Where does your PA motivation come from?
“The idea of doing something different every day and having a high level of responsibility with a senior person completely relying on you – it makes you feel good.”
Jessica Hardwicke, EA at BHP Consulting
By Jessica Hardwicke
Jessica’s role is to support her boss in everything he does to drive strategic growth of the firm. She has a degree in Business Studies and in Event Management, both of which she feels have provided vital skills to propel her to Executive Assistant level and enables her to work in partnership with her boss. The growth in their business comes from key banking, legal and client relationships which she helps to sustain, manage and develop. Most recently she was shortlisted for Yorkshire PA of the Year and Executive PA Magazine up and coming PA of the year. She is passionate about the role of a PA/EA and actively encourages others to opt for it as a a career choice.
Assistants have a varied and occasionally misunderstood role. They have to cope with numerous different tasks every day from answering calls and emails to creating and collating information and preparing for and attending meetings, all of which require effective time management and forward planning. This is combined with working on the larger more strategic aspects of their role whilst supporting the senior executive, a balancing act is required.
But what happens when a client or your boss calls with an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately? I have learnt that as an EA you are always on call for whatever issue may arise and equally expected to drop everything you are doing in order to deal with the task in hand. I appreciate this is also due to the nature of the industry you work in, but more often than not it is a common theme amongst other PA’s and EA’s I regularly deal with.
I tend to split my work load into rocks and sand. Rocks being strategic goals and sand being routine tasks or those last minute requests that you must do right away. You should fill your day up with rocks, only plan for 4-5 hours of ‘real work’ per day and the rest will fill up naturally with sand. The key to this is the prioritisation over which matters are rocks and which are sand, and this must be in tune with the person for whom you work so objectives are aligned.
Once you have planned your day like this you will feel in control and thus able to adapt quickly to needs as they arrive. I believe if you invest more time in planning, you can avoid crises and rework, which will provide you with the energy to be truly effective and not just busy. Working more hours does not make you more productive!
It’s also vital that your boss respects your time. They should always know what your current workload entails and thus appreciate when you drop everything when an urgent matter comes in.
Another key skill that you must have in your skills set is to the ability to implement effective time management for your boss. In my case, my boss is often in a position where many conflicting appointments arise. It is therefore my job to conserve his time, prioritise meetings and workload, and delegate or decline anything that is of lesser importance. This is a vital skill to master, and you are the gate keeper to the strategic rocks finding their place, and ensuring mundane tasks do not inhibit growth. When working so closely with someone, you need to understand why a lot of these meetings are happening in the first place in order to establish a level of priority and preparation required.
The biggest thing I have learnt is to always ask questions, it is better to know too much about something than not enough!
What Motivated you to become a PA?
“I started my working career after leaving further education in 1998, and began with roles in administration in estate agency/financial services, becoming a Mortgage Consultant.”
“In 2005, I decided that I wanted a change of direction and recognised that my success in previous roles had been due to my administrative strengths, and took a role as an Administration Manager for a local charity. This naturally led into a role as a Personal Assistant in 2006 and I have been a PA/EA/VA ever since.”
Joanne Manville, Founder of Joanne Manville Virtual Assistant
Joanne has worked an an Executive Personal Assistant to MDs, CEOs and Chairmen for the last 9 years, in both the public and private sectors. These roles have also included line management and responsibilities as a member of the senior management team, Secretary to the Board of Directors and Office Manager duties. In 2015, she decided that the time was right to put all of this experience to good use, helping other business owners to deliver the best service possible to their customers and in October 2015 she launched her own Virtual Assistant business ‘Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance’.
If we find it difficult to articulate our role how can we expect others to fully grasp its complexities. At the end of the day Managers want to hear about bottom lines and how you successfully planned and smoothly executed your teams’ success in achieving annual targets and ultimately ROI. There is so much more to us than tea and typing. Modern EAs and PAs are leaders and not helpers. We expand productivity and are brand ambassadors for our bosses, company and profession. The role we fulfil comes with accountability and responsibility and we are in effect the manager of our managers when it comes to time keeping.
Eleanor is an EA at Facebook and has ten years’ experience working as an Executive Assistant and event planner. She is also an award winning PA who won the title of PA of the Year in 2013 and Social Networking PA of the Year in 2014 at the SecsintheCity PA of the Year Awards.
She began her career the City, where she managed a large term of secretaries within the Lloyd’s of London risk market. She eventually made the leap into media in 2008, where she began supporting the Manager Director (and running events) for a small TV company within ITV.
A few years later came the world of radio, when she moved on to support Clive Dickens, the co-founder of Absolute Radio. It was here that she cut her teeth working on large-scale music events, working at venues such as Abbey Road, the Isle of Wight Festival as well as at the Rolling Stones’ successful 2012 Huge Park gigs.
In late 2012 she won Secs in The City’s inaugural “PA of the Year” award, after which she started contributing to various industry blogs (and was profiled in a front page article in PA Life magazine). In 2013 she travelled to Malaysia to train a delegation of assistants on skills such as Time Management and Work/Life Balance.
Since 2013 Eleanor has been working for Facebook, originally supporting the Chief Creative Officer, Mark D’Arcy, during his secondment in London. She now supports Rob Newlan (Director, Creative, EMEA) and runsglobal events for Facebook’s Creative Shop team.
Eleanor is a life-long east Londoner, where she still lives with her husband & their two dogs and beloved cat.