Exceptional EA is pleased to showcase Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share insights on their lives and the benefit of experience. We’ve made virtual trips to Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa , the USA and UK, and now make our way to Peterborough, England for a visit with Bethany Fovargue.
A Relaxed Start to the Day
I get up an hour and a half before I need to leave the house – I like to have a relaxed morning! I have cut down my tea-and-two-heaped-sugar habit to only one in the morning, accompanied by a good dose of social media and BBC News. I commute by red Fiat 500 S to work, which takes around 40 minutes … to do a 15 mile (24 km) journey!
What musicians/composers are on your playlist for your commute? I am a Radio 2 girl when it comes to the radio, but my desert island discs would be Oliver’s Army, by Elvis Costello and The Communards Don’t Leave Me This Way. What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? I am a closet 90s pop fan, so you name it, I’ll sing it!
At the Office
Morning Routines: My boss starts at 07:30, half an hour before me, so my priority is to catch up with him, followed by emails. Our Office Administrator does a tea run (peppermint for me) when she comes in and a hot drink helps me to tackle the to-do list prioritisation pre-09:00!
Primary Responsibilities: My role currently encompasses PA duties, business development and HR. As a PA, I manage travel, diaries, expenses and meetings in addition to providing a quality assurance function for customer-facing collateral. In Business Development, I am working on customer projects around the software solutions that we provide and I also act as the interface between the company and our HR provider.
Every day is different, which is one of the best things about my role! When I am in the office, my morning is usually reactive, my afternoon proactive, as there are day-to-day tasks to complete in addition to ongoing project work. When I am out of the office, my days are travel and meetings, anywhere in the UK!
How long is your work day? I start at 08:00 and leave anywhere between 16:30 and 18:00, depending on what the day brings.
If I’m buying lunch from the shops, then sushi, but soup if I’m bringing it in, or humus and pita bread.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I have a company phone to which I am surgically attached, so I do work when I am not at work, yes!
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your career, and what do you most enjoy? The variety is both a blessing and a curse; it is what I enjoy the most and the least. The variety has enabled me to work with a wide range of departments and on a wide range of projects, which has been enlightening and enjoyable. However, with great range comes great responsibility! The biggest challenge of my career is now to ensure that I don’t fall into the “jack of all trades” category and find a path that provides a varied role in a focused area of the business.
Aim for consistency rather than being liked
On Saying “No”
I have learnt to say “no” to avoid being overwhelmed, but it’s not easy when you are considered, as PAs are, to be a “go-to” person. I try to ensure that I give a realistic deadline if I am able to help and a clear and accurate reason if I am not, for example, if the request is outside of my skill set.
I enjoy Ceroc dancing, gardening, badminton and swimming – and going out for dinner with my husband, providing enough of the exercise-related hobbies have happened to make that a viable option!
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? America’s Next Top Model is my guilty pleasure; an hour of trash TV to wind down is usually just what the doctor ordered!
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I would love to experience the luxury hotels in Dubai and to go on our honeymoon journey across the Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer again one day.
Education and Professional Development
Education: I have a degree in Psychology and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), as I am an ex-primary school teacher. Whilst neither are directly relevant to the role I currently hold, the transferable skills such as time- and self-management are useful. I attend a wide variety of CPD and networking events, which have been pivotal in my career development, and I am currently studying for a Level 3 in Operations Management as part of my business development role.
Capitalise on transferable skills developed through education and experience
Peer and Professional Associations: I have a commitment to CPD best evidenced through my involvement as co-founder of the Peterborough PA Network. The network provides an opportunity for administrative professionals to meet regularly for professional development and networking opportunities, both of which I have found invaluable on my career journey.
I am also on the steering group for Women in Logistics, a group with around 3,500 members that connects, engages and inspires women working in logistics, in addition to chairing the Peterborough and Cambridge branch of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I am a Twitter addict: @BethanyFovargue for PA news, along with @PboroPA for our events, and @FovargueB for logistics and transport!
Awards and Recognition
I am a serial runner up! I have been runner up for the Executive PA Magazine/Hays Newcomer PA award in 2012, a semi-finalist for Secs in the City Social Media PA award in 2013, a finalist for Pitman Super Achiever Young Achiever in 2014, amongst other second places! 2015 has been my year – I am the Multimodal Women in Logistics Woman of the Year, which was a real honour, particularly as I got to meet veteran Simon Weston, who presented the award.
Style and Substance
What is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? I highly rate Pepperberry, as they are exceptionally well-tailored.
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? My two desert island cosmetics are both Benefit – Dr. Feelgood complexion balm and Coralista blusher.
Heels or flats for the office? Heels. For your commute? Heels – the benefits of not fighting the marauding hordes on public transport! Your favourite brand? Kurt Geiger
Preferred scent: My day-to-day perfume is French Connection, with Jean Paul Gaultier Classique for something a little more special.
What might we find in your desk drawer? My desk drawer and my glove compartment are like Monica’s secret closet – a nightmarish whirlwind of Post-it notes, paperclips and pens!
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Be consistent. In the early stages of my career, I was concerned with being liked, which meant that I was somewhat chameleonic; consistency is the key to building a solid working relationship, however, which is much more important than considering every colleague a friend.
Demonstrate your commitment to career progression
Your most effective time management strategy? Know your best and worst times of the day for certain jobs – I am a night owl, so anything lengthy is best done towards the end of the day and into the evening, if required. The morning is best for “quick wins”, like emails and filing.
Networking: put your money (and time) where your mouth is
For those interested in promotion: Network, network, network. It is not just about building contacts, it is also about keeping abreast of your industry and putting your money (well, more often time!) where your mouth is. With so many CPD events in our own time, we can demonstrate that we are committed to progression by attending and sharing our learning back in the office – if we want our bosses to see our future plans, we have to showcase them and show that we are walking the talk!
Self awareness: Try horns and halos
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: After working together for a short period of time, try “horns and halos” – what are each other’s strengths and weaknesses? This is insightful as, if I think I am efficient and my boss finds me pedantic, we have a mismatch in expectations and outcomes. Getting a handle on this early will allow you to grow together as a team.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the resources Bethany referenced may be interested in checking the following. To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.
Peterborough PA Network
- Twitter: @BethanyFovargue for PA news, and @PboroPA for events
- LinkedIn – private group, with membership requests reviewed by group manager Bethany Fovargue
Women in Logistics
- Twitter: @FovargueB