Friday, 25 July 2014

Career Case Study: How I decided to train and become a PA and Bookkeeper

I have been working in sales since I left college ten years ago. After college, I started as a receptionist for a local company in my town. It was a small company where everyone was very friendly and the boss was very patient and approachable. I did not feel as the new comer as my colleagues included me in everything. 

Working as an Office Junior

After six months I was promoted to Office Junior where I was given more responsibility. I was now in Sales where I had to input information into the spreadsheet and dealing with all the paperwork to customers and suppliers and other ad hoc admin jobs. When I was on reception, the boss had given me some minor tasks and he noticed that I was quite accurate with figures and also inputting info into the system; hence the promotion at this early stage. Needless to say, there was a nice pay increase to match the job.

Image courtesy of and author ponsuwan

As with any small company, you tend to do much more than in your job description; that is you tend to ‘muck in.’ I would take orders and complaints over the telephone. I was also working closely with Sales and Accounts while liaising constantly with suppliers and customers who I got to know very well. Suppliers and customers would sometimes want to deal with only me. As would be expected, colleagues would come to me if they needed information. I became the ‘holder of knowledge within the company.’

Because I had good relations with the customer, I was often asked to give a feedback to the managers. I was given a portfolio of customers which increased over the years. I now had to attend meetings with the managers.

Maternity Leave

At this time I fell pregnant with twins. I did not feel that I would need any extra time other than the usual maternity leave as I had full support of my parents. My mum did not work as my dad had a good job. My boss thought otherwise. My partner felt trapped and we split up. The twins were a handful to leave with my mum and she was finding it quite tiring. My boss suggested that I work part-time with flexible hours which I did. This was a much better solution for all of us and worked out quite well. I did not miss much with the twins as I took them to the playgroup and school. Money was tight but not too bad as my parents assisted greatly.

I began to notice that some of the full time staff were becoming part time workers. The credit crunch did affect the company badly as it forced the company to wind down. The boss was very drawn and he cried when he broke the news to us.

Image courtesy of and author stockimage

I had to take stock of my life. I had no qualifications just experience and a good recommendation from my boss. My dad encouraged me to take time off and get the necessary qualifications before I look for a job as he will see to all my expenses. To contribute, I moved back into my parents’ home and rented my flat.

Retraining to get a better job

The job market showed quite a lot of vacancies for PAs and accounts. I thought I will open my options by enrolling for a PA course which is entirely new to me. I also took a book keeping course which endorsed my experience. They were short intensive courses which I , believe it or not, enjoyed very much. I passed with flying colours and after one month and a number of interviews, I found that job. I am back in my flat.

To find out more about PA Courses go to

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

PA Work Life Balance: Manage your time effectively at work

Nowadays we lead such busy lives with so little time in which to do it. We have friends to meet, places to go, calls to make, many other things to do and then, of course, there is Facebook.
In the workplace, with each promotion, there is more you have to do and the 24 hour day just seems too short. You may think you can get by with very little sleep but this will soon badly affect our ability to concentrate and perform efficiently and can damage our health, mentally and physically. No one can do it all. 

Image courtesy of and author photostock

'Manage your time effectively'

Therefore you need to manage your time in order to survive and prosper. Why not set yourself a goal so you can plan your path towards that goal. Your next step will be to recognise and separate what are important (urgent) from what is important (not urgent) from what is not important (not urgent) and what is not important (not needed). Now you can set your time priorities.

Once that has been completed, you need to plan your time. Think of what you need to accomplish and the time frame; be critical. To ensure you do not overlook any part of the job, you should write the sequence of actions.

With this in place you now have to manage your time so set deadlines. Why is it taking you a long time to complete a task? Be honest. Is it because you need lots of concentration, then tackle this when your level of concentration is at the highest; you will be aware of this as it is different with everyone as it could be early in the morning or after lunch. Is it lack of knowledge, then you should enrol on a course and learn the subject. This will enhance your knowledge base, not to mention your CV and give you confidence to work quickly. 

Image courtesy of and author photostock

'Effective Delegation' 

Managing your time should also include delegation. It is important to plan delegation and allow time for training before you delegate and give the required outcome of the work expected. People do like to be involved so both parties win. You should spread delegation around so as to motivate colleagues. Remember to keep your core job to yourself.

