- Guest Post
- Work Advice
Admin Heroes – Lauren Bradley, Freelance Private PA and Founder of The Officials.
Lauren has been a long-time friend of Anderson Hoare, since meeting her in 2008 we’ve placed her in multiple PA and admin jobs and she continues to inspire us with her ambition, drive and relentless energy and passion for being an admin. She’s a fountain of knowledge and one of those kinds of people that we could all learn something from. Admins often get overlooked so our Admin Hero series is a chance to put a spotlight on people that are doing extraordinary things in the admin community and that’s why we’re delighted to feature her as our first guest blogger. Below she’s given us an insight into her busy life. We will learn how she juggles Freelance PA work, about her company The Officials, and her failsafe tips for succeeding and progressing whether you’re a Private PA, Freelance PA or Corporate Admin.
We helped Lauren start her career through both temping and permanent placement. If you’re looking for a new admin role please click here to view our live job board. Keep scrolling to read our interview with Lauren.
As an assistant, how do you develop a good working relationship with your executive?
From the very first time you meet, treat them as your equal. I don’t mean from the first day of your job but from the moment you walk into the interview. We are all human and therefore we are all peers. Admins, especially women admins, can be overly meek and subservient in their roles and then are later frustrated that their opinions aren’t as considered or as respected as they would like despite the fact that, as a PA, we essentially help run someone’s life. I say this because I was a bit too subservient in the beginning of my career. From the moment I realised what I was doing I made the decision that in my next role I would go in as an equal. From that point, my work and subsequently my life became so much more enjoyable. It was a game changer.
You’ve got two children and a husband; do you find it hard to juggle the demands of your family with the demands of your job?
In a word – yes, it is hard! But mothers are resourceful. We find a way to make it all work. My advice here is find a routine that works for you and have a support system. My husband and I split all household tasks and he appreciates that when I work from home I’m working, we balance the housework and life admin in our free time. I’m not going to lie; it took us a while to get there but now we have a pretty good balance and it makes all the difference.
I’ve come to realise the busier I am the more laser focused I have to be to get it all done. It doesn’t allow room for procrastination. I track everything in Trello, I spend 15 minutes at night planning for the coming day and I schedule tasks in my calendar as well.
You’ve worked as both a Private PA and Corporate Admin, which do you prefer and why?
That’s a tough one as it really depends on where you work. Both Private PA and Corporate Admin jobs have unique qualities and that’s what makes them exciting.
Being a Private PA is fabulous because you are working with a small team so you can see immediately how your actions help improve their lives and it can be more relaxed than an office, but there is a fine line to be watched. To know you have the trust of a HNWI and their family is a triumph and it can be deeply rewarding.
On the flip side working in a corporation affords you the ability to interact with so many more people. You will see how your work affects your executives and team but it can be harder to see how it contributes to the overall company goals. But there are more cakes during staff birthdays!
As an admin that has cross sector experience, how important do you think working in different environments is and how transferable do you feel admin skills are between different industries?
I have been a top salesperson, head of marketing, a university instructor and I’ve had just about every admin/assistant title one can be assigned. Every single experience I’ve had has taught me something. Variety gives you more perspective, it allows you to see a problem from new angles and elevate your ability to find an appropriate solution. You do not have to have come from such a varied background as myself, it is all about different experiences. Join a class, go to a networking event or volunteer. Any of these activities will make your life richer and provide you more experience from which to draw insight.
As admins we share a common set of challenges. Are there any challenges in particular that stood out?
Being underestimated This is something that has plagued me my entire career. My best advice is to be polite and helpful but be yourself down to the core. Come in knowing you are not expected to have all the answers. If you spend all your time trying to have all the answers you won’t have time to chime in on live issues and make your voice known. You don’t have to have all the answers to be taken seriously. You have unique experiences that give you a valuable perspective to problem solving. Don’t worry too much what others think of you, the more you concern yourself with what they think the more you shrink. Do your job with confidence and it will surround you like an aura. Do that and in time anyone that underestimated you will see your worth.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
That is a really good question. It would be to be a little looser with rule following. I am drawn to being an admin because I like order, colour coding and fixing problems. I like the ideas of clear instruction because they can be extremely helpful. However, there are times when the rules can and should be bent or broken. There is a certain amount of common sense and autonomy that needs to be applied to everything. This is something many leaders already know but many admins have a hard time learning. One of my mottos now is, ‘Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.’
What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a PA or transition from a different career into admin work?
My first bit of advice to anyone about to change their career is to start your search with intention. Spend just 10 minutes thinking about what you do and don’t want in your next role. Jobs are like relationships; we learn a little about ourselves with each one. Think about how you want to look and feel at your next role. What kind of boss do you want to work with? What location is ideal? What hours and salary, etc.? Write it down in a bulleted list and keep it handy when you are searching. So many of us just think, ‘I need a new job’ and start searching the same job titles. Then we see if we fit into whatever is available instead of thinking of things the other way around. Determine what will be fulfilling to you, then go and find it.
My second bit of advice for anyone that’s never been an assistant or admin before is to try temping. It is a low-pressure way to skill up fast. Anderson Hoare set me up in some great temp roles and you can search their job board here.
Typically, a company needs a temp because they need a bum in a seat to answer the phones or greet guests. They don’t expect you to pick up every task, they usually just have one task that they need fulfilling and is not necessarily difficult. When I wasn’t a bum in a seat, I was typically doing data entry to help a project along. What made me stand out was when I asked whomever was supervising me if they needed more help with anything. Showing initiative in such a simple way made me stand out. I was offered full-time work again and again.
My last bit of advice is to absorb as much as you can as quickly as you can. Watch videos, join admin and assistant networks like The Officials or Anderson Hoare’s amazing new community AH Insider. Connect with others in the profession on LinkedIn, read articles, look into affordable training and your knowledge will pay off long term.
You’ve just launched The Officials – can you tell us a bit more about it? How do we join and what are the benefits?
I started The Officials as an online admin community back in 2015 when I was in a new city and desperate to connect with other admins. Today we’ve come on leaps and bounds but still have the same ethos at our core - empowering admins through community, courses and coaching.
In May 2019, I am launching The Officials Admin Academy, a membership site that gives admins and assistants access to affordable training, community support, webinars and events, templates, downloadables and mentoring. The aim is to introduce affordable training to any admin that is looking to level up. Members will get instant access to a library of courses that can vastly improve their productivity and knowledge base. The Admin Academy will launch with three courses and each month, 1-2 courses will be added to the library.
I want to offer affordable, accessible training for admins of all levels. Most companies will cover the cost, but it’s so affordable that if your company doesn’t offer a training budget you can easily afford it on your own no matter your pay grade.
Right now you can get on the waiting list for early access to the Admin Academy. Click the link to sign up!
You’ve created The Officials while in a full time job. How do you organise your own time so you can fit everything in? What advice would you give to other Assistants who would like to make time for an extra activity outside of work?
Practice routine and self-discipline. If you don’t have much time then schedule everything. We do this for our executives so why don’t we do it for ourselves?
But remember to be kind to yourself. No one is perfect and if you need to catch up on sleep or your favourite shows to unwind then do it! Just make sure there is balance. The down time is just as important as the productive time.