Confessions of a very untraditional PA!

Image

OK, so confession time… I have been a PA / EA now for around 12 years now which makes me feel a bit old but i’m not too old… 33 actually in case you wanted to know. Anyway, I digress. I have worked in many different industries and for men and woman (men are far easier to work with in my opinion) & I have never had any real complaints about my work and PA skills. But, sometimes, well a lot of the time, I do feel like a bit of charlatan… the reasons why are below, WARNING: if you are a very ‘Traditional’ by the book, prim and proper career PA, then please do not read on, as you are likely to have a panic attack! You have been warned.

So, this is how I work as a PA:

  • I don’t file anything… Not a thing, I don’t file paperwork or e-mails. I currently have 5,914 e-mails in my inbox and that is where they will stay, until I got forced into archiving, but I find it easier to work this way, I can find things much easier. If I file, I would forget where and what folder it was in etc… This works for me.
  • My desk is a total mess… paper piled up, not in any order, bosses old expenses in an envelope in that pile along with invoices that I need to sort, contracts that I have signed, it all just sits there, because I know that, that messy pile has everything I need and I just pick it up and go through it when I need to find something. I have post it notes dotted about all over, reminding me of things to do also, they are in pretty colours by the way, pink, purple etc.. not dull yellow!
  • I never write ‘To do Lists’ I can’t think of anything more dull than writing down all the things you need to do., I prefer to use my memory and just get on and do them one by one. Yes I set reminders in my outlook calendar sometimes if I think there is a bit too much to remember but I luckily have a great memory and so I don’t forget much. A To-Do list would stress me out by just looking at it.
  • The way I work with my e-mails on Outlook is this —> I have about 20 e-mails all open at the bottom of my outlook and then I close them once I have finished with that task, this then reminds me of what I need to do, so I suppose that is my to do list! (Any PA’s freaking out yet?!) 
  • I don’t make tea or coffee for my boss, bad PA I know… but he can make it himself, he never makes me tea or coffee so why should I. I am his PA not his minion! & yes of course I make it for his customer meetings, but I wouldn’t offer if he is sitting at his desk, unless I was making it for everyone.
  • I have never and will never suck up to my boss, or act any differently to who I am, to please him.My motto is always: Stay true to yourself, you can’t go wrong with this in my opinion.
  • I can never just do one job at a time and focus on it. I usually am doing about 4 different things at once, I know that is probably standard for a lot of PA’s but it is how I prefer to work. I get easily distracted.
  • I don’t colour code my calendar or do follow up flags on my e-mails either.
  • I talk a lot and laugh loudly and I swear…I would not be suited to very quiet corporate offices, but luckily I have always worked in fun laid back environments.
  • I don’t deal with structure and authority very well at all. I like flexibility and I have been fortunate enough to never have strict hours at work, so I can come and go when I please (within reason of course!) and work from home once or twice a week or when is needed, which is perfect for me. I don’t like to be chained to a desk and to be bossed about. Again, I am lucky to have a boss who says ‘sorry’, before asking me to do anything’ which I find quite funny! Maybe he is scared of me… ? Just to note: I am not scary at all!!

But…. having said all of the above, I think I am a great PA (you have to blow your own trumpet!) and… I have never been told otherwise & have always had great jobs and feedback from my bosses, so I say, whatever works for you. I know some would freak out with my way of working, but this is what helps me and I doubt I will change my ways now, well I know I won’t, I enjoy being in my organised chaos. I will never be a neat and tidy, prim and proper PA and I don’t think that is a bad thing, it has worked for me so far just fine and as the saying goes,  ‘If it ain’t broke…’

Oh and If my boss happens to be reading this… don’t panic, I know where your expenses are and they will be done on time…honest ;o) 

6 months on…

Image

…Well I am still in my new job & guess what? I actually love it. Yes there are times that I want to pull my hair out & scream, but the majority of the time, I really enjoy it. I thought the picture was quite fitting, as this is how I feel, like I am juggling everything all at once, but still having a smile on my face, helping anyone that asks.( I also look a bit like her if I get caught in the rain!!)  My ‘official’ title at work is EA to the CEO. But really it should be ‘ Assistant to anyone and everyone that asks’ As I work for a small start up and it is all hands on deck and everyone mucks in. So I do feel like I am the go to person for literally everything. You name it, they ask me. Here are some good examples of what I get:

  • Do you know when the lift will be working?
  • Do you have any AAA batteries?
  • Do we have any pink Nespresso capsules
  • Can you order us some breakfast from Pret
  • Can you get some keys cut
  • Do you have a fan heater

You see, you name it, I get it. I am more like an office manager / skivvy ;o) I don’t mind it though, I actually like helping everyone out and I am lucky that the CEO is more like a friend and not demanding in the slightest, which means he isn’t precious about me helping others as well as him.

