In honour of National Employee Motivation Day (January 21st 2015), we thought we’d inspire all the Practically Perfect PAs out there with a few tips for climbing the career tree, all the way to the top.
Are you motivated to get your career moving this year? Do you feel you have it in you to take over from your Boss? When we left off with Mad Men, Joan, played by Christina Hendricks had manoeuvred herself all the way from Office Manager to the brink of a fortune. Remember Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl? She didn’t let her Boss, Sigourney Weaver, take her for granted. If you’re really a Joan or a Tess, try these ideas and get motivated!
Look the part
I’m sure you always look fabulous in the office but make sure you have an air of “executive” about you. Keep cleavage to yourself and hemlines decent. Hair should be simple and classy, nails not too long. I like colour in work clothes but go for powerful reds and jewel tones, no baby pinks. Heels add gravitas as long as you’re not wobbling. The aim is to inspire those around you and breed a calm confidence. For ideas, look to Karren Brady or Susanna Reid. Luisa Zissman is not your idol. LK Bennett, Zara and Jigsaw stock good options.
Mind your business
Take an interest in what’s going on around you. If you’re arranging a meeting for your Boss, pay attention to the agenda. Cast an eye over the notes, unless highly confidential. If you have some idea as to the context of your Boss’s work, you can not only be more valuable to them but also position yourself as an asset for when the time is right. If you work in the markets, keep an eye on the key financial headlines. We should all read the news daily, whatever we do. Absorb the information on your company’s website and try and learn new skills where possible such as reading balance sheets. There is so much information online these days, not to mention internet-based courses. Your Boss and colleagues will be only too keen to help you if you show an interest.
Go the extra mile
Everyone works super-hard in this era but to be a Boss, there is no choice. I’m not suggesting you become a doormat but be willing to put in an extra hour or two when needed, for example in a crisis. It will be noted and its great experience to put yourself at the heart of the here and now.
Zip your lip
Sorry to say it but if you want to transform from PA to Leader, gossip is a big no. We all love to share but if you get a reputation for revealing, you’re on a road to nowhere. Be discrete and respect confidentiality at all times. Any information which you are aware of as a result of your position must be treated with care. Equally, don’t get busted in the kitchen listening to the gruesome details of your mate’s love-life. Keep it for after work.
Pick a project or two
Every team has numerous projects going on all the time. Put your hand up to help where you can. Just because you are the team’s PA, doesn’t mean you can’t write a policy statement, or organise induction for graduates or get involved with new things. Next time a project comes up, especially in a crisis or where your team are short-handed, offer to help in any way. The experience is invaluable and before you know it, your role will be evolving.
One of the easiest ways which you can impress as a future Boss is to have an opinion. All the managers I’ve known recently have relied very heavily on their Pas. You spend so much time in each other’s company. If your Boss asks your opinion, for example on how to restructure the team or deal with a difficult situation, be ready. This means taking note of your environment at all times but you can do it as you are smart. Often, you’ll have a different perspective sitting outside the office as opposed to sitting in it. And people confide in PAs, don’t they??
If you’re motivated to transform your career this January, don’t feel confined to a role or a narrow definition of what you think a PA should be or do. Follow my simple guidelines to make your boss look at you in a different light. And if you are taken for granted, you can use your experience to give you the confidence to take your career to the next level.
Penny Davenport is a successful Career mentor and Business coach. Following her experience as acting CEO for Credit Alpha and a Vice President at JP Morgan Chase, one of Penny’s guiding beliefs is that companies get the best out of their staff when corporate and individual goals are successfully aligned. By applying this philosophy to her executive coaching programme, Penny is able to guide private individuals seeking to progress in their existing careers, as well as support companies sponsoring workplace coaching.
The unique 8 week programme includes an analysis of client’s natural work and communications style and a number of steps to help clients get organised, reduce their stress levels and achieve a better work-life balance.