Confessions of a very untraditional PA!

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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…

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…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)

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My Flexible friend

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What first springs to mind when I say the word ‘Flexibility’? Do you think of a yoga maybe or even a credit card with a flexible rate? I am having a guess though, that most of you don’t think of your workplace? As these two words don’t go together, work + flexible = ??

I for one think this sorely needs to change to make a happier workforce, as regimented hours and the feeling of being chained to desk, to me, feels old fashioned and wrong in this day and age. Most of us are given laptops and mobile phones so this means we can be mobile? 

I worked in a large corporate company for nearly 5 years, where flexibility was my best friend. Basically the rules were as long as the work is done and you do your core hours, they didn’t mind what time you got up and left.(within reason of course!) I had a mobile and a laptop, so the boss knew he could contact me at any time, which comes with the job of being a PA. But he knew that I sometimes wanted to beat the traffic so would often get up and leave any time from 4 to 4.45 and then I would just log on at home and carry on working if I needed. The same went for the mornings. If, sometimes you have one of those bad nights, you can’t sleep therefore your alarm going off in the morning fills you with dread, you just go in a bit later and no one would even bat an eyelid at this. The directors and my boss would soon know if the work wasn’t being done, so there is nowhere to hide in that respect. Obviously common sense comes into play here too. If you need to be in at a certain time for a meeting then obviously would be and same goes for if you are busy and need to stay at work to get things done for your boss etc.. you do. It is just nice to know, that you have the flexibility and choice as an option and to me, this makes me respect the company and the boss a lot more then them asking you to be chained to your desk until say, 5.30pm on the dot and this is something that fills me with dread!

I have worked at many places, where I have had to stay at my desk until a certain time and I have to say for me, it had been a bit soul destroying, having someone else govern my time for me, it just feels wrong, like you are in some kind of prison where you would be frowned upon if you even thought about getting up at 5.29pm or 4.59pm, it had to be on the dot. (kill me now!!)

In my opinion, I think more companies seriously need to look into giving people flexibility. Why do you think trains and tubes are so packed at rush hour? Because everyone has to be at their desks by 9am or 8.30am on the dot. Same goes with traffic, it is jammed because everyone is trying to get somewhere at the same time, hence gridlock! If more companies offered the choice like my old company, there would be a lot less stress and turnover of staff at companies, I am sure of it.

Obviously there needs to be some rules but if you did your core hours say, 37.5 hours a week, then what is the problem?

 Working from home is another sore point when it comes to most companies. It is the thing most people want to ask in interviews, but the thing that is never spoken about! With today’s modern technologies, why can’t more staff work from home when needed? I feel this comes down to a trust issue. But, as I said earlier, you would soon realise if the work wasn’t being done. Working from home for me, had its positives and negatives. The positives were, I could get up and go straight to work at 7 or 8am in my dressing gown, no make-up (glamour!) and not worry about the commute into work. If I had something very time- consuming to do, such as expenses, then, I would choose to do them on a work from home day, as I could concentrate and get it done without many interruptions from work colleagues. The only negative was for me, not having people contact, but I knew the next day I would be back in the office as normal, so it is nice to have the best of both worlds.

I also feel parents need to be given more flexibility too. One of my old colleagues had to come back full time to work as a PA, but the reason she could, was because the company were so good about her hours and when the kids got to school age, she was allowed to leave the office at 3pm and go and pick up her kids and then log on from home later in the evening and do her work. No wonder she stayed with the company and is still there 11 years later happy as larry! 

Maybe I have just been a bit spoilt and lucky, as now I have had a taste of freedom so to speak, so therefore, I never want to go back to the old ways, but it seems since I have been looking for a new job (I am looking due to the company re-locating) I have found that a lot of companies, have set hours with no flexibility, which is such a shame and it does puts me off, but I know, eventually I will probably have to accept a job and accept the fact that I may be stuck at a desk with set times and I will have to somehow try to deal with it! *Sad face*

Flexibility obviously can’t work in some jobs, I know, but I am speaking about office workers in general, as this is where I have worked for the last 12 years and I feel there needs to a big shift and a change, but I have no idea if it that will ever happen. I did read somewhere that eventually working from home will just be the norm as companies want to save as much money as possible on expensive offices space, so I can only hope that this ‘eventually’ comes quicker than we think!

What are your thoughts on this, do you agree with me, or are you happy doing set hours? Or, do you have flexibility and enjoy it like I have?

To be ‘Free as a bird’ … That is the aim, freedom and flexibility for me = Happy and content.Image

 

 

 

Why finding the right job is a job in itself!

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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.