Is job hopping the only way up the career ladder for assistants?

Hi, I’m Nicky Christmas and I am a job hopper. There, I’ve admitted it. I’ve spent many years cleverly covering up the fact that I spent most of my career hopping from one job to another in an effort to climb the career ladder. Prior to running Practically Perfect PA, the longest time I spent in any one organisation was 4 years and in that time I took on two different roles. Recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit about job hopping and how common it is becoming, particularly for younger people entering the work force. Apparently, being loyal to one company doesn’t necessarily pay off (both in terms of salary and promotion) and moving from one role to another in pretty quick succession is becoming less frowned upon.

It’s an interesting topic for me because as I said I have always been a job hopper. During my time as an assistant I always felt that I had a variety of valid reasons why I was looking for a new role and in general job hopping didn’t do me any harm. But, I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons a bit more, particularly for assistants. Here are a few of my thoughts…

Salary increase

I didn’t job hop for an increase in salary, it was always for other reasons, but with every new role I did get a pay rise. For many assistants trying to negotiate a pay rise is extremely difficult and many are turned down because of their organisation’s internal structures. It can be a lot easier to find a new role and negotiate an increased salary during the recruitment process.

Applying for jobs outside of the PA role

Over the years I did apply for a few jobs that were not PA roles, but I very rarely got any response. Once you are in a role it can be very difficult to find a different job – you are effectively pigeonholed by recruiters and organisations alike. If, however, you stay within one organisation, gain experience, it can be easier to move outside of the PA role and find something different. During the course of my career, I applied for two roles that were not traditional PA roles. Both were internal positions and my experience within the organisation really helped me during the interviews. I got one of the roles and I didn’t get the other (to be fair, I didn’t have much experience, but I did get down to the final two). If you are looking for a job outside the normal PA role, perhaps job hopping is not the best approach…

Are you worth investing in?

Although I did job hop a lot I didn’t have much of an issue securing new roles. I always had a valid reason for leaving my current employer. It was often because I felt unmotivated and that I had reached my potential in that organisation. Although I would proactively look for new things to keep me motivated and fulfilled my employer wouldn’t be able to offer me anything more and I would reach a point that I was just ready to move on. Looking back, I wonder if this was a bit of a catch 22 situation. I job hopped because I was unmotivated, but my company didn’t motivate me because they knew I would probably leave anyway… I wonder if I was more loyal to the organisations they may have invested more time in keeping me happy.

Lots of different experiences

A huge pro for all of my job hopping is the amount of different experience I have as an assistant. I worked in lots of different environments, industries, countries and supported lots of different types of Executives. All of the different projects I have worked on over the years have provided me with lots of skills that I might not have otherwise acquired if I stayed in one role. For me that has made job hopping worth it.

I do find this topic really interesting. I think it is slightly different depending on where you work. Job hopping is easier if you work in a major city like I did (during a time that jobs were easier to find too). What do you think? Is job hopping the easiest way for PAs to climb the career ladder?

If you are thinking about changing your current job, we have a free eBook that will help you prepare for the perfect PA interview.

The Practically Perfect PA Guide to: Preparing for the perfect job

Download our free eBook!

Download the eBook


Inside the Guernsey PA Network

Firstly, can I have a little background about you…

What is your career background?

I started my working life as a Chef. When I left Catering College it was obvious to me that I wanted something with more regular hours.

The hotel where I was working part time to obtain my catering qualification asked me to stay on. When I told them what I was looking for, they asked me to become the receptionist. After a few years of becoming their Head Receptionist and not learning anything new I was ready for a new challenge. I came across a role for a Doctor’s PA and this gave me my first taste of a PA role. I stayed there for four years.

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Smash your mid year review

With September being half way through the financial year for organisations it is most likely that at some point soon you will have a mid-year review with your manager. If you don’ have anything in the diary or your Executive hasn’t mentioned getting together for a review I would highly recommend you do something about it. Mid year reviews are an important element of your career development. After 6 months you can check how you are progressing through your objectives, and goals and make any necessary changes. 

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How important is office culture?

Our lovely friends over at Career Moves recently conducted a survey to find out how important salary is when looking for a new role. You will be surprised by the results. Here is Sarah with more details…

Do we just want a good salary?

The Career Moves Office Support team recently sent out a Salary and Insights Survey, which produced some surprising results. We surveyed over 200 office support professionals, and discovered some interesting facts:

A huge factor for Assistants when looking for their next opportunity is unsurprisingly salary with 89% saying this was most important when looking for a new role. Interestingly, only a 3rd of respondents are actually happy with their current salary and benefits package!

A salary increase can be extremely attractive, and often a big motivator to change roles, or sometimes even move industry. But interestingly, in the results of our survey, salary did not come out on top. The number one is actually job content with a staggering 92% saying it’s all about the job itself. Secondly, was workplace culture. A whopping 90% said that this is their number one factor to consider when thinking about their next opportunity.

So if you’re thinking of moving roles, and salary is a big motivator for you, stop and consider job content and culture. These are equally as important – sometimes even more so!

