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, the USA and Wales, and now make our way to London, England to visit with Aussie Janice Anderson.
Janice Anderson is Executive Assistant to the Partner and Global Head of Practice, Procurement and Supply Chain at Odgers Berndtson. Here’s a look at her world.
From Snoozing to Commuting
My morning routine changes depending on the day and how many times I hit the snooze button, which annoys my fiancé to no end! Normally I wake up between 7:00-7:30 a.m., put on a pot of tea and have a bowl of yogurt with a special blend of muesli I order online. Some days I try to set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. to go to the gym before work, though this never happens and I will then exercise at lunchtime or at the end of the day!
My commute is between 45-50 minutes with a 10 minute walk from my front door to train platform, 10 minutes on the train and then another 15 minutes on the tube – the extra 10-15 minutes of my commute is normally due to London Victoria’s Underground regularly being closed for overcrowding!
At the Office
Morning Routines: When I arrive in the office I will check my emails again to see if there are any new messages while I have been commuting – I usually look at my emails when I first wake up. Within the first 30 minutes of being in the office, I’ll pop out for coffee at my favourite café which is in a converted church not far from St Paul’s Cathedral. It is places like these that remind me why I love living in London!
Primary Responsibilities: Diary and email management, coordinating logistics for events (we hold monthly client lunches in-house and will soon be sending out the invite for our annual Christmas cocktail event), expenses, invoicing, ad-hoc administration tasks as well as supporting the management of the executive search process from end to end.
Is there a typical day as an assistant? Recently I have been involved with coordinating the logistics for a company quiz night to raise money for our chosen charity, organising one of our monthly client lunches (coordinating RSVPs, working with my manager to choose the menu, creating the guest list, place settings and table plan), speaking to candidates to schedule interviews, booking meetings with clients, cleaning up data, planning an internal PA event, and completing the invoicing for searches coming to a close – my day can be made up of a variety of tasks!
How long is your work day? My core hours are 9:00 to 5:30 and I can usually complete my tasks within this timeframe. My organisation regularly hosts client events (breakfasts and dinners) outside our core hours, and the assistants help out with these. We are thanked for assisting with an additional half day of leave on top of our allocated allowance, which is a nice bonus.
What might be a typical lunch? It is my goal each week to bring in my own lunch, though it never seems to happen. Either I spend my Sunday afternoon relaxing instead of preparing meals or I do not cook enough food to be brought in as leftovers. Typically, lunch is a salad, baguette or sushi eaten in our company’s communal space, “The Hub” – though sometimes I sit at my desk if it is quiet, and catch up on what is happening on LinkedIn, Twitter and the news.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I haven’t worked in my “off” hours in this role thus far besides occasionally checking emails, but that is more due to me wanting to always stay informed on what is happening! I have a great work/life balance in this role, as I did in my previous position after moving to the UK last year.
Your time and opinions are just as valuable as those of any other member of the team
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy the variety that being an assistant brings to my day and how I can be involved in different projects while still remaining true to why I became an EA – to assist others to be the best they can be. I enjoy seeing my manager and team be successful, and knowing that I have contributed by helping in the background – you could say that, at times, assistants are the puppet master, pulling the strings!
Time management via Outlook: Every kind of meeting, event and task has been allocated a colour
I was born in Melbourne, Australia and lived there up until May last year when I moved to London with my fiancé. I have always loved travelling and had already visited quite a few countries before the move. Now, though, the list grows ever longer as I discover more and more of Europe!
I am a city girl at heart, though I do enjoying escaping to the country on short breaks. This is never for long, as I miss the excitement, activity and buzz that you find in big cities.
When I am not travelling to a new destination with my partner, we like to visit different parts of London that we haven’t as yet explored. We visit new wine bars or catch up with friends for dinner or a nice leisurely brunch.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I like to indulge in a deep tissue massage every now and then to soothe my sore muscles after sitting down almost eight hours a day!
