CARMEL BOURKE, <br />SENIOR PA AT GLOBAL INSURANCE FIRM<br />I didn’t go to secretarial school or anything, but that’s not really what it’s about now. Most people think of it as filling in calendars and taking dictation, but it’s not that anymore. It’s really about understanding the message being put across to the client, asking lots of questions, taking the time to learn and grow your knowledge. You have to have the versatility and adaptability to grow into a role.<br /><br />Originally I took a junior temping job at a start-up asset management firm for a couple of weeks and stayed for three years, and that created an opportunity for me to be able to continue my career in New York. I didn’t sit still however – when I was there I studied for various financial certificates, and developed a very good knowledge of the business. I actually had the title of Associate Portfolio Manager, which reflected the fact that, while I was an executive assistant, my role very much had a business managing function, with a lot of client interfacing and liaising.<br /><br />Unfortunately, I was made redundant like so many people, and I returned to London three months ago and got job hunting right away. When companies downsize there’s a lot of consolidating in these kind of roles, and while I was job-hunting I’ve noticed a lot of roles in which a couple of jobs were combined.<br /><br />But that’s also part of the modern executive assistant role – you’re unlikely to be working for just one person anymore, you might be reporting to one person but you’ll be doing work for a number of people, and you have to be able to manage that.<br /><br />What I really wasn’t expecting was the interview process to be quite so lengthy – for one job I was offered (I turned it down), I was interviewed by an HR person, by the managing partner, by the manager I’d have been working for and even by the office manager.<br /><br />My current position is temporary, but it’s open ended, which gives me a lot more security than many just now.