Exceptional EA is pleased to showcase Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share a bit of their lives and the benefit of experience. We’ve made virtual trips to Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, the UK and US , and now make our way close to London for a visit with England’s Matthew Want.
Organised for Clarity of Focus
I normally start my day by getting up about 7:00 a.m. Once I’m up I make sure all the dishes and laundry are done and then start to get ready for the day ahead. My must have is a clean space, I find I focus better that way.
Luckily our office is quite close to where I live, so the commute is normally only 10 minutes maximum. As Lucy is travelling a lot, I do tend to work at home a bit and then we all meet as a team once a week or so to go through anything that needs dealing with.
For the commute I normally have the radio on, there’s normally a good few tracks on depending on the radio station. What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? I’m more of a classical/light hearted sort of guy when it comes to music. I like to have something on in the background that can be easily listened to and help me to concentrate when need be.
At the Office
Morning Routines: My main responsibility when I get in is checking my emails and the diary, I like to have at least a glimpse of these before I go into any meetings or calls first thing. It sets me up for the day, it allows me to organise my work day a lot more easily.
Primary Responsibilities: I have many responsibilities in my role, but I would say the main ones are:
- Diary management and maintenance; arranging meetings and speaking engagements
- Arranging travel, visas and accommodation and, occasionally, travelling with the CEO to provide general assistance. This includes all international conferences.
- Taking phone calls, enquiries and requests, handling them when appropriate
- Dealing with incoming email, often corresponding on behalf of the CEO
- Use of several social media platforms for marketing and advertising purposes
- Organising international conferences; being the first point of contact for all delegates
- Working towards the organisation of conferences for administrative professionals, including delegates from over 25 countries
On an average day I would tend to be dealing with admin around subscriptions, sales for the conferences, Lucy’s travel arrangements, organising our weekly adminchat, negotiation of speaker contracts for Lucy and credit control. I also help manage the running of our website – www.executivesecretary.com – along with helping to organise Lucy when she needs it. These are just a few of the many tasks I do on a day to day basis.
How long is your work day? I normally start around 9:00/9:30 and finish about 5:00/5:30; it all depends what is happening at the time as some days can be longer than others. When we are planning the conferences it can be longer. And of course, when we are conducting the conferences I’m in “work mode” throughout the whole three day process.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? I normally try my best to take at least 20 – 30 minutes for lunch. I always have lunch away from my laptop with the rest of the team when we are working at Lucy’s, I think it is important that you bond as a team not just when you are working. Depending on what we are all in the mood for either one person will cook for the rest or we go out to lunch.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? If we have a conference taking place, then I do tend to work from home to make sure everything is taken care of.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I would say currently it’s the balancing act between every aspect of Executive Secretary. I am actively involved in most areas of the business so it’s difficult at times to decide what is the most important aspect of the business to focus on. This is especially challenging when we are on the run up to a conference. Even though a conference is on its way, the rest of the business still needs to function as smoothly as possible. Subscriptions still need to go out on time, customer calls need to be answered and Lucy’s diary still needs to be managed.
Pace your aspirations; don’t try to run before you can walk
What do you most enjoy about your career? I love that no two days are the same; every day we deal with different people regarding either the magazine or our conferences. We are quite lucky in the fact that we get to attend a lot of events not just in the UK, but worldwide also. The PAs we get to meet at these event really make us enjoy even more why we thrive to inspire the role of the assistant globally.
On Saying “No”
I used to be really bad at saying no to people. I got better at saying no over the last year, mainly by saying, “I’m busy at the moment, can you come back later” or “I don’t have time now to do it but can quickly show you how you can do it”. This is a great way to say no without actually saying the word no to someone.
I like to go out when I can, as it’s a bit warmer now I like to go out for walks and head down to the gym to relax and unwind after a busy day. How do you reward yourself after a tough week? I’m a bit of a geek so I tend to either play some video games or head off to the cinema to watch a film. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan so I do tend to spend most my time watching an episode or two of it.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I would love to go somewhere I could see the Northern Lights or even go for a journey on the Orient Express. Those two are top on my list.
Education and Professional Development
Education: Back at college I did Media Studies and this was a big eye opener for me. In our last project I was appointed as project manager. Being project manager really opened my eyes that organising was a huge skill that I have, this of course is a huge part of being an assistant.