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Am I allowed to list several? These are my three dream holidays (visiting these countries during the same trip) that I hope to tick off the list in the near future:
- Greek Islands, Turkey and Croatia
- China, Mongolia, Egypt, Israel and Jordan
- South America
Education and Professional Development
Education: Earlier this year I completed the first stage of a Master of Business Management (Executive Administration) with an Australian university; this qualification has assisted with my professional development as it has developed my understanding of the organisations I work for, and the pressures that affect the company as a whole, as well as my manager. This has assisted with increasing my understanding of what happens in the bigger picture and how in my role as an assistant I can provide value to my executive.
On MBM (Executive Administration) studies: This qualification … has developed my understanding of the organisations I work for, and the pressures that affect the company
Peer and Professional Associations: I joined the UK branch of EUMA (European Management Assistants) in July 2014, just after I moved to London from Melbourne. I had researched which networks to join prior to the move and decided upon EUMA due to its reputation, professionalism and being one of the oldest networks (41 years in 2015!).
I was immediately welcomed by Elizabeth Wakeling and Cristina Gee at the first event I attended and knew I had joined the right network. It isn’t one of the largest networks but at each event I have made meaningful connections. I have connected with some wonderful assistants in person and online and enjoy the more intimate feel of the network. It was Liz (Elizabeth) who encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, volunteer my time and become part of the UK Committee – I am now the Web and Social Media Coordinator.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Professionally I use LinkedIn and Twitter to network with other assistants (as well as during my recent job search in April/May) while in my personal time, Facebook and Instagram and my preferred social networks. I don’t tend to mix my personal and professional networks as each serves its purpose for the different people I am connected to.
Awards and Recognition
I have received several performance awards from my employers throughout my career. The most recent award I received was earlier this year, for outstanding performance due to a successful transition between two roles following a company reorganisation. I was nominated by my then team leader and my award supported by my manager during the management meeting when the quarterly winners were chosen.
Do not be afraid to speak up and be heard; you will have interesting things to say and your colleagues will want to listen
Style and Substance
What is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? I cannot go past a black dress with brightly coloured heels, or trousers, heels and a blazer – simple, smart and professional as well as showing a small part of my personality. I’d like to say that my style is corporate with a twist.
Heels or flats in the office? I almost always wear heels in the office; I have these bright magenta suede pumps and always receive compliments when wearing them! For your commute? Flats or boots always so I can walk quickly as well as not worrying about tripping up or down stairs (and in London there are many)!
Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? My favourite that I wear is an Australian brand, Tony Bianco, which sadly I cannot buy in the UK. I estimate I would have close to 50 pairs of shoes (flats, heels, wedges and boots). My dream brand is Christian Louboutin – a girl can always dream.
Preferred scent: Lancôme La Vie Est Belle
What might we find in your desk drawer? You will find quite a random mixture of pens, post-it notes, phone chargers, staples, cello tape, birthday candles, snacks and an assortment of high heels that I rotate through each day.
I would like to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone
Role models or mentors? Elizabeth Wakeling, National Chairman of EUMA UK, as she encouraged me to become a member of the UK Committee. It does require a passion for our industry as it a volunteer role, and I have loved being involved and thank Liz for her support and encouragement for my contributions and decisions that I have made.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would like to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone and getting involved in things that I normally wouldn’t feel confident about doing. I would like to enter for an industry award within the next two years, as well as speak at a EUMA event.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Your time and opinions are just as valuable as those of any other member of the team. Do not be afraid to put time in your manager’s diary to catch up or discuss more serious topics. If the meeting is moved, reschedule it as soon as possible and do not let your colleagues make you feel that their meeting should go before yours (unless it is business critical). Do not be afraid to speak up and be heard; you will have interesting things to say and your colleagues will want to listen.
Do not be afraid to put time in your manager’s diary to catch up or discuss more serious topics
Your most effective time management strategy? For me, it is using the colour categories in Outlook – both mine and my manager’s calendars are rainbow coloured as every kind of meeting, event and task has been allocated a colour. It helps that I can look at our diaries and immediately see where there are internal, external meetings and events.
I also use the colour categories for my emails so that, at a glance, I can see each morning what I need to action based on how I have allocated the email.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Make the time to meet with your new assistant, explain how you like to work, and then find how she/he likes to work – you may have different styles and it will help to understand this from the start of your working relationship. It is one of the questions I ask during interviews and again during my first meeting with my new executive.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Janice referenced 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.