I also feel like this job was meant for me, as the CEO called me asking if I was available and weirdly enough I was. I was feeling a little lost job wise as well, after having quite an horrendous experience with a female boss in the previous job, I felt like I would never get the ‘right’ job again. So I do feel lucky that he remembered me and offered me the role without even an interview. I do believe in fate and I feel this job was fated. I am back in the industry I know & love, with a lovely boss.

The team I work with are great also, which makes a huge difference too. As you have to see them most days, so you have to get on on with them. Bar one or two ‘annoying’ ones. Everyone is lovely. I just try to ignore the annoying ones as much as possible. There is always one or two everywhere you go isn’t there?

I have to be honest though, I did think I would get fed up with the nearly 1.5 hour commute there and back every day, but, I think because I love the actual job, the commute doesn’t feel so bad. I always get a seat and love listening to my music and reading my kindle, it is my time to chill and wake up before another manic day starts in the office. As I don’t get a minutes peace there! Don’t get me wrong though, there are days that I ask myself ‘why am I doing this to myself’ But they are rare thankfully. But this is when my trains have been delayed or I have had to deal with rude commuters, which I have come to realise, there are quite a few of them & mostly are men!! Unfortunately there are very few ‘Gentleman’ that travel into London, not that I have seen anyway. They literally push you out the way for a seat! I have to just laugh it off otherwise my mouth would get me into trouble… Thank goodness for soothing music in my ears! ;o)

So, I can’t believe 6 months have gone by already since I told you I was starting this job. The time has literally flown and I see that as a good thing. I just hope, when I update you again in another 6 months, I will still be able to say positive things!

Fingers and everything crossed!!

So, for anyone that is job hunting, or in job they don’t like right now. I am proof that, you can find something you love, don’t give up. or settle for something that is ‘OK’ keep looking and searching and the right job will find you. Trust those instincts of yours, they are never wrong!

Don’t get me wrong. My very ideal job is working for myself and writing a novel. but… until I have time to work on that… this job keeps me happy enough for the time being and for now that will do! :o)

Image

New Girl… Again!

Image

So, it is my first day at a new job tomorrow in London, one of my favourite places to be! I am not all that nervous really, as I am a bit of a dab hand at being the ‘new girl’ … as I have had this experience about 8 or 9 times now in the space of 15 years! This isn’t because I am fickle I have you know, it is just how it has happened. My PA career has been a bit of tricky one and a bit too complicated & long-winded to explain, but let’s just say I haven’t been the luckiest of people when it comes to working along side some women, as they have been the most awful women I have ever had the dis-pleasure of knowing! They seriously give us women a bad name!!  But, I like everything there is good and bad and I like to think I have been lucky too, as I have landed some fab jobs and have met some great people along the way too, to restore my faith that there are some non back-stabbing women in the PA world ;o)

So, here I go again tomorrow morning, into the unknown ish… hoping and praying for the best. I feel I deserve a bit of a break you know, with the amount of shit I have had to deal with in the past work wise, I feel this is my time and as the job found me and not the other way round, I like to think it is meant to be and fate played a little, or maybe a big part in this new job.

So, think of me tomorrow and please send me good vibes… I am hoping I won’t even need them, but it is nice to know some people are rooting for me :o)

I will putting on my brave face, a big smile and going for it and I really hope in a few years time, I can be blogging you all again, saying; ‘See, I told you I had a feeling this job was going to be ‘the one’ Everything crossed…

I will keep you posted!

Image

Image

Why finding the right job is a job in itself!

download (1)

I thought I would write a blog about the struggles that come with finding a job, the ‘right’ job.

I have been a PA (Personal Assistant) now for the last 12 years and have enjoyed it, mostly, other than a few other females making it miserable for me. I have worked in various big, global organisiations, so when I deiced to leave a job I loved dearly after nearly 5 years, it was a hard decision, but the company were re-locating to London and not central either, so I had to think of my sanity as the hours were long as it was and boss used to call me at all hours so I didn’t fancy the long 2 hour commute on top of that!

