Success Stories: Craig Harris, Shelter
How did you become an PA?
It was a choice I made 6 or 7 years ago. I had been working in customer service management and decided I needed a change. I’d always loved the idea of the PA role as it’s so versatile, you have a unique opportunity see into all areas of an organisation. So, I started applying for roles where I could utilise my customer service skills to get my foot in the door. Luckily, I found an organisation who wanted a PA but also someone who could handle complaints, the rest is history.
What’s great about your job at Shelter?
I think what I am loving most about my role at Shelter is the opportunity to really get involved in a lot of the projects effecting the department. My exec that I support has complete faith in me to get the job done, which is a great feeling to have that level of trust. I’ve also always been a massive supporter of the work Shelter do, so that’s a bonus.
Having worked for some big names in the charity sector including the NSPCC and Shelter, what are the key challenges for a PA in this industry?
I don’t think a lot of people realise how challenging working for a charity as an assistant can be. You have to wear many different hats and take on lots of different tasks that a lot of assistants outside of the sector wouldn’t have to do. In the charity sector a PA needs to be prepared to roll their sleeves up and get involved, there just isn’t the budget to employ someone specifically for a role and its usually the PA that takes that responsibility on. You also must be very frivolous when working as a PA in a charity, again there is little to no budget for staff events and training, so you need to find what you can for next to nothing or free. That’s where your network can come in handy.
Alongside your EA role, you are a member of the EPAA and had a key role in the Not Just a Girl’s Job campaign. Can you tell us a bit more about this and why you got involved?
As you may know, the gender split in the profession leans very much to the side of my female counterparts, in fact it’s something like 93% of assistants in the UK are female. So, the point of the campaign is to show other men that being an assistant is a viable, rewarding career option and that its “Not Just a Girl’s Job”. I think it’s important that we build a diverse workforce within the profession and that’s why I got involved.
You had an amazing year in 2017 winning a Pitman Super Achiever Award and being a finalist at our PA of the Year Awards. As you were nominated for our Social Media PA of the Year category, can you tell us how you have built up your social community?
I think that’s 2 years in a row that I have been nominated and been a finalist at the SecsInTheCity PA awards, I’m crossing my fingers for a 3rd year running! When I first started using social media in a professional setting it was to connect with others that I had met at conferences and networking events. I wanted to have a platform to share my thoughts on being an assistant, share learning and to learn from others. So, I started blogging and sharing ideas with the assistants I knew, they then started sharing with their contacts and so on and so forth. This meant that I started getting assistants from all over the world who wanted advice and it’s been amazing connecting with them all.
Can you give us any inside tips about how to build a successful social profile?
I think the best advice I could give anyone is to know your brand. Really think about what the message is that you want to share. We all have certain skills and drivers which equate to our personal brand and this should be your starting point when setting up any social media account. Think about what you want to achieve and what you want to get out of it.
How did you find the interview for PA of the Year?
Honestly? It’s always a little nerve wracking but they are lovely and ask some honest questions. They’ve met me a couple of times now and know that it’s hard to get me to shut up, so it’s always an enjoyable conversation. I would say that if this process puts someone off being nominated, don’t let it, everyone that interviews you is lovely.
Tell me about the night itself?
It’s such a beautiful evening. Last year it was held at the Ivy which is lovely venue and the staff are always so attentive. It’s so nice to have all these amazing assistants in a room together, alongside their bosses, celebrating their achievements.
What piece of advice would you give others for achieving success as a PA or EA?
Just to be prepared to work hard and to keep learning. One of the things I have always continued to do is to keep developing my skills and taking any training, I can get. Technology and the skills required to be an assistant will continue to grow and you need to stay ahead of this. Never think that you know everything – you don’t.