course at the Wine Academy in the Netherlands, so I can also call myself a wine professional. I’ve also made great wine study trips to France, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Chile and Argentina.

 A dream holiday or travel adventure? A nice trip to New Zealand is on my bucket list, as is visiting interesting vineyards.

Dream, dare and do it

Education and Professional Development 

Education: Ongoing education and skills development are necessary for me, and you have to invest in them. In the past, I have followed two programs at Business University Nyenrode: Foundations of Corporate Goverance and Stratego for Women. Two years ago, I began my studies to earn a Bachelor of Business Administration.

Professional Associations: I have been an active IMA member since 2015. I’m also a member of the Dutch Association of Executive Secretaries (NVD). In addition, I also regularly attend network meetings that are unrelated to my profession. Networking is very important for a management assistant. I wrote about this on LinkedIn; click here to read the article.

Tell us about your leadership role in IMA. I’ve been the National Chairman of IMA (International Management Assistants) Netherlands since October 1st of last year.

How have these networks or associations helped you? They help me with my professional development, sharing my experiences and expanding my network. What are the primary means of communication within your professional associations? For me, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and WhatsApp very important.

Inspirational reads? Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by his former PA Zelda La Grange, and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

Digital disruption: You have to be aware of the changes, and know what it means for your job and your professional development

Role models or mentors? Lucy Brazier is an important person in my professional career, as are IMA members and other peers.

At this point, I have a personal coach who guides me through many developments in a short period of time.

Zelda La Grange is very special. I met her a year ago in Johannesburg, where we were preparing for the September 2017 international IMA conference in The Hague. When I was leaving Johannesburg, I met a Dutch couple. The man was reading Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, and I was a little bit surprised. The man asked me why, and I told him I’d met Zelda three days before. Then he was surprised. I told him about IMA and our preparations for the conference in The Hague. He asked me if  Zelda might possibly also speak at another event in The Hague, and introduced himself as a member of the Council of State – the highest advisory board of King Willem Alexander.

Two days before the international IMA conference, Zelda La Grange also gave a speech at the Council of State. I was allowed to attend, and it was one of the most impressive moments in my life

Jannie has been the National Chairman of IMA Netherlands since October 2017

Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. That would be starting my own company almost two years ago. It has given me a lot of freedom and space, and it’s given me a great opportunity to get to know different organisations.

What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? I dream, dare and do it. I did it when I started my own company, and when I decided to be the new National Chairman of IMA Netherlands.

What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? I’ll continue my Business Administration  studies, and perhaps take a course in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and governance.

Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I’ll finish my Business Administration degree and gain more knowledge about all kind of developments.

Developmental goals: completion of Business Administration degree, and perhaps a course on AI and governance

The Digital Age, and Evolution of the Assistant’s Role

imageWhat are your preferred forms of social media? Those are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Being active and visible on social media is also important for your career.

Do you maintain, monitor and/or publish to a website as part of your professional responsibilities? I publish, and also “like” and give comments on topics.

What apps do you make use of in your professional life? Adobe Scan, OneNote, and Dropbox  Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? I would love to have an app with more travel booking tools, or a recording app for minutes.

Describe any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. Social media can also help you to get a new job or assignment, and it is very important for your visibility.

Have you used technology to digitize processes or materials in your workplace? Yes; several. Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? Yes.  Tell us about both the positive and adverse impacts that 24:7 availability via smartphones and so on may have had on your quality of life. I want to be available for my clients and for other people. I decide whether or not to immediately respond.

Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital, or paper-based? Now, almost everything is digital. Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals? At this moment, I use SharePoint for meetings.

I am curious about new things

Digital Innovation and Disruption

Let’s talk about the pace of change in the admin. world in general. I welcome it. For some people, change is difficult. For me, it is a challenge. I am curious about new things. That’s also a reason why I’m reading so much.

What about the impact of Digital Assistants and AI (Artificial Intelligence) resources? The digital advantages can also give you a new opportunity to show your added value. Be aware of all the important information on a board level and act as a partner.

What do you think of IOT (Internet of Things) devices used for smart lighting, security and air conditioning, etc.?  I’m very organised and a control freak. Sometimes I want to do things by myself, and not have everything managed on my device.

Your experience and thoughts on cyber security/data security practices? I think organisations should make employees more aware of data security.

 What impact(s) do you think AI (artificial intelligence), Digital Assistants and the IOT will have on the admin. professional of 2020? You have to follow and be aware of the changes, and know what it means for your job and your professional development. Visit a network event on this subject and also meet other people than your peers.

Digital Assistants and AI can also give you a new opportunity to show your added value


Travel Planning

Travel or travel planning recommendations? For business, I often use a good business travel agency. They can save you time and money, and get you fixed prices for transportion.

For personal travel, I like to arrange plans for myself; I’ve travelled a lot in recent years. One of the most beautiful trips was 10 years ago when I travelled alone for four weeks in Argentia. When you travel alone, you make the nicest contacts.

What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and for tracking expenses? Valutacalculator, of course, and apps for searching out a good restaurant for a business dinner.

Meet people other than your peers

Lessons Learned

Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Be yourself and believe in yourself.

What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Get in contact with peers by joining a network.

Be yourself and believe in yourself

Your most effective time management strategy?  Make a daily action list, and start with little things. Take time for important things.

What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Be clear about your ambitions and your added value. You are the director of your own career.

For those interested in promotion: Be a member of a network for personal development, sharing experiences and expanding your network.


… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Jannie 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.

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