Real Careers: Angela Downey

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 21 countries to date: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the USA and Wales.

Angela Downey is Executive PA to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University. Here’s a look at her world.

Easing into the morning with a daylight clock

I ease into my day with a daylight clock and the light gently wakes me from 5:40 a.m. My partner makes the best coffee and that is the start of the day for me.  I have a quick look at my phone for any Twitter updates, and I listen to the news as I get ready. I’m ready to leave the house around 7:15 a.m.

My commute takes 50 minutes or so, and is a combination of driving and public transport. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I listen to Smooth radio for some feel good happy music.


At the Office

Primary Responsibilities: The Deputy Vice-Chancellor is involved in lots of high level committees, so I deal with complex diary management involving large groups of people attending meetings at conflicting times – and so there is a lot of PA collaboration.

Universities have an academic cycle. Board meetings set the diary framework and I arrange operational meetings to complement that. My Exec has direct reports and I arrange for signature of finance claims, contracts, reports for submission, and annual reviews. I distribute meeting papers and arrange travel, room booking and catering, and also plan for the weeks ahead so he has everything he needs to make the best use of his time.

Morning Routines: As I log in to my laptop, I set up coffee and water for the office. I print a day calendar the previous night so I can quickly see what’s happening as I settle down. I open the Outlook calendar on one screen, emails on the second screen and scan for anything from my manger or people attending early meetings which might have a late paper attached … or something useful needed for the meetings that day. There will be several emails from overnight to catch up on. I arrive fairly early so I can do most of these before the day officially starts. I also check out the notes on OneNote  to see if my manager has asked me to do anything. I have a paper notebook which has my jottings, and a short “must do” list for the day.

I deal with urgent requests first, and then read through managers’ emails and work through my own to do list which I keep in an Outlook folder. This list can include travel booking, arranging meetings, paying invoices, and queries from direct reports to follow up with my manager. I organise tasks in an email folder so my Exec and I can quickly pick out priority items. My daily must do list will contain my three priority tasks for the day, so the day usually ends when all of those are done.

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’ve had work station assessments and the University provides the equipment  I need, which makes a huge difference – for example, I have an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, and an adjustable operator chair. We have wellbeing initiatives which promote activities to get moving via short walks around the campus, lunchtime pilates or express yoga. I tend to be very desk based. I enjoy flamenco dancing, and the floor next to our printer is the perfect place for some basic steps when nobody’s looking! The University holds a week of new interest activities called “Engage Week”, where staff can have a taster session and try a new language or craft or sport. This is a good way to spark an interest and helps wellbeing.

IMG_9639How long is your work day? I usually begin at 8:00 a.m. and finish at around 5:30 p.m. What might be a typical lunch? It’s usually at my desk. I graze on nuts, berries, grapes and carrot sticks throughout the day, but lunch would be a basic cheese sandwich and orange juice. Friday is traditionally office cake day thanks to my Exec, so I’ll leave space for a squishy custard slice!

Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Yes, but it’s of my own choice as it helps me manage my workload. I can get a lot done in the hour or so after the traditional close of business. I don’t usually do any more work after arriving home, but I do check emails on my commute and on Sundays, even though it’s not an expectation by my Exec. I keep trying different approaches, so this is evolving.

I have read many Real Careers interviews, and it’s helped me enormously to know there are other folk across the world who do the same thing I do on a daily basis

Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? I’m part of the Manchester Met PA network. It’s the best  way to meet my colleagues. We get together regularly and share ideas, concerns and opportunities. Manchester has a vibrant PA scene and there are lots of events.  I’m a member of a wider Manchester PA Network which hosts various meetups, and also attend City Co PA Network which promotes venues in Manchester that can be booked by PAs. I attend IMA (formerly EUMA) which has inspiring and engaging speakers. I enjoy hearing about how other people do their job. I’m a Fellow of EPAA, and I’m a member of AUA which a University organisation.


Dealing with Challenges

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Fitting meetings in to a packed diary and juggling urgent versus scheduled meetings.  This is my job and I get it done, but usually down to good relationships with colleagues who appreciate the difficulty of the role.