Stay up to date with technology
Personal development is also important to me – after all, I work for a training/personal development team. I have been lucky enough to attend some fantastic courses since working for Executive Secretary and I really feel that attending these courses has helped my work improve.
Course work and event participation enhance your career
Peer and Professional Associations: Back in 2013 I was heavily involved with organising EUMA’s (European Management Assistants’) 39th Annual Conference that was held in London. Since then I have continued to be involved with EUMA and several other organisations throughout the UK. This helped me to understand and get more of an insight of working with assistants from several countries in Europe.
Technology: Reality and Wish List
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? An app that can predict what will come next. I know this isn’t actually possible but, as an assistant, it would be great to have this available!
Awards and Recognition
Last year at EUMA’s 40th Annual Conference, I was nominated for the Excellence Award, which involved several PAs from across Europe.
Style and Substance
What are your go-to pieces from your wardrobe to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? Normally in the office we tend to dress quite casually. My favorite though is at events when I get to put a suit on, with a waistcoat, my pocket watch and not forgetting my bow tie.
What might we find in your desk drawer? Unfortunately I don’t have any drawers in my desk, but I always make sure I have the work phone, my personal phone and any other required stationery to hand.
Do you have any advice on travel planning, be it business or personal travel? For the bigger trips Lucy has been going on recently, I have prepared a full itinerary folder which includes every detail of the trip. Though I used to do this before but on a smaller scale, I have used the skills I have learnt whilst being a PA and have been able to adapt and use them when planning travel for both business and personal use. This is something that is key for any PA to do so that their boss has an easy travel time and doesn’t get stuck or lost in an area that they don’t know.
Inspirational reads? There are quite a few books I have read that have helped inspire me. One book in particular that was the first book I read when I became an assistant was The Innovative Admin by Julie Perrine. This book gave me some great advice and tips on how to enhance my role and broaden my horizons when it came to doing certain tasks. I also read a lot of online articles from various authors, which helps me to expand my role further.
Clarity of priorities is key
Role models? My role model/mentor since starting this job has been and still is Lucy. I knew Lucy before starting this role, as we were both involved on the local chamber of commerce. Before becoming a PA I worked in a garden centre so had no experience in this area. I was 23 when I started working for Lucy. She saw potential in me at the time that no one else had, and I will never forget that. She is so focused on helping PAs get the recognition they deserve and for me that is really inspiring.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I would say that my proudest moment was going with Lucy when she spoke at Buckingham Palace. Last year Lucy was invited to speak to the PAs at the Palace; I organised all the arrangements for Lucy attending the event, and was asked if I would like to come along as well. This was the opportunity of a lifetime; I remember thinking that it wasn’t going to happen, or it wasn’t real. The whole experience was definitely a career highlight for me that I can’t see happening again.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar in the next five years? I would love to start speaking at events and sharing my experiences, not just as a male PA but also my life experiences, with other PAs around the world. Since starting working with Lucy, this has been something I have wanted to achieve – whether it be in the UK or internationally.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? I would say making sure you don’t try and run before you can walk. When I first started I really wanted to be like other aspiring assistants I met, but I soon learnt that they had once been where I was and that only by being patient and learning what the role fully entails would I be able to reach that level.
What advice might you offer a new parent returning to the workplace? Make sure you are up to date with the latest technology and goings on. A lot can change in such a short period of time, with the ever changing role of the assistant it is key that you are up to date so you can do your job as efficiently as possible. Attending an up to date course on technology at your local college could do wonders for your confidence and will show to a potential employer that you are still keen to learn and be involved in the working world.
Your most effective time management strategy? Making sure that you have a clear strategy of what needs prioritising for your boss and yourself. It is key that you make sure you are continually on top of what your boss needs so you can make her/his workload easier – and, in return, helping manage the workload for yourself.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: I would say your relationship with your assistant is key, you must build a bond of trust and transparency. Make sure you keep your assistant up to date with training, as this in the long run will save you and your assistant hours of time. Once the relationship is formed and held, the rest in time should easily fall into place.
Executives: Your recognition of a candidate’s potential generates loyalty
For those interested in promotion: Definitely look at courses and events that are available. There are many courses and events available around the world which will help you to expand and broaden what you know within your role. I have been on many courses and many events, I can honestly say that the skills I have taken away from these have hugely benefited how I approach my role in several capacities.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Matthew referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.