Want to change your PA/EA career path? You’ve come to the right place. This blog is going to help you to focus on where you want to go, how to get there and enable you to tell your story authentically. Together we’ll put you to the top of the applicant list.
We’ll be looking at 5 key areas:
- Discovering your career goals
- Creating a brilliant CV for Personal and Executive Assistants
- Preparing (and nailing) the PA/EA interview
- Building a personal brand
- The right mindset to focus your career
Whether you want to change jobs, are just starting in the PA/EA world, returning to work or have recently found yourself back in the job market, these steps will help. Over the past 22 years, I’ve worked with around 17,000 assistants, helping them to thrive in their careers. Here is some of the best advice I’ve learnt over that time. But first, let me start with this token of wisdom:
>>> Focus on the step in front of you, not the whole staircase.
Career transitions are exciting but undoubtedly stressful. This is particularly true if you are out of work. I know it might seem hard right now but by breaking things down step by step, this whole process will feel much more manageable.
Discovering your career goals
Often people say they ‘just need a job’. I understand that being out of work is scary, perhaps you don’t have the luxury of taking a break. But if you can, rather than rushing into something out of panic, get specific about what you need in your life. When you do that, better things will come.
Now is the time to get to grips about what is going to serve you not just right now, but in the future. Future you deserves more than ‘just a job.’ To do that we’re going to look at SMART goals.
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time-bound (time-based, time-sensitive).
Defining your career goals: activity (5-mins)
I want you to do this exercise we recently did in one of our C&C community webinars. It will only take 5 minutes, so grab a piece of paper and let’s do it. I want you to use those SMART goals as a jumping point of what you want for your career.
When it comes to being specific, don’t just say, ‘I want a job as a PA’. Try thinking about the following:
- What does this job look like?
- What would you be doing?
- What is the company like?
- What’s the culture?
- Is it a global company or something smaller and more local?
- What are the values they have that are important to you?
When it comes to measuring your goal, rather than saying ‘when I get the job’, I want you to think differently. Instead, position it as ‘When I am thriving in my role it is because…’ It might be completing a type of project or making new friends. Think about job satisfaction.
How attainable is this goal? Think realistically at the time we’re in. Do you think you can get a job in two, four or eight weeks? Be realistic. This also fits into the 5th point on time.
Is this goal relevant to where you want to be in life? This goes back to your why. Why do you want to work in a company like that, what’s your plan for the future. How will it help you develop?
Creating a brilliant CV for Personal and Executive Assistants
I could talk about this all day. Here I’ll give a brief overview but for a more detailed guide on writing a butt-kicking PA/EA CV, check out our next blog.
Firstly, I want to make sure you’re thinking of your CV in the right way. It should be your PR document. It needs to hype you up and sell you. Here are the key elements your CV should cover.
How long should a CV be?
Your CV should be 2-3 pages long. A note on the format, I don’t like to use pictures or videos as CVs. At C&C and our sister company Altus, we feel very strongly about promoting diversity and inclusivity within hiring. Pictures and videos open up recruitment to unconscious (or conscious) bias.
Write for the job you want
Look at the job descriptions and duties. Where you’ve done them, make sure they are put on the CV, that way you are showing the person reading it that you tick the boxes.
Start with a great personal statement
This is SO important. It should be about four sentences long and it should be compelling. Who are you, what can you do and what are you looking for? Your personal statement is your elevator pitch. Make sure it’s the same as your LinkedIn bio.
Include key skills and achievement
Three to five key skills and around three achievements. These should show off your outstanding skills, again relate these to the job you’re applying for. Not comfortable bigging yourself up? Ask old employers or peers what they think
Don’t wait to be asked for references or just put contact numbers. Ask old bosses or colleagues for references. Better yet get them to put that as recommendations on your LinkedIn and then use these on your CV.
Look out for typos
Did you know 97% of all the CVs we received at C&C last year had mistakes? If you are a PA/EA you must have great attention to detail. Go through it with a fine-tooth comb. Use tools like Grammarly to help.
Preparing for (and nailing) the PA/EA interview
Your shiny new CV turned all the right heads, now it’s time to meet either face to face or on a video call. If you are doing an interview online, please make sure your background is clear of anything distracting.
Below are 7 ways to prepare for an interview:
- Research the company: do your detective work and go in armed with this knowledge
- Use STAR responses: situation, task, actions, results. If you Google core competency questions, you can think about how you might answer these questions with the STAR response in mind.
- Know your worth: You need to know who you are, what is your elevator pitch, what do you have to bring?
- What impact will I make: Interviewees want to understand how you do what you do and how it creates impact.
- Prepare questions: think ahead of questions you want to ask. Here are a few to start you off: I’d like to understand why you joined the firm, what makes someone successful in this org, what are the main challenges the organisation faces, how can I make a positive impact in the next 6 months?
- What is your weakness: never answer with ‘I’m a perfectionist’. I suggest thinking about previous reviews with employers. Think about something that’s come up that you’ve worked through. Don’t pick something too critical.
- Follow-up: Send an email a couple of hours after thanking them for their time and say you’re looking forward to hearing back from them. It is a courtesy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get a response, your integrity remains intact.
Building a personal brand
We are all the CEOs of ourselves now. We have to have a strong personal brand to appeal to employers.
Lots of employers will google you before an interview. Get ahead and Google yourself to make sure it matches up with how you want people to perceive you.
Make sure all your social media accounts are either locked down or match up with what you want professionally. You can utilise platforms like LinkedIn to comment on posts you agree with and share interesting articles within your industry.
There are some great gurus on personal branding you can get some inspiration from. Take a look at Steve Rubel, Seth Godin and Cynthia Johnson.
The right mindset to focus your career
You cannot change the past, but the actions you take today will impact the future. That’s the biggest way you can change your life.
When you’re in between jobs or feeling lost or unhappy in a current one, things can feel desperate. It’s easy for anxiety and self-destructive thinking to take place. When things feel strange like this we often ask, ‘why is this happening to me?’
Instead of thinking like that, I want you to ask: why are they happening for you.
Let’s use the pandemic as an example. Our work has been interrupted, here at C&C search we’ve had to tackle some big changes. However, I’m using this time to explore more creative ideas, to connect with you, our community, more. It’s allowed me to focus on our plans for the future and values. The next time you’re in despair ask yourself this. As soon as you stop feeling like a victim, you can take action.
It might seem hard right now, but you need to be a radiator, not a drain. Radiators exude positive energy, drains suck it up. Show up as the person you want to emulate.
You can watch our webinar all about career moves for free here. If you want more content like this, why not join our Coaching Club for £9.99 per month? As part of the coaching community, you’ll have access to special webinars, events, tools and more to help build the career of your dreams.