How to spot a good office culture

90% considered workplace culture to be the most important thing when looking for a new employer. That is a huge percentage! It can be difficult to get a sense of the office culture before you take the job so here are a few tips to help you spot a great work place:

  1. Has the organisation won any awards or put themselves forward for any. Every year in the UK The Sunday Times puts together a list of the top 100 firms to work for. Alternatively, have a look on the organisation’s website to see if they have been nominated or won any accolades.
  2. Extend your research on the firm to include office culture, values and benefits (particularly around wellbeing). If the organisation has a social media presence this is also a good place to look for examples of their office culture. Is their content fun and relaxed or professional and formal? This will give you a good understanding of the culture and atmosphere in the office.
  3. Remember, you can ask questions in the interview about the office culture! You will get a good sense of what to expect from the interviewer’s answers. During your interviews also take a look at the office itself – what is the set up and what does the furniture look like. Again a nice environment shows that the employer is thinking about their staff.
  4. What is the overall package you are being offered? Although salary is not the number one driving factor it is still important. An employer that offers a good salary for the work that you do shows that they will value you. Also look at the overall benefit package. What else do they offer to retain employees?
  5. Last but not least, you can also speak to your recruitment agency about the employer. What type of candidates have they placed before and if you will be a good fit.

If you are looking for a new role please do download our free Ebook – The Practically Perfect PA guide to: Preparing for the perfect job.

The Practically Perfect PA Guide to: Preparing for the perfect job

Download our free eBook!

Download the eBook

We would also like to thank Career Moves for access to their survey results. If you would like to get in touch with Career Moves, here are the details:

Sarah Savage
t: 0207 758 4308

The Practically Perfect PA guide to finding the perfect PA job

I’m very excited to launch the first Practically Perfect PA eBook! With the support of Career Moves we have been able to put together a guide to help you prepare for the perfect PA job. Each chapter is dedicated to helping you through the process of applying for and securing the dream assistant role.

What can you expect to find in our eBook:

I think we have covered everything that you will need to think about when it comes to planning your next career move including the following:

  • Looking for an assistant role online
  • Making the most of your CV
  • Covering cover letters
  • How to stand out in a crowded market
  • Example interview questions and answers specifically for assistants
  • Questions to ask during an interview
  • Working with a new Executive

The eBook is free to download and I really help you find it useful during such an important point in your career! 

If you are reading this on email, here is the link to download the eBook.

Preparing for the perfect pa job

Download the Practically Perfect PA eBook

Download our free eBook

A word from Career Moves

Career Moves is an award-winning recruitment company, which matches the most talented individuals some of the UK’s leading organisations. Our Office Support Division has more than 25 years’ experience working with highly experienced administrative professionals. Our network of clients ranges from startups and SME’s, to global tech and media brands. We also work with a number of high-net worth individuals looking for a private or business PA.

This year we are thrilled to be the sponsor for the Practically Perfect PA eBook and Assist Conference 2017.

You can learn more about the Office Support division here and you can also check out our sister divisions; HR, PR & Marketing & Broadcast.


Ten Ted Talks every Assistant should watch

Hopefully you are familiar with Ted Talks, if not, here is a quick overview of what they are all about.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Ted Talks are a brilliant way for Assistants to receive free training from the worlds greatest speakers and leaders. I’ve put together a list of great talks that specifically relate to the role of the assistant. Hopefully you will find them inspiring, thought provoking and useful!

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions and offers three powerful pieces of advice for women aiming to reach the Boardroom. Link for those reading this via email.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We should all be feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Link for those reading this via email.

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated. Link for those reading this via email.

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work

Jason Fried has a radical theory of working: that the office isn’t a good place to do it. He calls out the two main offenders (call them the M&Ms) and offers three suggestions to make the workplace actually work. Link for those reading this via email.


Margaret Heffernan: Forget the pecking order at work

Organizations are often run according to “the superchicken model,” where the value is placed on star employees who outperform others. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most high-achieving teams. Business leader Margaret Heffernan observes that it is social cohesion — built every coffee break, every time one team member asks another for help — that leads over time to great results. It’s a radical rethink of what drives us to do our best work, and what it means to be a leader. Because, as Heffernan points out: “Companies don’t have ideas. Only people do.” Link for those reading via email.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening? Here’s Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to’s of powerful speaking — from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful. Link for those reading via email.

 Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. Link for those reading via email.


Susan Colantuono: The career advice you probably didn’t get

You’re doing everything right at work, taking all the right advice, but you’re just not moving up. Why? Susan Colantuono shares a simple, surprising piece of advice you might not have heard before quite so plainly. This talk, while aimed at an audience of women, has universal takeaways — for men and women, new grads and midcareer workers. Link for those reading via email.

David Pogue: 10 top time-saving tech tips

Tech columnist David Pogue shares 10 simple, clever tips for computer, web, smartphone and camera users. And yes, you may know a few of these already — but there’s probably at least one you don’t. Link for those reading via email.

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work

Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen. Link for those reading via email.

