As a PA you know you have the organisational skills to rule the world and actually know your company well enough do half the jobs in the place if push came to shove. A PA is part office manager, part senior project manager and part psychic, all skills that are extremely transferable if you decide you would like steer yourself on to another career path.
If you are certain that you want to take your career in another direction and you don’t want to just marry your boss aka Mad Men style (Roger’s PA, not Peggy) or use those psychic skills to join the circus, then it takes patience and determination to make it happen. Here are some handy tips from one of my good friends who made the change and never looked back:
- Decide what your dream job would be, even if it seems like a pipe dream after years of being the office lynchpin.
- Map out the steps it would take to achieve your goal, be realistic it might take two or three years to get to where you want to be – so patience is a virtue too.
- If you can find a mentor or someone in your chosen profession to have a coffee with and get some invaluable advice, it really helps with your motivation.
- Take advantage of being in a relatively well paid job and decide to invest that money in the training you need – yes this does mean you might not have as many fancy dinners or a trip to Thailand this year, but it is worth it when you finally have that new job title.
- Chat with your boss and tell her that you are taking a night/online class and how you think the training will actually make you a better employee – she doesn’t need to know you will use it as a ticket out of there; they may even pay for it! If they do pay for your training it may commit you to working at the company for a period of time, but it is worth it if it gets you one step closer to your goal.
- Like Peggy Olsen (sorry another Mad Men reference!) start looking round your current company for gaps in teams that you think you could fill – use the kudos and credit you has built up over the years to transition within the company before you brave the outside world. Most employers don’t want to lose a great employee and would rather help you develop in a new role than see you leave.
- Talk to your friends and family about your plans, you will definitely need every ounce of support you can get working a full time job, and studying weekends and evenings. You need a supportive partner who doesn’t mind you crying when you’re tired and you just want to watch TV instead of studying!
- If you do transition into a new role within your current company, be prepared for some people struggling to take you seriously or genuinely being rude. People don’t like change and if you have been a PA and move into another profession, some people find it hard to not think of you as just doing that role. Be prepared that some of the other PA’s may not be that supportive too, they may feel a bit put out that you didn’t want to be one of them anymore!
- Once you have spent some time building up your experience, preferably in your own company, then it is time to spread your wings and get a new job. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself on your CV, you can tweak your history to highlight all the experience that supports your new career path. It isn’t fraud to emphasise all the positive skills that match the new career you want and if you don’t use a little artistic licence then it could hold you back.
- Finally, be confident – go into that interview as though you have been working in this sector your whole career. You know you can do the job and you are offering this company a great employee. You can chose to talk about your time as a PA or you can talk about being a project manager with some PA elements, chose what you feel comfortable with and what will get you the job you have been working towards for so long.
Life is long and just because you have been in one career, as the world’s best PA, for a number of years doesn’t mean you cannot make a change if you really want to. The skills, patience and fortitude that come with being an assistant will stand you in good stead in any new role and make you a fantastic, very employable person. Don’t put any limits on what you can achieve if you really want to and there is nothing like the first time you’re introduced as your new job title and you are there representing you and nobody else.