So today I am doing a little bit of celebrating because it is officially my three year blogging anniversary. Thanks to everyone who has already sent me their congratulations. When I first started the blog, I really didn’t put much thought into it. I was head-smashing-against-a-brick-wall bored in my job and I missed having creative tasks. I had also just split up with boyfriend and wanted to prove something to myself. So instead of getting a terrible haircut I started Practically Perfect PA. I thought maybe my mum would read it, possible my best friend who is also a PA… she might read it if she didn’t have anything else to do. My brother certainly wouldn’t read it and most of my other friends preferred my other creative outlet – alcohol.
As it turned out quite a few of you began reading the blog. Every day I would check to see how many hits the website received and I couldn’t believe my eyes as it quite quickly reached 100 page views per day. I was absolutely chuffed! I was also pretty terrified. It isn’t easy putting yourself out there, particularly as I come from a background of very much being behind the scenes. But, I thought to myself, this is my opportunity to do something different and although there have been times I thought about going back to “just being an assistant” I have forced myself to keep going with Practically Perfect PA and embrace everything that the blog has thrown my way.
I must say I do tend to indulge in self-reflection on anniversaries. I once spent a birthday listing all the terrible choices I had made up until that point (I was 21 and very dramatic). I don’t often blog about myself specifically so I thought I’d give you a little update on what I have been up to over the last three years.
Within a few months of starting Practically Perfect PA I was out looking for a new job. I had been writing about my experiences as an EA and encouraging other assistants to stand up for their career choices while I was actively hating my job. So I took my own advice and decided to look for something better. My first job interview was slightly worrying – the interviewer had read my blog and was asking questions relating specifically to things I had written. I didn’t get the job because I had written about a personality type I found difficult to work with. Turns out the Executive was that exact personality type. I was worried the blog was going to scupper any chances of getting a new job. Either I had to tone down what I was writing, hide the fact I had a blog or stop it altogether. I didn’t want to do any of those things so I decided to keep going and hoped that something would eventually come along. I was right. Skip forward 6 months and I had the opportunity to live in Barcelona, work for a newly established events company and move Practically Perfect PA into a fully functioning and paying part time role.
Moving to another country, away from everything you know, is really hard. Learning a new language and adapting to a new culture is not easy but it has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve become much more proactive – I thought I already was but I had no idea! I’ve also had to be really organised and focussed so that I spent quality time enjoying Barcelona and not just working all hours. Task management is my new mantra!
In 2013 I was asked to speak at the Office Managers and PA Exhibition and Conference. My immediate reaction was to say no and then hide under my desk. I hated speaking in public, not just public speaking but speaking out loud – in general. If I wasn’t comfortable around people I tended not to speak. If I had to speak I would usually go bright red and a horrible red rash would creep up my chest and throat. I spent a lot of time wearing scarves. It was awful. As I got older I became a little more confident and was able to speak up in meetings and voice my opinion but I still had to fight every instinct not to speak. So back to receiving that invitation to speak, despite my head shouting ‘NO!!’ I said ‘errr yeah sure…’
When the day eventually arrived I was absolutely petrified, but guess what? I did it. I got through it and I was okay. I have quite a few public speaking gigs under my belt and I get more confident with each one. I still get ridiculously nervous but I can stand up in front of people and tell them what I think and I can pass on what I have learnt over the years. That is a massive achievement for me.
I wish more assistants had that push to try something completely out of their comfort zone. I think many of us don’t get the opportunity and if we do we don’t always take it because we are so used to being behind the scenes and not wanting to push ourselves into the limelight. If you ever get the opportunity – grab it with both hands, what is the worse that could happen? Even Beyonce has fallen off a stage or two!
Moving abroad was something I always wanted to do but could never figure out how exactly to do it. This decision took quite a few months to make but one I am so glad I said yes to. Personally as well as professionally it has changed my life. I am now a full time blogger, writing about an industry that I am incredibly passionate about. I am also happily settled in a great relationship, I have a baby on the way and I am moving to Edinburgh in a few months to start the next chapter of my life. Edinburgh is another city I’ve never lived in before and I’m sure it will bring its own challenges – mainly the cold.
I look back on the last three years and I am so pleased that I got off my ass and changed something I wasn’t happy with. More often than not, it was me that was holding me back because I just thought eventually that great opportunity would present itself. It didn’t and it never was, I had to find the courage to go for it. I try to pass this wisdom on to other assistants. The only way you are going to advance your career is if you make it happen. Nobody is going to give it to you, I’m afraid!
So what does the future hold? Well Practically Perfect PA is going from strength to strength. We now have over 40,000 page views per month and for me it feels like a real community of engaged assistants who are smart, driven and seriously impressive. We are holding our first conference next year, which is something I have wanted to do for a while and I am really excited about the programme and speakers. The first Practically Perfect PA baby will arrive at the beginning of March so there is that to look forward to as well. Expect lots of maternity and pregnancy blogs in the next few months!
On a final note I want to thank all of you lot for your support over the last three years. I really do appreciate all of your kind words, your opinions and your constructive criticisms. If working on Practically Perfect PA has taught me one thing it is that we can achieve so much if we work together and stick up for each other.