Inside the Peterborough PA Network

Next up in our series of blog posts about regional PA networks, we have the Peterborough PA network. Launched by Bethany Fovargue in 2013 this network has gone from strength to strength and Bethany is now asked to speak and promote the role of assistants all over the world. 

Firstly, can I have a little background about you…

What is your career background?

I left primary teaching in June 2011 and started at Data Interchange as an Office Administrator shortly afterwards. I have recently changed roles, becoming EA to the Commercial Director at Data Interchange. My new role is exciting; I am supporting the Commercial Director, working on new projects for the business and in areas such as marketing and with our partners, so I have some new challenges ahead!

Aside from the network, what have been your career highlights to date?

Coming runner up for the Hays/Executive PA Magazine awards for Newcomer of the Year 2012 started my journey into becoming a career PA. The confidence I gained from the recognition has led me to set up my own network, the Peterborough PA Network, from which I have had some amazing opportunities, the most recent of which is becoming a Non-Executive Director at EPAA, the Executive and Personal Assistant’s Association, which launched in January 2016.

What piece of advice would you give assistants coming into the profession today?

Get stuck in…which is a polite way of saying, “get over yourself!”. Don’t be afraid to fail, to make mistakes, or to come second (or third, or…). Who knows what opportunities are just around the corner – get stuck in!

What piece of advice would you give your younger self at the beginning of your career?

Accept when it’s not a good career match – I wish that I had left teaching earlier than I did, without feeling like I had failed.

What piece of technology or app can you not live without?


About the network…

What made you decide to set up the network?

I am the only PA in our company – I wanted to network with like-minded people, as this is my first office job, but noticed that the majority of the events were London-based.

What are the objectives of the network?

The Peterborough PA network aims to share knowledge, experience and best practice. This is an opportunity to develop your own network of contacts as well as pick up tips, recommendations and represent your company to others. There is no cost for the seminars and we pride ourselves on having had local support since April 2013.

What was the initial reaction and what does the network look like today?

We launched in April 2013, with presentations from Hays, the APA and Gail Thomas, a delegation expert, to around 25 Admin professionals. We received great feedback and still see those 25 faces, but now have a mailing list of around 280 and continue to go from strength to strength.

How did you promote the network?

We use Twitter and LinkedIn – Peterborough PA Network group.

Do you have advisor’s / board members / mentors that have helped with the network? Who are they and what did they contribute?

Jan Bradshaw, of Hays Office Support, is my co-founder, helping me to pull the events together, provide our delegates with goody bags and welcome our guests when I’m quivering in a corner with nerves!

What challenges do you think assistants within your network face and how do you think the network helps?

Peterborough has a large number of SMEs, which often means that you can be the sole administrative professional in your office. Our network provides opportunities for support and sharing of best practices, creating a network of “colleagues” across the city!

Have you personally met any challenges with running the network?

Running the network has only brought positive challenges, the largest of which I would say is honing my negotiation skills in order to keep the events free for our members!

What has been the highlight for the network so far?

Securing the regional launch of EPAA in March 2016 – we can’t wait to support this national initiative!

Network details…

Name: Peterborough PA Network
Location: Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
LinkedIn Group: Peterborough PA Network
Twitter: @PboroPA

Inside the Peterborough PA Network

The future of recruitment for Assistants

At the recent Assist Conference we held a great panel session about the future of the assistant role. We asked Claire Grant, Head of London Talent at the new recruitment firm, specifically for assistants, Sidekicks onto the panel and she provided a great insight into the future of the role from a recruitment perspective. For those that couldn’t attend the conference, here are the thoughts of Jessica Williams, Founder (and former assistant) at Sidekicks… 

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Always make a great first impression

Looking back on my career as an Assistant I can pinpoint a few occasions where I definitely made a great first impression. For example, there was that time I absolutely nailed a first interview and later that day I got the phone call to say the Exec didn’t need to interview anyone else and if I wanted it the job was mine. There was another time I had just started at an organisation and was invited to their awards dinner where I would be sitting on a table with five board level directors. I was a complete nervous wreak but managed to come across as out-going, confident and interesting… sure alcohol did help with that one… 

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Inside the Edinburgh PA Network

One of the reasons I started Practically Perfect PA back in 2011 was because I wanted to create an online community for assistants. A place to come, learn and realise that there was at least one other PA that felt the same way you did and was facing the same every day issues you were (and some of the triumphs too!) Jump forward nearly five years – where the heck has that time gone!??! – and things have certainly changed. Over the last few years there are plenty more online communities and in more recent times we have taken networking to a whole new level with local networks, organised by assistants, springing up all over the place. It is brilliant! Meeting other assistants who work near by, who share the same suppliers, hotels, restaurants etc. is great and obviously getting to hang out with people that understand the job – well that is invaluable. I thought it would be great if we had a little space on Practically Perfect PA dedicated to these awesome networks and I thought it would be even better if we found out a little more about the assistants who start up the groups. First up we have the Edinburgh PA Network. The networking was established by Sherien Ahmed, Sally Lloyd and Amy Smith… Here is everything you need to know…. 

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