The higher education sector suits my values of education, research and personal development

What do you most enjoy about your career? I love working at Manchester Met University; I’ve  done six different admin roles here in nearly 20 years.  I have a vested interest in several areas that have built up, and a great overview of the University’s many facets. I am incredibly proud of our staff, students and alumni. I particularly enjoy people, and the higher education sector suits my values of education, research and personal development. My role as a PA enables my Exec to do the strategic and operational job he needs to do, by relying on me to do mine.


On Saying “No”

How readily and often do you say “no” to people? Not enough! We have a great team of PAs who step in to work together on high demand projects. If I have to say no, then I’ll offer an alternative suggestion such as, “No, the manager is not available for an urgent phone call; I suggest you email me and I’ll pass it to on for his response and he can respond when he can”. The caller can give the full details and my manager can decide how urgently he can respond to it. I try to make the caller take the decision by putting it back to them: “You can do this or this”. They feel listened to and given a response, through a soft no from me.


Angela’s World

Map of worldIt’s so exciting to say hello to Exceptional EA‘s readers! I have read many Real Careers interviews, and it’s helped me enormously to know there are other folk across the world who do the same thing I do on a daily basis – go, team! I was born in the North of England and moved to Manchester about 30 years ago. I’m very proud of this industrious, innovative and inclusive city.

At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Can I choose another option, to be a “seaside” mouse? I grew up by the sea and my dad is still there; I love the expanse, and it fills my soul. I’m happiest and most peaceful when I’m by the sea, so holidays and trips usually have that element. In the city, I love the convenience of culture and the arts, and so working in Manchester is a great balance.

How long have you been an admin. professional? Other than a short stint as a network engineer, I have been in admin. since 1990. What was your first role as an admin. professional? My first real job was as a training coordinator in the Civil Service. I loved identifying training needs and researching and booking training courses. This was in the “olden days” before the internet, so the database was in my head! This may have been the inspiration for me to become a qualified CIPD trainer a few years ago.

How do you like to spend your time away from the office?  I volunteered as a Brownie Guider for many years, but now spend my time at the theatre, arts, comedy, and meeting pals. My fundraising is more personal now. I ran a campaign for LupusUK last year. This year I’m focusing on raising funds for my niece who needs a life-saving operation. We need to raise £60,000 via her site,

How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? Chocolate, preferably praline, is an immediate fix.  I do value recovery time for wellbeing, and I get this by doing more of the things I enjoy rather than just just work stuff.  To decompress and reinvigorate myself, I like a good old natter with friends, quiet time to meditate, or a manicure.

 A dream holiday or travel adventure? By the sea, by a lake, by a harbour, in a bath! Do you see a watery theme? This year we are going on a cruise in the Adriatic; it’s a great way to see lots of countries in one go. We’ll see lots of ancient monuments; I love social history and finding out how people used to live.

Think forward; adapt and integrate technologies

Professional Development

Peer and Professional Associations: I’m a member of the Association of University Administrators (AUA), Manchester PA Network and EPAA, The Executive and Personal Assistants Association. I’ve also been a member of  CIPD and IMA, International Management Assistants.

How have these networks or associations helped you? It helps to understand how people work. There’s always someone in your network with information that you can tap in to; just ask, and you’ll be amazed at how many responses you get. With AUA, it’s access to, and understanding the role of the University professional, including the challenges of the role and understanding procedures.

What are the primary means of communication for members of your network(s)/professional association(s)? Email (we can quickly send a question out to our PA colleagues), Twitter and blogs … and Manchester Met PAs has a workspace which is Facebook based. I follow a number of PA organisations on Twitter. Executive Secretary hosts an admin chat every Thursday on Twitter.

 There’s always someone in your network with information you can tap in to; just ask, and you’ll be amazed

Have you ever been nominated for a performance award?  I was nominated for a Manchester Met staff award, and it was great to know that my work was recognised.  The PA network is strengthening, and is seen amongst managers as a valuable group; my Exec is keen for me to engage in it. I am very much encouraged to develop in the role, and incentives have included conferences and the Manchester PA 2016 Network Awards.

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

imageDo you publish to, and/or monitor social media as part of your professional responsibilities? Not in this role, but I have done so in other admin. jobs, mostly student facing or recruitment/ conferences and events. We have a Marketing and Comms Department who look after the web presence.