'Work with others'

Your colleagues may also have their own time management plan so be sensitive to their time. This is not the ideal time to delegate to them or stop by for a chat. Maybe you can offer to assist.
What about the other party who keeps on talking about anything and everything? You can politely ask the client if there is anything else you can assist them with; with a colleague, you can suggest you catch up later as you have an important call or job to complete.

Find details of PA Courses for technical skills and more complicated soft skills at

Friday, 27 June 2014

Introduction to Project Management for an Executive Assistant or Office Manager

As someone in charge of project management it is of course important that the project is managed as it should be. A good way to make sure that this happens is to make sure you meet the 7S Model (as  seen below) This framework helps with projects of all sizes and calibres and helps to see what you need to be doing to ensure that your project is managed successfully.

Author stockimages and image courtesy of

If you are someone that is in charge of project management then it is important that you know how it differs from operational management and the skills you will need to carry this out. Of course the skills you have can be carried through to other management environments but they are also essential for project management. Things you should consider are included in Maylor's 7S:

 - Structure
 - Style
 - Staff
 - Skills
 - Stakeholders
 - Strategy
 - Systems

Author stockimages and image courtesy of

Staff and stakeholders

When you look into this, they could seem like generic skills needed for all sorts of management. However it is important to see how they can relate to the management of a project.
So for example when it comes to project management is it essential that you have a project manager in place. This person needs to have a wide range of skills and experience in order to make sure that the whole thing runs as smoothly as possible. You will also need other team members which can be made up of full and part time staff depending on your needs and will skills in different areas.
You will also need to take into consideration the needs and feelings of stakeholders. These are people that are involved in the project and are going to be affected by the outcome.
Stakeholders are people who have an interest in or are affected by the operation of the project or its outcomes. Their attitudes, perceptions and influence will vary and they must all be properly identified and dealt with if the project is to be a success.


The structure of your project is important in many ways.
First of all you will need to look at the lifespan of your project, what is expected and when it should be delivered. You'll also need to look at the structure matrix if any building work needs to take place as part of your finished project. It can be worth looking at more set-out structures such as PRINCE2 and seeing if these are appropriate for your project.

Systems and Strategy

In order to keep things running smoothly try to think of your project as a system that needs its own elements to work. That way you can look at what you need to do to make this work correctly and how everything else relates to this.
Of course within all of this you will need to think about the organisation you are working for/with and what they are going to need from your project too.

You need to take into account the style and culture of your overall project. This means looking at what you need to do now and what might need to be done in the future including the surrounding areas and ensuring that everyone is kept happy and content.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Interview Questions Examples

1. Why would you like this job? 

This is an obvious question but is all too often done badly. In this situation demonstrate some knowledge and research of the company and the job role.

Ideally, you should sell why your skills and experience should fit the role and suggest that you would like to develop your career in the job role.

Using specific details of the job role or company can help to impress the employer and make it clear that you have done some investigation and preparation for the interview.

Author stockimages and image courtesy of

2. What are your weaknesses?

Here is an opportunity to show a weakness and what you have done to correct it. Naturally, do not choose something that would be a big issue to you being a good hire. However, demonstrating your willingness to improve yourself is a great way to gain from this question.

3. Give me an example of leadership in a team.

This is a common question and the interviewer is looking for a well explained example from your previous experience. You need to clearly demonstrate leadership of others, potentially coaching others, taking initiative and potentially influencing others.

All of these attributes will vary depending on the company culture and the grade of your job. Leadership of a manager is far more important and they will look at the Leadership style adopted and your ability to manage others. Non-managerial roles will look at the influencing and taking initiative.
Remember to be sure to demonstrate the correct leadership skills, which could entail working with others. Few companies will be keen on autocratic styles in this day and age, so be sure to match your approach to the culture of the industry and company.

Author Ambro and image courtesy of

4. Why did you leave your last job?

This is a question that you must prepare in advance. A slow or nervous answer will make the employer concerned that you had an issue at the last job. Also, never talk badly about the previous employer.  

5. Do you have any questions?

This is a common question to end an interview and the interviewer is looking to see interest in the job and that you are thinking seriously about the company.

This is where you ask about career development, work culture and other professional questions. Never ask about holiday, sick pay, tea breaks and anything like this.

Try thinking about questions before the interview, so you are not stuck in the interview and end up asking a silly question. 

To prepare yourself for a career change and get a new job, find out more about training courses at