Helen Rees, PA to the Chief Executive at Marwell Wildlife
Helen Rees, Social Media PA of the Year winner talks to us about launching the South Hampshire PA Network.
What was your motivation for launching the South Hampshire PA Network?
Back in 2014, the seed of an idea was sown, to bring PAs together from across different sectors and organisations across the region to share ideas & best practice and learn from each other. There were other agencies interested in getting something of this nature off the ground, but inevitably people were very busy and momentum was slow; not much happened for a while. Eventually I realised that if it was going to happen, it needed someone to commit and ‘push the button’ on the idea, so I undertook some research and consultation, and backed this up with some fantastically helpful conversations with a couple of colleagues in neighbouring areas who had set up PA Networks for their area with some considerable success.
Word was already spreading and enthusiasm for the idea was clearly high, so I gathered a team together and we launched the South Hampshire PA Network in September 2015 with an overwhelming response. 70 PA professionals attended our launch event, and we now have a core mailing list of over 150, with 125 in our LinkedIn group and around 630 Twitter followers so far. We’re currently working on a programme of networking events for 2016 and already have fantastic speakers and wonderful venues banging on the door to be involved.
The network is very much about giving PAs, EAs and VAs the opportunity to come together to learn from each other, develop confidence in their role, and potentially their careers, share experiences and create meaningful professional relationships in the region. It’s already seeing great things happen, it’s so heartwarming to hear stories from people who’d been looking for such a networking opportunity for years, or wanting to develop their own internal PA networks more broadly, connecting to the wider region, and even getting their bosses to recognise the value of their role and as a result of being in the network, contribute to their PA’s development and training objectives. It’s a very exciting time for us and we can’t wait to bring more value to more PA professionals in the coming months and years.
What top tips can you share with other PAs?
I think I have three top tips:
Firstly, no matter where you are in your career, there are always learning opportunities out there – whether they be formal or informal. Approach everything with an open, positive mindset – take advantage of opportunities when they arise, you never know where they might lead.
Secondly, regularly take a moment to ‘check in’ with yourself about how your job is going, how your relationship with your CEO or manager is going, and have regular conversations with your manager about work. Open and honest communication is vital to your professional success but also your day-to-day wellbeing. A good manager will always make time for you in their busy schedule, you are an important (vital!) part of their success and keeping the relationship on a positive and productive standing will help both of you, and ultimately the business.
Finally – network, network, network! Take advantage of whatever networking opportunities are available in your area, get involved in a PA networking group or business-oriented network in your industry or chosen field. Great things come from people connecting together and sharing their knowledge and experience. I have no idea what next year will bring, but if this year’s networking opportunities are anything to go by, the sky’s the limit! And I can’t wait.