What are your preferred forms of social media? Twitter is quick and easy, and you can keep up to date with many topics and then delve further if you want to. My preferred social media is really face to face over a coffee on a comfy settee!

My preferred social media is really face to face over a coffee on a comfy settee!

What apps do you make use of in your professional life? Train times, SugarSync and Evernote

Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? If it were possible, a mind reading app would be brilliant! The internet is fantastic; how did we survive before Google maps, online train times for anywhere in the world, online ordering and so on? Whatever you use, it has to be easy and enhance  rather than hinder your work.

Describe any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor is more visible online to staff, students and external partners, and so the photos and biographies that I issue for his speaking engagements are important to convey his professional profile. Social media creates a 24/7 presence, so I may have contact with people worldwide and in different time zones. Tweets quickly promote and support initiatives and achievements that my Exec is involved with, and it makes Execs more responsive and keeps us up to date.

SharePoint reduces email traffic; you just send people a link rather than huge attachments

Have you used technology to digitize processes or materials in your workplace? Yes; the University has in-house systems for finances, HR, ordering, etc. I use Excel to monitor finance claims and approvals, and use conditional formatting to easily track claims. I scan documents to reduce paper filing. I have created a DVC PA manual in OneNote, which I can share with colleagues. This includes travel preferences, hotel information, dietary requirements and office procedures, and has been helpful for assistants to pick up and learn the job quickly.

My Exec is really IT savvy, which is great, and so we’ve tried different digital platforms. Evernote is good, but at the moment all meeting documents are online, using OneNote and SugarSync. I’m experimenting with voice and video messaging, as I don’t get much time for a face to face meeting. We use SharePoint for meeting documents; it reduces email traffic, as you just need to send the link to people rather than huge attachments.

Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? No; I don’t need it. Urgent messages are sent to my Exec on email, or I text him on my own phone if it’s out of hours.

Adapting to digital innovation and disruption: It’s not necessarily generational, but more of an attitude to learning

Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital (relying on portals and/or PDFs of meeting materials), or paper-based? We are increasingly digital as we move towards paperless meetings. I print hard copies only if the original format warrants it – for example, detailed designs or complex data. I may print an agenda as a guide for the Chair, supplemented by online supporting papers. He has a weekly high level meeting, and I print a copy of that for myself so I can quickly see what is being presented by my Exec, and to ensure he is prepared for that. The agenda is timed so I can see when he is presenting, and anticipate dealing with urgent queries.

Does your organisation make use of a portal for any of its bodies/committees? If so, how long ago did the organisation make such a shift? Yes, in the past nine months. Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals? Yes, we use SharePoint for most committee papers. We’ve been using it for at least three years, and we encourage more committees to use it going forward. It’s easy to use, secure, recognisable and involves much less traffic. It’s also reliable because you know that the document on SharePoint is the most current, and that there aren’t different versions floating about.


Digital Innovation and Disruption

Let’s talk about the pace of change in the admin. world in general. Do you see variations in how people adapt to change? It’s fast and constant. Most assistants are open to change and embrace learning, but the fast pace of digital innovation may be overwhelming. As such, cascaded learning is great, showing real life examples of how you do things so it’s applicable to everyday life. It’s not necessarily generational, but more of an attitude to learning – most PAs are open to ideas that help them rather than putting blinkers on – but people learn in their own ways.  I like to create a “How To” guide in my own words, and people have taken those as step by step guides. This can be a cultural change and looking at delivery is important, people may feel threatened by change, that’s fine but needs to be recognised as being part of the process, it’s not insurmountable and can be a huge achievement if you are supported and work together.

People may feel threatened by change – recognise it as part of the process; it’s not insurmountable

What about the impact of Digital Assistants/AI (Artificial Intelligence) resources such as Siri and OK Google, which we can use for voice/other searches, task reminders, etc., and meeting-scheduling bots that can correspond with actual assistants? It’s already here, and maybe there’s room for all of us! It’s a culture change, but AI is another tool in the box to complement your role and it can be embraced. The assistant needs to adapt and rethink how to use these new skills.  Your future job may look different from your past and current jobs, so think forward; adapt and integrate these technologies. Digital assistants are good at organising and with online reminders. We all need a bit of that every now and again, but human assistants have the benefit of cooperating, understanding and supporting your Exec.