So, now I am job hunting and it is harder than I ever imagined it would be. It looks like there are 1000’s of candidates registered with the recruitment agencies and you are unfortunately just a number. I have been unemployed (hate saying that!) for a week, and I hate it already, I want to be working, I am good at what I do, someone give me a break and a job! 

The problem I find with ‘some’ agencies are this; They tend to like people who have degrees over experience. Well I am the latter, I have tons of good old fashioned experience, I didn’t want to go to uni, I chose to start working as I just wanted to earn money, so therefore I started on reception and worked my way up. Graduates have just come out of uni, having probably never worked in an office and they get given the job over someone like me, who has worked hard to get where I am. Now, I know they may be able to pay a graduate a cheaper rate, but surely a grad has gone into the company, wanting to do the PA job for as little time as possible, to then move into a role more suited to their degree? So then the recruitment process starts all over again? Otherwise, why would you go to uni to become a PA? Now, I am not dissing us PA’s, it is a worthy job that is hard-work and bucket loads of common sense is needed. I am also not slating graduates either, maybe there are some out there, that do want to be a PA/EA, but many of them don’t I am sure of it. So can companies and agencies please stop being so obsessed with the ‘Degree essential’ bit on their job ad’s. There are so many great PA’s out there looking for work who have worked hard to be where they are, they need to be given a chance, I wish people would stop looking at qualifications so much over good old fashioned experience.

So, as you can see. I am finding job hunting a bit of a struggle in itself, it feels like a full time job, one that I am not getting paid for! How unfair is that? I am doing all I can, I with countless agencies, OK I will count them.. 8, OK, that doesn’t sound like loads, but the one’s I have tried to register with say they cannot help me with my search? I assume because they are overloaded with CV’s that look just like mine!

I also find some agencies a little OTT, don’t get me wrong, you do find some gems, but some are just soul destroying for me. I walk out of there, knowing I probably won’t hear from them again, or I will, but they will call me with a job that doesn’t suit me at all and not the right salary etc.. (this happens frequently) So, they don’t tend to listen to what the client actually wants or needs, surely that is vital, to stop wasting both mine and their time?

I find LinkedIn a good website to search for jobs, along with secs and the city. I have had a few interviews but the end results were no’s which, I will admit doesn’t feel great. Being rejected feels crap, it really does, as your confidence then takes a knock and you then think, why wasn’t I good enough, did I come across badly at the interview.. it must have been my personality etc.. That is what happens to me anyway. I am a wee bit sensitive, something I am working on 😉

I just have to keep thinking that, the jobs that I didn’t get were not for me, and not meant to be and that a job I sorely deserve is out there somewhere soon. I just have to keep plodding on and stay positive, when sometimes all I want to do is sit on the sofa and cry lots. I deserve a break, as I am sure many other PA’s do too. We just have to keep at it and the right one will find us when it is good and ready.
Oh and tips for people that in the same position as me is:
1: Don’t let knock-backs get you down – unfortunately it is part and parcel of the job hunt, there are so many candidates going for each job, you might just not be the right ‘fit’ for that certain company, doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough. Ask for feedback if it helps put your mind at rest.
2: Be persistent – Agencies have 1000’s of people on their books, so keep reminding them who you are and that you are still looking, even if it sending them a weekly email to tell them rather than calling them all the time. This helps them keep your name fresh in their minds, I am not sure if it works, but it doesn’t do any harm and could help you bag that job.
3: Don’t give up! – Even if you feel like you will never get there, you will. It just sometimes takes time. It can be depressing and draining, but keep going, keep applying for jobs you know you can do well at and are worthy of. Soon enough something will come up that is right and meant just for you.
4: Job site alerts – Obvious one, but keep alerts on your job websites that you are registered to, as then any new jobs come flying into your inbox and you can apply for straight away.
5: LinkedIn – If you are not on there, get yourself on it! I can’t tell you how helpful this has been for me in the past for networking and jobs too. Recruiters in-house tend to look on there for suitable candidates. Make sure your profile is up to date with all your job history on and turn the job alerts on there too. Also, ask for any recommendations from previous bosses as this can help too, as it is an instant reference for an employer to see straight away.

