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. Today, we’re off to Bury, England.
Louise Cope is PA to the NW Chairman of her firm. Here’s a look at her world.
A Focused Start
My alarm goes off at 5:50 and I’m out of bed straight away; I’m not a “snoozer”. I see to the dog, who goes with my husband to work later on, hang up any washing I may have had timed to be ready for when I get up, and then am out of the house by 6:45. I grab a coffee at the local just around the corner from work, and that’s a must – although it is decaff, skinny, so not much of a kick for the morning start!
I have to drive to the local Metrolink station to park, then hop on a tram into Manchester. Door to door (grabbing a coffee on the way) is around 50 minutes. I would love to cycle but am scared to death of the drivers on our roads!
At the Office
Morning Routines: The first definite, non-moveable job on logging in is checking emails, and adding anything to my “to do” list before I get going on the priorities for the day.
Primary Responsibilities: The main responsibility is managing and juggling the crazy diaries of my Chairman, Partner and Director – and that takes a large part of my working day. I have various partner meetings to arrange on an ongoing basis and lots of travel/hotels, but mainly in the UK. I am also a psychometric tester for graduate applicants, so I often have a morning on the assessment events.
There isn’t really a typical day, as every day produces a new challenge, but checking emails is a daily first and juggling around of diary appointments happens every day.
How long is your work day? My contracted hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30, and generally I can stick to them (it would be very easy not to, though). It is very important to me to have a productive day so that I can finish to get home, as I have a number of family commitments and I am also very active with various roles in Girlguiding and our local church. That part of my life is as important as my working one, so I have to be able to switch off from day to evening and vice versa. However, it isn’t rare to work earlier or later, and I am very flexible to be able to do so in urgent situations.
What might be a typical lunch? I tend to eat lunch at my desk, which is not a good routine but it is one of the ways of ensuring that I can be away at a reasonable time. Lunch is usually a smaller version leftovers of what we had for tea the night before, or an M&S basic salad (two for £4) … and, on Mondays, the current Boots’ £1 lunch from the O2 deals!
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I do dip into my emails any time of the day just to check for anything urgent, but if it isn’t urgent then it can wait!
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Not knowing what the day is going to bring over and above the usual daily diary and email challenges, and guessing in what new order my to do list might be at the end of the day!
The firm has looked after me over my 35 years, and provided plenty of challenges and rewards
What do you most enjoy about your career? The people I work with and for, and how the firm has looked after me over my 35 years of service and provided me with plenty of challenges and rewards
Away from the office, I am very actively involved in Girlguiding. My current roles are leader to a unit of aged 14+ girls (Rangers), Chair of Media and Communications for my County, and serving as part of a team delivering expedition training to girls taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. I am also secretary to the Parochial Parish Council and an altar assistant at our local church, which is a very busy parish church. I support both my children in their chosen sports and love walking and spending time with my husband and my dog (in that order, honest!).
Dream app? A Marauder’s map
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? With a session at boogie bounce, step aerobics or Zumba
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Three weeks camping in a two-man tent, touring the American and Canadian Rockies. Lying in a tent at night listening to the night noises was interesting, although I wasn’t going to poke my nose out to find out what was making them – so I can’t tell you what they were!
Nominated and shortlisted for one of the Manchester PA of the Year Awards
Peer and Professional Associations: I belong to the Manchester PA Network, and have just applied to join EPAA, the Executive and Personal Assistants Association.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Facebook for home and Twitter for work … and Snapchat or Instagram to keep up with my children!
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A Marauder’s map (from Harry Potter), so I can keep a track on where my team is when they have forgotten to tell me!
It is very important to me to have a productive day
Style and Substance
What is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? I always prefer to wear a smart dress (and jacket, occasionally). I treat every day as an important day in the workplace, as you never know who you are going to come across without having planned it, and this makes me feel more confident.
Heels or flats in the office? Heels. For your commute? Flats – trainers. Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Nine West
I treat every day as an important day in the workplace
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. Supporting five different Chairmen over my 35 years of service, as well as being nominated and shortlisted for an award at the Manchester PA of the Year Awards
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? That would be understanding how fast technology was going to move. I’m not a great techie person, but I’m quick to pick things up.
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Get to know about them as a person, and understand their family/private life so you can understand and support their work/life balance. It makes for an honest working relationship.
Make communication, honesty and openness the most important priorities
Your most effective time management strategy? Keep a manual to do list on a notebook small enough to carry around in your handbag. I add to mine all the time, in the most bizarre circumstances and at the most unsocial times!
Keep a manual to do list on a notebook small enough to carry around in your handbag
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? Don’t feel guilty. Be honest and be comfortable handing things over if you have to rush off.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Make communication, honesty and openness the most important priorities.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Louise mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.