Meeting schedule tools already exist, but that doesn’t allow for an unopened diary that the user doesn’t complete, or clashes which need to be moved. Voice searches are great in their context and we’ll use this in conjunction with other things to make us more efficient, such as, “Phone British Airways” while you are uploading a journey itinerary. I also see AI used in an inclusive workforce; for example, colleagues who have sight impairments can use voice software. I would find it helpful in recording meetings.

Data protection training targeted at assistants is essential, as we deal with data on a daily basis

What do you think of IOT (Internet of Things) devices used for smart lighting, security and air conditioning, etc.? This is an exciting area and has so many possibilities. Hopefully smart lighting will help with reducing waste. We use Dot smart lighting at home, and it’s brilliant for turning the lights on when your hands are full of shopping! I hope IOT will enhance how we live.

Your experience and thoughts on cyber security/data security practices? AI is clever but not intuitive or sensitive to confidentiality. Assistants know to encrypt and password protect materials, and take care about who emails are sent to – this is where SharePoint helps, as you are sending a limited access link rather than attachments.

New legislation dealing with breaches of data security has been introduced in a number of jurisdictions. Let’s talk about disclosure requirements associated with instances of data security breaches. All organisations will have to report security breaches to ICO, and will need reporting procedures. These are in place at Manchester Metropolitan. Staff need to recognise and know how to report a breach, and this requires training. Data protection training targeted at assistants is essential, as we deal with data on a daily basis.


AI, Digital Assistants and the IOT: Their Impacts on this Career

What impact(s) do you think AI (artificial intelligence), Digital Assistants and IOT (the Internet of Things) will have on the admin. professional of 2020? We are getting ready for these blossoming technologies, so follow and listen to the PA world – tweets, articles, and speakers.  “Rise of the humans”, a recent report from KPMG, defines deep learning AI which drives voice recognition. This could be a huge benefit in the workplace, and helpful in all sorts of ways from minute taking to inclusivity.

AI has computerised intelligence but not social and creative intelligence, which are the soft skills that Execs and Assistants use to get the job done. My Exec is tech savvy and we experiment with technology; some are good, some less so. There’s Trello, MS Project and Gantt charts; I try out different products, but it has to work for my Exec and me. A recent experiment was video update; it was a one-off, but the technology is there to use it in other ways. As intelligent technologies become mainstream, we’ll integrate them into the workplace.

We need to be part of the conversation now, and part of the IT strategies going forward, to have a voice at the strategic planning table.  Rather than ad hoc learning in silos, we need to routinely keep each other updated with developments.  Our PA networks do lunch and learn sessions where we bring in experts for an hour to train us with a PA focus on products such as OneNote.  I would welcome formal AI Ready training at PA conferences, to hear about what AI and IOT can do for me. At the moment, it still feels a bit like Star Trek, but the future is already here.


Travel Planning

Travel or travel planning recommendations? Find out your organisation’s travel policy and your manager’s preferences. Create a travel checklist you can use for all journeys; include information on visa(s), insurance, currency, business cards, the hotel name in local language (rather than English) and immunisations. Be aware of what they are doing before and after a journey, so that their luggage or car are in the right place.  I’m fortunate that my manager is a seasoned traveller, and so I’ll get an idea of flights, check out particular hotels and get the information for him to review. He is great at keeping receipts, and things like Uber receipts online come direct to me, even if he’s travelling in India! This really helps when I reconcile the card statement.

For train travel in the UK, I book seats two weeks in advance as his diary changes frequently and I prefer to leave it as late as possible in case the travel needs to be moved or cancelled. I book everything online and store documents and confirmations in the meeting invite on Outlook and in a shared OneNote section so that we both have access to it. For long haul journeys, I prepare a travel plan which shows flight info, hotel details, driver or taxi arrangements, and the itinerary for the visit. I keep a copy, which helps me work out times I can contact him in different time zones.

