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Interview with Aysha Robinson on how networking helped her find a new PA role

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Posted: 11th May 2017  |  Share this Article:

I am delighted to have the opportunity to interview Aysha Robinson. Aysha is currently a Personal Assistant at national law firm Browne and Jacobson. In our interview we talk about how networking has helped shape her career and assisted with her self-development.

We can often undervalue how impactful networking can be. Did you know based on a joint research by LinkedIn in 2016 that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking – so what are you waiting for, read this interview first, then start planning your networking agenda!

Tell us a little bit about your background?

After graduating from University with a Drama degree I worked abroad as a dancer and hotel entertainer. After 4 years, I returned home to the UK and gained a role as a Receptionist, which eventually led me to being promoted to Senior Receptionist and then Assistant Head Receptionist. With each promotion, my administrative duties increased and I realised how much I enjoyed organising and supporting senior management. As a result I signed up for an Executive PA Diploma which I studied during evenings and on weekends.  Since completing my diploma, I transitioned from Receptionist to administrative roles before eventually becoming a PA, gaining experience as a temp across various sectors including Luxury Retail, Finance and the Legal sector.

How long have you been working in your current role?

I have been working as a PA at Browne Jacobson for 6 months now.

Can you talk us through a typical day?

That’s really tricky as no day is typical in this role! I currently support the Head of the National Commercial and Technology Group who travels frequently so a large part of my role is calendar and inbox management. I am constantly prioritising and juggling.

You found your previous role via a networking event – which is fantastic, please tell us step by step how it happened?

I attended the PA Show last year where I met so many great people and saw an array of really amazing speakers. After one of the seminars, I got talking to one of the speakers who then gave me her business card. We kept in regular contact and were able to meet in London for a coffee when she was in town. One day, she got in contact with me about a new job which had not been advertised yet and said that I was a great match for the position. I was put forward for the position and after two interviews I received the news that I had got the job!

Networking also helped me with my current role too. After securing my role at Browne Jacobson I was at a conference hosted by Today’s PA when I met a very experienced and absolutely lovely Legal PA called Susan Henderson who was kind enough to later meet me for a coffee and talk to me about her experiences as a Legal PA. Susan gave me so much useful advice which I was able to the apply to my role. Deborah Dai is another brilliant Legal PA that I met through networking who has also given me great advice which I use in my current role.

Can you remember your first networking event, how did you feel and how did you approach it?

Yes, I remember my first networking event very well as it was a real pivotal moment. I had specifically chosen to go to the event because it was all about setting career goals and I really needed some help with my career at that time. I remember feeling very nervous as it was my first networking event yet very excited too because of the topic which is what led me to go. As I did not know what to expect, I approached this event with a lot of preparation. I researched everything – from the background information on the speaker (Vanessa Vallely) and the company hosting (We Are The City) to reading up on various articles about tips on how to network.

How many times a month do you network?

I would say about 2-3 times a month.

What type of networking events are you attracted too?

I am really attracted to events led by a trainer/speaker as I love to learn new things and listen to other people’s experiences. I also enjoy events which take place at venues that I have not yet been too as I really find it useful to check out these places first before booking them or recommending them to anyone.

Why is networking so important to you?

Networking is important to me because it has been very beneficial to my career as I have met so many wonderful people who have given me invaluable advice and opened me up to some incredible opportunities.  In many ways, networking has not only positively affected my working life but also my personal life too because I consider many of the people I have met through these networking events to be good friends.

What are the benefits?

There are so many! For example:

  • You can increase your knowledge on subjects which are covered by Speakers at the events or simply from talking to other attendees there.
  • You get the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. They may be strangers to begin with but by being at the same event, a common interest has already been established as the event has brought you all together. Perhaps you already have similar interests or career goals? Whatever the reason is, a simple introduction could be the start of a new business relationship, or even better – a new friendship!
  • By attending networking events you also get the opportunity to visit some lovely venues such as restaurants, hotels and conference rooms. As a PA this is fantastic for me, as I can keep these venues in mind when scheduling lunch meetings or overnight stays for my Exec.

For first time networkers or people who dislike networking what tips can you give?

I am by no means an expert but here are some tips I have learnt along the way.

Before the event:

  • Try to think of some really good questions that will help to grow a conversation (i.e. open ended questions). “Small talk” can be good as an ice-breaker but eventually you want an interesting exchange to take place!
  • Prepare an elevator speech. Think about who you are and what you do and then think about interesting ways to describe that to someone who you have just met. It is just as important to think about interesting answers as it is to think about interesting questions.
  • Remember to bring your business cards if you have them/remember to charge your phone so that you can use LinkedIn to connect with people on the spot or take photos during the event. You may want to post them later on social media with hashtags.

During the event:

  • Think of what you can contribute to others. Networking is also about helping others so if you get talking to someone and they mention that they need help with something, consider if you could be of assistance. Maybe you are not in a position to help them directly, but do you know of someone who can? Perhaps you could introduce them.
  • Be friendly, be kind and be conscious of your body language. After a long day at work, try to relax and forget any worries you have. Enter the room with positive energy and a smile. No one wants to approach or be introduced to someone that looks grumpy!

After the event:

  • Reflect on what you learnt. If you did not make any notes during the event, it may be useful to put some time aside and jot down anything you found interesting or useful. You may need to refer to these notes in future.
  • Follow up: Get in touch with any new contacts you make no later than 48 hours after the event while it is still fresh in everyone’s minds. The aftermath of the event is where the real networking takes place so perhaps send a thank you note to the speaker and the hosts of the event or invite someone you connected with at the event to meet for a coffee. Who knows what could happen from there?

I am connected to so many PAs around the world on twitter and LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, there are so many PA groups that you can request to join and once your request is granted, you can share articles, ask questions and contribute to various discussions. There have been many instances where I have “virtually met” and interacted with a PA or speaker on social media before meeting them in person at an event. You are a perfect example of this as we met face to face for the first time at Office* shortly after being introduced on LinkedIn by Jennifer Corcoran ( whom I also met after many interactions on social media.

The best tip I can give is to be you and forget the term “networking.” Instead, replace it with either “interacting,”  “connecting” or just “talking” because essentially, that is what networking is really all about! If you can, I suggest that you choose an event that really interests you as there will be more chance that you will meet people that you connect with.

Do you belong to any PA associations?

Yes. I am a member of EPAA, PA Life, Miss Jones, NESS, The Assistant Room and PA Club. I am also a subscriber of Executive Secretary magazine and am a member of the BTUA alumni.

Why did you decide to join them and how are they beneficial to you?

At the time I knew a few PAs but I did not know any that were Career PAs. I really wanted to surround myself with PAs with similar goals and aspirations to me and also PAs who were at the top of their game for inspiration. These associations are so beneficial to me because of all the people I have been fortunate to meet and the knowledge that I have gained. They keep me up to speed on what is happening in the PA community, new technology, restaurants and hotels. All of which are so useful for my job role and career development.

What’s next for you Aysha?

I strive to be a great PA and successful at what I do so my plan is to continue to work hard, never stop learning and keep networking. I want to develop the skills I have and gain new skills. However, I  would also eventually like to give back and open doors for others in the same way that my network has kindly opened doors for me.

Thank you Aysha for your time.

I hope you enjoyed the interview follow Aysha on Twitter.

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Vivien Edwards

Written by

Vivien Edwards

Cornerstone42 founder

Vivien has nearly 20 years administrative experience covering project and event management, recruitment, training and development, mentorship and supervisory for other admins.

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