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Career Advice for my 18 Year Old Self

I started my working life at the age of 17, with a job at my local estate agent (that’s me, on the left, at 18). It was initially meant to be work experience over the summer between my first and second years at college. However, when they asked me to stay full time, I accepted, and never started my second college year. Looking back, it was a really stupid or really risky thing to do (depending on how you look at it). That job went pear shaped after about 9 months and I was seriously wondering if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. The estate agent and I eventually parted company and I drove home in tears, scared of what to do. I hadn’t been earning much at all, and my mother was expecting me to pay rent. So when I got home I started to look for…

PA: The Hardest Job in the Office

Yes, I know I’m probably a bit biased, but I truly believe that being a PA or Administrator is the most difficult job in an office environment. Master of All Trades We must know how to take 2 phone calls, set up an excel spreadsheet, book a conference call and send several emails – all at the same time. Simultaneously, we must be able to review 2 inboxes, update 3 calendars, book dinner for 7 with parking, location map and 2 vegetarian options, knock up a PowerPoint presentation, courier a package to China and book three hotel rooms and three flights. We must know how to speak all languages and have visited all the countries in the world: and therefore know every restaurant and every hotel. We must have a complete understanding all local customs and visa and vaccination requirements for all nationalities and countries. We can personally affect the food on the flight, traffic lights…

CEOs – How about a PA on your Board?

A little controversial, yes. But there are some PAs out there with 20 or even 30 years of experience who would make excellent members of Boards. Heck, some of them would make better Board members than the Board you already have! In my various administrative roles, I’ve attended many a Board meeting and I can tell you – even though I’m “only” there to take the minutes, I contribute to every single one of them. I’ve been a valued employee everywhere I’ve worked, and my opinion on certain subjects is just as valid as everyone else’s. Plus, I have a unique perspective that comes only from being a CEO/COO’s right hand person. Couple this with being the PA to the analysts on the team and you have probably your most well rounded employee. In our positions, we speak to pretty much everyone, often in confidence, so we get a unique understanding of…

The Printer’s Prayer

Our printer, which art in thy corner, Xerox be thy Name. In thy office installed. Thy printing will be done, In black and white and in colour. Give us this day our double sided. And forgive it for Paper jams As we forgive those that don’t refill it. And lead us not to forget to order toner, And deliver us from black fingers caused by the waste toner box. For thine is the cyan, The yellow and magenta, For ever and ever. Amen.

8 Things Your Assistant Is Better At Doing Than You

Keeping your Schedule. Lets face it, you’ve all missed meetings because you entered them into your diary on the wrong day, wrong time zone, or simply forgot to enter them at all!Your assistant is the master of your diary. Your assistant knows who you’re meeting, when you’re meeting them, where you’re meeting them, and how long it’s going to take you to get there. She knows which meetings to interrupt if you’re going to be late for the next one, and she has the presentations printed and ready for you to take. She’ll also re-arrange that conference call with New York that you’ve put in your diary for 9am London time. Thinking of the small details. Most of the time these are things that will never ever even cross your mind. You dont notice when she’s done them, but you’d notice if she didn’t. She reserves an area in a bar…

Does a PA need a Degree?

Generally speaking, to do a PA or office administrator role, you do not need a degree. There are so many things that you pick up on the job that a degree simply couldn’t teach you. I have personally found that experience by far outweighs any administration-related qualification. On top of that, a great deal of the job really comes down to having a bit of common sense. A degree wouldn’t teach you that a taxi to take your boss across London to Heathrow airport at rush hour will take twice as long as normal. A degree wouldn’t teach you how to politely get rid of an annoying salesperson who keeps calling for your boss and all he says to tell them is to “**** off!”. A degree wouldn’t teach you that if you shake the printer toner, you can get another 10 pages out of it. Then why is it…

Objective Setting for a PA

As a mentor, I get asked time and time again about objective setting for a PA. Do objectives even matter for a PA? They most certainly do matter. Whatever you put down gets recorded for your whole career. I’ve known objectives set by a PA when she had just start with a firm come back to bite her in the behind when she was applying for a promotion several years later. In my opinion, objectives need to show that you care about the firm you work for. They need to show that you really want the firm to succeed. SMART A company I once worked for held Department Presentations every 6 or so weeks. These were 45-minute sessions where departments showcased their areas and explained how they fit into the rest of the firm. Not only were they a good way to understand what the departments did, but knowing their…

How to Manage an Intern

I’ve yet to work somewhere where people are actually pleased to get an intern. But it’s not the intern’s fault that the markets just crashed so you don’t have time to talk to them. So what can you do with them to make sure they have a useful experience? It’s really important to give your intern a useful and productive internship. These are the next round of people that will be entering the workforce. 1.  Give your team as much notice as possible. I know this is easier said than done, but you need to get people engaged with the idea as early as possible. As a PA, you can’t have an intern sitting with you all day for two weeks – they need to interact with as many people as possible to get the best overview of the company. Although I think we all know that they would probably…

Is “PA” a career choice?

Making reference to a secretarial colleague of mine, I once heard someone say in a meeting “I asked her if she wanted a career or to carry on being a secretary”. To be clear, it was nothing more than a mis-worded phrase, and after I commented that being a PA is a career, we all had a good laugh about it. But it made me think. There are people out there, in all kinds of roles, who think that a PA role is somehow temporary. That they must be doing that job whilst they search for a “proper career”. There are plenty of people who move from a secretarial career into something else. I’ve seen people move into HR, I’ve seen PAs become financial analysts. But what if it’s secretarial work that you are passionate about? I say: GREAT!! Being a PA, or secretary, or team assistant is hard. It…