Allow plenty of time for everything: the planning, the arranging, the time it takes to travel to the airport, delays, out of hours emergency contacts, and sorting out hotel details in the local language. Always have a Plan B, and what if scenario-like travel plans on the cloud as well as on paper on your desk, in case devices are lost or there are internet problems. Use your local contacts; they know the area and have practical tips. Use online visa sites. Before your executive departs, identify the best time for contacting them if they are in a different time zone. When taking gifts, find out about cultural correctness – particularly regarding colours, as they have meanings which could be misinterpreted.

What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and for tracking expenses? Uber is great for immediate journeys and for its online receipts. Other taxi companies provide online receipts too, and it’s so helpful; they’re immediate, and can be filed until the claim is prepared. TripAdvisor is great for checking out the hotel, and I use Google maps to work out the distance from hotel to meeting venue or airport. Use Tripit to store e-tickets.


Style and Substance

Toronto Style Copyright Shelagh DonnellyName a go-to piece or two from your wardrobe to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? AI love French style, and my favourite is Laura Clement at La Redoute. She creates simple beautifully tailored pieces, so I have several dresses by her. For an event, I try to wear flat ballet pumps as you’ll be running around behind scenes. For everyday in the office, I have several pairs of shoes in neutral colours to go with whatever I’m wearing. Another feel good dress is from a boutique in Bruges.

What might we find in your desk drawer? A sewing kit, shoe shine, dry shampoo, Lemsip, a French dictionary and a Philips screwdriver.

Inspirational reads? Personally, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Career-wise, The Definitive Personal Assistant and Secretarial Handbook by Sue France – useful insights into how we work.

Bring your knowledge, your skills and your attitude

Role models or mentors? A former manager who encouraged, valued, challenged, pushed and rewarded her team. She understood our strengths, weaknesses, and how to use motivation. She wanted us to enjoy our work and to join us on our journey. She directed us to “bring your knowledge, your skills and your attitude”. She was pragmatic, realistic and willing to get stuck in. She saw potential and nurtured it. Her enthusiasm was infectious. She created trust, and we repaid it by being successful. The team had a great reputation which we were all proud of, and, people would ask us to bring ”the magic” that the department had into their own departments. The magic wasn’t tangible; it was within.

Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I was privileged to arrange a visit to Manchester Met by the Secretary of State to meet our Degree Apprentices in 2016. This was very short notice and high profile; it brought many behind the scenes teams of the University – each experts in their own field – together. Everyone pulled out all the stops to ensure it was a well organised success.

Don’t wait for a crisis to happen; be proactive and have the right tools in your PA tool kit

What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? Office-wise, we are working online more than ever before. This is much more efficient (no printing meeting packs, and then having to file them!), so I aim to remove 90% of the paper files in storage. My own enhancement plan is to attend PA events for best practice ideas and motivation. For quick tips, I use Google for ideas on diary management, Outlook, and email management.  I keep up to date with new technologies and check out PA-friendly apps and blogs such as Practically Perfect PA. There’s loads to choose from, but you just need to keep it simple and make it work for you. I find PA books such as The Definitive Personal Assistant and Secretarial Handbook by Sue France, and also magazines, tweets, websites, admin chats really helpful – they talk PA language! I’d love to shadow PAs doing their role.

Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I really enjoy what I do and I learn every day. I’d like to do an accredited PA qualification where the skills are transferable. Being a PA is like being a walking Google source sometimes. Training and network events are vital to keep up to date. I always check out  jobs to see what the industry is doing and what skills people are asking for, so I can keep up with employers’ expectations, regardless of the sector. Don’t wait for a crisis to happen; be proactive and have the right tools in your PA tool kit.

What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? Take a deep breath, and keep breathing. I try to break it down into bite-size chunks and put a time limit on it. For example, I tell myself that I can focus and knuckle down, and it will be finished in two weeks – then it’s time to recover. Cut yourself some slack; what’s the worst that can happen? Look at what the demands really are, what is in your control, what support you can get, and be open to change.

Dig deep; you will do it and then look back with pride in what you have achieved – and add it to your ‘”kudos” file. Be resilient; there are loads of tips available, but you’ll find a good read in Executive Secretary Magazine articles. Have a good balance; get some zen and happiness to support you though challenges. If in doubt, give yourself a treat and buy nice stationery!


