And The Winner Is: Introducing Inspiring PA Award Winner Jennifer Corcoran
Posted: 4th Mar 2016 | Share this Article:
It is currently the film (Oscars) and TV awards (Baftas, Emmys) season. Cornerstone42 felt it was only right to honour our talent in the PA and EA profession.
This is a great opportunity to read and learn from former PA award winners about their PA journeys past, present and future and the defining moment when they decided to enter for ‘that’ award.
I am delighted to introduce Jennifer Corcoran Office Manager at Crédit Agricole CIB and current London PA Awards Networked PA 2015.
Jennifer is an award winning PA with 20 years’ experience. Alongside her current role of Office Manager at Crédit Agricole CIB she is also the National PRO for EUMA UK. Jennifer is a strong advocate of CPD and believes that the modern/future Assistant must embrace social media in order to stay connected, current and relevant. She is currently in the top 10 of Executive Secretary’s Top 250 Social Media Power List.
In 2014 she completed Pitman’s Social Media Award Certificate and in 2015 was shortlisted for their SuperAchiever PA of the Year Award. Jennifer was also shortlisted as a finalist for Secsinthecity’s Social Media PA of the Year and won a scholarship to attend Be the Ultimate Assistant.
Tell us about your journey on becoming a PA?
My path towards becoming a PA was far from straight forward. At school English was my favourite subject so it made sense for me to pursue an Arts degree in English and French. My degree comprised of four years – three to be spent in Ireland and one abroad in a French speaking country. I spent my third year in Brussels and Antwerp as a mother’s help and the following summer in Birmingham and Holland picking strawberries (as you do!). My parents were sadly going through a divorce at this stage and I had to defer my final year indefinitely and this is where the PA journey really began for me.
I had my leaving certificate and three years of a degree course completed but it became clear that I needed to complete a typing and computer course in order to be ready for the workforce so I set about doing a certificate with City & Guilds.
I registered with several recruitment agencies and temped for two years performing a variety of roles including clerical duties, administration and reception duties. I enjoyed the versatility and worked for some very well known companies such as Intel, AOL, Royal Sun Alliance and Mellon Trust. After two years I was offered a permanent role at Citibank and spent two years working in both their Credit and Client Administration departments.
I left Citibank to complete my degree and applied for a working visa in Australia. In the interim I accepted a job as an Editor’s Assistant and Subscriptions Manager for a bi-monthly magazine entitled Technology Ireland.
A year into the role I went travelling and worked for 2 months in Brisbane as a Receptionist and 6 months in Sydney as a PA and Credit Control Clerk. I remained in touch with my boss at Technology Ireland and before leaving they promised to reopen my role so I happily returned to the fold and was made permanent.
I arrived in London 14 years ago and decided to rebrand myself as a PA as all of the skills I had were transferable. Two months after arriving I landed a maternity cover role as a PA and the rest is history. I have now been a proud PA/EA for 14 years in 4 companies (Communications & Information Technology, Environmental Engineering, Consulting and Banking) and have never looked back.
What are your main responsibilities?
I act as Executive Assistant to both the Global Head and London Head of Ship Finance in Structured Finance. On a daily basis I deal with the usual blend of travel and expenses, diary management, office and facilities management, troubleshooting and the administration of fees for the London Ship Finance team.
Tell us about this particular award and why you were nominated?
I entered the ‘Networked Award’ at the London PA Awards 2015. I have been described as a Super Connector both in real life and online so it seemed like the natural award for me to gravitate to. I belong to several PA Associations such as EUMA UK and I also belong to WeAreTheCity’s Career Club for women.
Describe to us the process what did it entail?
The process was easy and simply involved being nominated online and several months later a shortlist was chosen. It then went to a public vote which was both daunting and exciting at the same time.
Did you tell anyone you had entered, in particular any of your work colleagues, what was their reaction? – If your answer is no, why not?