 

It’s a London Thing

Image

I had to start this post with a lovely picture of London town, which I do have a big soft spot for, it sounds sad, but I get this little exciting churn in my stomach when my train pulls into Waterloo, but this is probably because I now don’t do the journey into town every day any more, so it is a bit of a novelty. But I have to say, when I did work in London back in 2000 (that doesn’t sound that long ago but it is!!) I did love it, I was 20 and having left that awful lady from previous reception job, I just had this urge to go and work in London in the media industry, so this is what I did. I joined a fab agency called Career Moves who got me a great temp job on a reception at a big Ad agency. I was so excited as I got in there and there were two other girls on the reception and a bar in the actual reception! To me, this was great as i had never seen anything like it and I felt at home straight away, the girls I worked with seemed nice, well they both were to start with! One was the ‘Head receptionist’ and very highly strung, would only wear designer clothes and very critical of others, she was also going out with one of the directors in the company, so thought she was the bees knees! The other receptionist was nicer, but turned on me in the end for some reason and I think it boiled down to jealously (more on that soon)

So, after being in the job for three months, I got made permanent, I was so pleased but then my little happiness bubble was burst by Head receptionist, as for some reason, she then decided to tell me that I wasn’t actually their first choice for the job, but the person they wanted, turned the job down?!  How to make a girl feel wanted ay? So, from then on for me, it wasn’t great as just felt 2nd best, but I persevered as I loved the actual job and got to meet some famous people such as Peter Kay who I had a surreal moment of sitting in his trailer on an ad shoot eating shepherds pie with him! (great guy). Kylie (who was quite rude actually!)  Ray Winstone and Eddie Izzard (lovely guys). So for me at that age I was super impressed by all this, how shallow does that sound now?!

Now, It may have been my age or maybe I was a bit naive back then, or a bit of both! But the MD guy at the ad agency took a bit of a liking to me, in a friendly, non-pervy way I may add! As you can imagine, this did not go down well with the girls on reception, they used to try and warn me about him, saying he was only after one thing etc.. I decided though, to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I took him at face value and from what I saw and knew, he was a decent guy…

So fast forward a 9 months or so and it was my 21st Birthday and I was in the office and the girls on reception had bought me a Louis Vuitton handbag which I thought was nice of them, considering the frostiness I was getting from them. But the attitude towards me was about to get much worse!  The MD guy, let’s call him T, decided he was taking me to The Ivy for lunch! He is good friends with the owner so he could get a table at a moments notice, so off I went with him in a taxi for lunch at the Ivy! Which back then, was quite exclusive. I had been there before, with T and a whole group of girls from work, for no reason as all, he liked to treat the girls and show off a bit, as these media guys do! Elton John asked to be moved, as we were all too loud, classic and true story! So back to my Birthday. So we arrive at restaurant and this time, a totally different atmosphere, as it was just the two of us and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous and kept thinking of a plan in case he tried it on or something, as the girls were making all sorts of comments as soon as they knew I was going there with him, so a lot was running through my head. Anyway, any concerns soon went away, as the conversation started with him asking me if I was happy on reception, as he had a feeling I wasn’t happy and asked what I wanted to do etc.. So, I told him. I thought I had nothing to lose, so I told him I wanted to be a PA up on the creative floor. A month later, it was done! I was up on the creative floor being a PA to one of the creative directors! I was so happy and grateful to T and no, he didn’t want anything in return, he just had faith in me and knew I could do more than look pretty sitting on a reception (not dissing receptionists out there, it is a valued job, if you get the right one!) So, T took a chance on me and gave me my break that I needed to get me on my PA career path.

Now, this did not go down well with snobby knickers and Essex girl on reception. What added to the issue was that the other PA that I had to sit next to and work alongside was best friends with Essex girl, so this ended up being hard-work and they had a bit of a clique going on with some other girls, which made me feel totally isolated, such as, they would all go down the pub at lunchtime and they wouldn’t usually ask me, sometimes they did because they felt they had to and you could tell it was a ‘lets ask her and hope she says no’ kind of thing. Charming! But I just used to ignore and get on with my work. I did have an effect on me though though as I did feel like I was a leper or something, but on a big work team night out I started to understand a bit more, why they may have treated me like this.