Talking to Executives

Imagine that a cohort of executives invited discussion of the business case for working with (or without) an executive assistant. Anticipate that they’re tech savvy; how do you make the case for having an EA, MA or PA on the payroll to enhance the success of the executive and the organisation? 

This is a profession with structure, skills and business acumen. Your assistant presents you to the wider workforce and is in tandem with the organisation’s aims. These researchers, initiators, negotiators and cheerleaders complement your strategic goals. They have an insightful position to make connections in the sector and manage PESTLE analysis where key outcomes highlight competitive intelligence. The more you invest, the deeper the return.

How would you advise these executives on building an effective business relationship with an admin. professional? Clearly communicate your boundaries and preferences. Discover skills and future goals (hidden talents, skills and motivations). Identify what they need to be effective and review regularly. Try different ways of working, and you’re stronger together.


Lessons Learned

Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Be ready with real life examples. You know your stuff, and you know what you’ve done. Have three good questions to ask at the end of the interview, and refer to your notebook if you need to. If they have already answered your questions, say so; it shows you are on the same wavelength and were listening. Ask what their priorities are for the role; that shows you are interested in getting stuck in, and it will give you some idea about what needs to be done before you’ve even started. Afterwards, write down the questions you were asked and the responses you gave. It’s good to do that within 10 minutes of the interview, as a personal debrief for you to come down from the adrenalin rush. It’s also a record of the questions you were asked, so you are better prepared for future interviews.

What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Shadow other PAs and work with a buddy to see how they do the role, to get top tips about Exec management. It’s worth taking that time to build a solid foundation. Connect online to Executive Secretary’s  Thursday (Twitter) admin chat.

Your most effective time management strategy?  To focus, I find an optimum time in the diary where there are no interruptions. I switch off or ignore email alerts and let colleagues know that I need to concentrate and have a deadline. I may work in another office and ask colleagues to take my calls. If a task can be done in three minutes, do it and move on; if not, do your routine tasks for the day and then launch into the more detailed jobs. I move similar jobs to be in bulk – e.g., filing and finance processes, so that I can keep on one task rather flitting from one network area to another.  Use a grid to identify what’s important, urgent, less urgent, etc.

Rather than ad hoc learning in silos, we need to routinely keep each other updated with developments

Advice for a new parent working to the workplace?  You’re doing a brilliant job in all ways; balancing both roles may be new to you, so it’s okay to try different things before you work out what’s best for both. You may need to adjust and relearn some things back in the office; that’s all right. Your colleagues want you to do well. Learn and communicate your boundaries, including what you can and can’t do as you have nursery pick up, but communicate that you may be able to do emails on the train. Get your support network set up in advance, so you can call on them at short notice. Make the most of flexible working so that you can work from home if needed. Review, regroup and rediscover what you can do.

On digital innovation and disruption: Think forward; adapt and integrate these technologies

What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? They will be keen to get stuck into, and there may be a transition from their current role.  Their previous PA is a good source of information, and could help you with the basics. Everyone will want some time with them, so factor initial meetings into the diary.  Prioritise what you need to know as they will have their own agenda; gradually try to get to know them personally.  “What are your objectives? How do you want to this? We need time together, how do you prefer to do that – via a regular two-minute conversation, or by email? What about frequency; daily, or weekly? This is what I need from you to make this work.  What are your interrupters? Can you indicate task urgency 1/2/3 or priority 1/2/3?”

For those interested in promotion: Be strategic and identify SMART objectives. Network; talk to people in the profession and learn their top tips and how they do the job. Read Victoria Darragh’s blog ( article, Where do we go from here? It poses pertinent questions, as it discusses shaping the role of the assistant as the business manager. Victoria suggests attending non-PA network events, as this will take you outside of the traditional role.

Look ahead – what are the skills you need to grow?  Use training needs analysis to establish what you need and when, rather than irrelevant trainings – be specific. Give to others: give your time, your knowledge, and your support; the rewards are endless. Work regularly with a mentor.  Use positive and creative thinking techniques to create your personal brand and get a USP (unique selling point). In the words of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Don’t dream it, be it”.



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