Introducing, ‘Signature Stories’, our new regular feature where we invite a member of our network to share their inspirational story.
For our first feature we are super excited to welcome ‘PA of the Year Award 2018’ winner, Abi Jones.
“My experience as the Personal Assistant of the Year
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up I had the long flowing hair and the love of swimming, but unfortunately, I lacked the necessary fish tail and so my dream was doomed before it had even started. I tell you this because I don’t think any one ever, in the history of the world, has said ‘I want to be an Executive or Personal Assistant when I grown up’ and consequently, there are very few logical progressions that people can follow to be so, and most, when asked, will say they ‘fell’ into this career path.
I started as Personal Assistant/Press Assistant at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, after taking several degrees in Art/History of Art and curating my own exhibition which landed me the role at the V&A. I discovered I loved being a PA a lot more than I liked working in Press and PR, and so I started developing my PA career in the art world, working for Tate, Christies, Sotheby’s and private art dealers, before moving across to the Charity sector, then graduating to more corporate environments.
As my knowledge and experience grew, so did the level of seniority and responsibility in my role, and I am now an Executive Assistant who works at C-Suite level (CEO, CFO, Chairman etc). I have worked in several different sectors and industries, from the arts, to banking, finance, luxury fashion, beauty and retail. This means I have also worked for, and with, a lot of different personality types, budgets, expectations and demands. As an EA, you could be asked to do anything from write next years’ strategy plan, to organising the annual retreat, to sourcing cupcakes in the company’s brand colours, to attending an urgent meeting in your bosses’ place in Paris, to finding a mislaid favourite umbrella that they think they lost ‘somewhere in Russia’.
Along the way, I have become a member of many different PA and EA networks and organisations– not only is it an invaluable source of support and advice from other people who understand your role, but it is a great ‘little black book’ network- you never know when you are suddenly going to need a private jet at 3am, or find somewhere who is willing to fly to Uzbekistan to provide translation, or a book a private meeting room for 600 people that has to have natural daylight and serves vegan catering but is also painted blue.
A couple of years ago, I was featured on the cover of PA Life Magazine and asked to appear on a panel discussion at a PA trade show. From this, my public speaking career has developed, and I now speak regularly at PA networks, trade events, in house EA networks and conferences, which has taken me to many different locations and I have met so many amazing people as a result.
I am also a coach and mentor exclusively to EAs and PAs and I am passionate about supporting and developing new and existing colleagues in the industry- so rarely is there a formal career path (and there certainly wasn’t much in the way of guidance when I started out) and professional development for Admin staff that I felt it was important to encourage and grow the amazing talent out there.
Every EA has unbelievable stories of their working lives– and it is true to say that there is not such thing as a ‘normal’ day in the office- you could be organising your bosses’ personal private life and their working life seamlessly. You might be in charge of finding the perfect present for your boss’s spouse (because they have forgotten), or couriering a laptop from Delhi that they left in a bar after an eventful night, or accessing their personal bank account to buy shares in their preferred stock, or writing a budget proposal, or filling out their medical forms for them, or working out how to ship the ashes of a former beloved family pet home, but whatever it is, you will always be busy. There are different levels and categories of personal and business assistant- you could be a private PA working for a High Net Worth Individual (HNWI), or a travelling PA going around the world with your boss, or you could be a very traditional desk or office based EA who only handles the working life- or you could a PA in a private household and have to manage everyone from the nanny to the chauffeur and the gardener and arrange private balls and hunting parties.
Last year I won the PA of the Year Award 2018, and this year I have been nominated for the London PA of the Year 2019 and the UK PA of the Year Award 2019 (keep your fingers crossed for me!), and it is a great honour to represent the EA and PA community- and it is a career I find fascinating, dynamic and challenging (even if I can’t be a mermaid).
If you are interested in my coaching and mentoring work, or you would like to book me to speak at your event, please contact me through my website, or follow me on Instagram @thepacoach”
Thanks for sharing your story Abi!
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If you would like to share your story, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org #SignatureStories