We were all out in London for the Capital Radio awards which we all attended every year,  then afterwards we would go out on a bit of a pub crawl (not really my scene but I joined in as felt I had to) So we were in this private members only club and I needed the loo so I went down the the ladies and found all the clique of girls in the loo and soon as they saw me they looked sheepish and then I realised why… They were basically taking coke and then pleaded with me not to tell T as he is really anti-drugs, as am I, which they obviously knew or guessed, hence me not being in there lunch clique or after work drinks, because they were probably sticking that stuff up their noses and knew I wouldn’t be into it and they were also scared I would grass them up to T, which I never did by the way, it was none of my business what they did out of work, but from then on, I just felt awkward around the girls, even more than usual and the atmosphere got even worse and they would literally just ignore me. This made my working life hell, as it was so miserable, so I felt like at the time, I had no choice but to hand my notice in, as I knew they wouldn’t be going anywhere, so I had to, for my own sanity. T was really disappointed that I was leaving, but I think he had a feeling why.

So, after a few up and down years,  I waved goodbye to London with a bit of a heavy heart to be honest, but I had just met a new man and was ready to settle back down in a job locally (or so I thought!) But, I did learn a lot from the whole experience. I learnt that I was probably a bit naive with regards to drugs, as it seemed that they weren’t the only one’s doing it! I also learnt that, sometimes, you have to go through some shit to get where you want to be, you just need to grow a thicker skin while doing it! It is funny really, as one of the girls did finally admit in the end that she was jealous that T used to favour me, which I already guessed anyway. But maybe he did this because I was a nice, friendly person that worked hard and wanted to do well? I will be forever thankful to him, for taking a chance on me and giving me the break I needed and wanted. I wish there were more T’s in this world 🙂

PS: What I also would have told my 21 year old self – That guy that you had a secret crush and obsessed about for 2 years at work..?! You should have been braver and told him, as he also had a big crush on you too, you ejeet!!

Why did I become a PA again..?

So, I wanted to explain my reasons for falling into PA work, well there you go, I just said it. I ‘fell’ into it. I left college and didn’t fancy uni. so I thought I would just go out and work, so I joined a local recruitment agency and this was back in 1998 and the job market was booming and there were job opportunities galore!  As I had no experience in the office world, they had me temping on a reception at a big corporate American Software company, which I actually did love to start with as, I got to talk to people all day! I then went permanent after 3 months and got paid an OK salary for my age back then (18).

Unfortunately though, this is where is started, my first female boss from hell (there are many more to come!) She was fine at first. Her name was Liz, I don’t mind naming names here as it was so long ago and if she reads it then so be it! At first she was fine, we got on well, I even babysat her children for her! But then, I am not sure what happened, but she turned, whether she thought I was some kind of threat as I was good at my job and got on with everyone there really well, or maybe she was having issues of her own, I feel it was a bit of both. It started when I smelt alcohol on her and I asked her if she was OK and she started acting a bit ‘manic’ is the only way to describe it, she was very defensive and always said she was fine, but I knew that deep down, she wasn’t.  This is where is went dramatically down hill, she went on holiday for 3 weeks, or was it rehab?! (sorry) They got a temp in to cover the reception with me, which is what she used to do too, she was office manager/receptionist. So I ‘assumed’ (lesson 1: never assume) that I would take over her role while she was off and the cover temp would just be the receptionist, as it would take far less time to show her the ropes of switchboard than the office management tasks that I already knew. But, no. Liz decided that I wouldn’t be able to cope with that kind of responsibility (??!) and asked me to train the temp in her job and I stay on reception?! I was not happy about it and from then onwards, our relationship broke down as there was no respect, she used to belittle me at every opportunity and the temp got made permanent as a receptionist with me and Liz was then just office manager, but any help she needed she would ask the new person to help and only get me to do the menial tasks.

After being treated like utter crap for 6 months, I decided to hand my notice in as I didn’t deserve to be treated like that, having worked on reception for two years with no praise, no respect I just couldn’t take much more.

I remember the day well that I handed my notice in. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was fuming. I asked for a meeting with Liz and I gave her my letter and instantly felt better knowing I would be free from this in a month and this is what she uttered out of her mouth ‘ Oh I knew this was coming, I didn’t think you were coping were you, the job’s too much for you isn’t it?’ in the most patronising tone I had ever heard. I am not sure what I said or did but I remember being so angry at the time, as she knew full well that I was more than capable of doing my job and hers too, but wanted to hold me back for what reason I will never know.

All I know now is that, she was obviously battling her own demons at the time and decided to use me as her pin cushion to make herself feel better, I now just feel sorry for the woman, she had issues and obviously needed help, but, she did me a favour in the long run, as I then went on to work in London and had the time of my life!

To be continued…