I told all and sundry that I had entered and asked my two bosses to nominate me. When it reached the crucial public vote I asked all of my colleagues across 7 regions and contacts to vote for me. I was very vocal – as well as championing myself I was keen to also highlight awareness of PA Awards and that we take ourselves seriously. I had tremendous support especially from my colleagues overseas.
And the winner is: talk us through those exciting moments when you heard your name being announced?
To be honest it all happened so quickly it is still somewhat of a blur. Before I knew it I was on the stage at the Hippodrome accepting my trophy and being photographed. It was a little surreal to be stood next to infamous burlesque performer Polly Rae who was the host on the night.
Do you think winning this award has impacted on your career as a PA?
I would say that it has led to me being more connected with my peers and suppliers which can only be a good thing. Shortly after winning I was elected as the National PRO for EUMA UK which was a very proud moment for me. To be elected and recognized by your peers is a wonderful feeling. What differentiates EUMA from other associations is that it is not-for-profit and we are all volunteers at the end of the day so we are putting in the time and effort for ourselves and the future of the PA profession. Who knows what the future will have in store.
What do you enjoy most about being a PA?
For me it seemed to be a natural fit as I love assisting, working with computers, collaborating and being the first point of contact.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Managing realistic expectations and dealing with different personalities. I currently support two teams so it can be a juggling act at times. Dealing with procrastination can also be frustrating when time consuming bottle necks are created which can prevent you from doing your job to full effect.
What gets you out of bed in the morning what motivates you?
I love learning and developing. I want my work and my contribution to matter.
You really are a champion and a voice of the PA industry, what do you see that others perhaps do not?
Unfortunately, a lot of managers are still stuck in the old school secretary paradigm and naturally assume that we have limited skills and qualifications. The role has changed dramatically over the last 20 years and for me as a graduate it was and is my career of choice. There is so much more to me than tea and typing and I am constantly inspired by amazing Assistants from around the world. Some Assistants sadly still label themselves as ‘just an Assistant’ so we need to change this.
The PA awards industry seems to be booming, what advice would you give to a fellow PA who is considering entering for an award?
To simply go for it. Toot your own horn as loudly as you can. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. There is tremendous camaraderie among Assistants who are up for the same award. I’m not sure that this exists in any other profession. We are all willing each other on and are united in our quest to champion the profession.
How relevant is networking in our industry?
It is so important to be a networked Assistant and is a vital competency. Being connected to colleagues, clients, suppliers, peers and influencers enables you to be connected, current and at the top of your game. I personally think that it’s important to network both online courtesy of social media and of course nothing beats good old fashioned face to face interaction. A networked Assistant is always in the loop when it comes to new restaurants, hotels, venues and ultimately ways to improve their role and contribution.
What’s next for you?
Like Karen I will be speaking at Assist Conference and facilitating a round table discussion as to how social media can empower Assistants. We will be sharing our top tips which I’m very excited about. As the PRO for EUMA UK I’m currently involved in an exciting rebrand project. Being a member and committee member of EUMA has certainly taken me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to grow and develop in ways I could never have imagined. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
On a personal note I hope to get back to blogging and do some more social media training.
I’m looking forward to attending the London PA Awards 2016 and passing on the baton to the next PA/EA Super Connector! I will also be tooting my own horn a little louder and entering other awards.
Make no mistake – I’m not a confident extrovert. I’m a shy introvert (albeit a chatty one) and entering awards is completely out of my comfort zone but if we are not willing to toot our own horns then how can we expect others to do so. My ultimate goal is to raise awareness and champion how amazing we all are. For me the pen is mightier than the sword and I’m happy to wax lyrical and toot a fanfare for the noble PA profession. If I can do it – so can you! What are you waiting for?
Thank you Jennifer!
Keep in touch and follow us: You can follow Jennifer @jencorcoran_pa and read her blog at www.jennifercorcoran.wordpress.com
Cornerstone 42 is a boutique Executive Assistant Talent Match Agency launching 1st April 2016. Founded by Executive Assistant Vivien Edwards further details at https://www.cornerstone42.com, email contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter for PA news @cornerstone42_
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