So here we are nearly 6 months after the awards. I’m about to turn 45 and who’d have thought that after 22 years as a PA, I’d feel like my PA career has just begun. Or certainly entered a new phase at least.
So how did my PA career start?
More by luck than planning. I enjoyed languages at school so continued with French & Spanish at A level. I also decided to take typing classes (on a manual typewriter!), Word Processing, audio typing. Little did I know how well that would stand me in good stead a few years later. Not having a clue what I wanted to do after A levels, I was persuaded to take a business course, so enrolled at Salford Tech to do a HND in Business & Finance with Languages. The highlight of the course was living in Barcelona for 3 months. It was a very exciting time in the city as the Olympics was being held there the following year. Our tutor’s brother had a marina restaurant - where we spent every weekend enjoying his generous hospitality - so began my love of tapas & a good Rioja. After the course ended I had some vague idea of working in the European Parliament as a translator but my language skills weren’t strong enough and my lack of confidence prevented me from pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
So after a few random temp jobs, I got a long-term temporary contract with the County Court Service based in Bury as an admin assistant then officer. I loved this job and probably would have stayed if a permanent role had come up. The role involved telephone queries & public counter work with debtors, litigants in person, solicitors and barristers. I think this probably explains my love of courtroom dramas & anything to do with Law & Order (see what I did there?).
A little over 2 years later as a result of a chat with a local solicitor during a courtroom recess, I got my first role as a junior secretary. My job was audiotyping - tape after tape of letters every day. The senior secretary dealt with the clients, suppliers and legal document production.
18 months later, the partnership was splitting up and I was asked by a senior solicitor to jump ship and help her head up a department in a Manchester solicitors. The Big City – I was flattered and excited. This was one of my most challenging roles due to the demands put upon me, both in terms of volume of work, unreasonable deadlines and the behaviours of some team members. I’m not generally an impulsive person so if I tell you this was the only job I’ve ever left without having another job to go to …
Fortunately for me (and my big brother who was helping me cover my mortgage payments) the 3rd temping job I got led to a full time role. I started as a team PA and throughout my 10 years I was given more responsibility, eventually becoming PA to Head of Department and also a secretarial co-ordinator for approx. 12 staff. Through various courses I attended, paid for by my employer, I improved my people management skills, presentation skills, technology skills and ultimately my confidence grew.
After 10 years I needed a change and a new challenge. I’d been doing a split role for 3-4 years and I wanted to concentrate on either an office/people management position or a pure PA role. After applying for a selection of both over a 6 month period I was offered a job at PwC. A relaxed 2nd interview chatting about family and football and I knew I’d found the right place for me.
The role has changed considerably over the last 9 years due to technology advancements and structural changes. I started with a desktop PC, now everyone is issued with a laptop and has the option of an iPhone. Gone are the days (well almost) of piles of illegible taxi receipts and coffee-stained hotel invoices, expenses are now done via an app with photos & attachments of receipts. I haven’t used an audio machine in 9 years and can’t remember the last time I typed an actual letter. I was recruited as a secretary to Peter & his senior team, then at one point I provided support to approx. 20 people. Now I’m PA to 2 partners and 3 directors. Even that will change when Peter the partner who recruited me retires this summer (this makes me sad just typing it). So once again I’ll be entering a new phase of my career and I’m looking forward to seeing what new challenges that brings.
What did I learn in each of these roles?
How to answer a telephone and converse professionally; how to deal with and placate challenging people.
To type even faster than my then average speed of 80wpm. (The front office/post room was ruled, by one of the partners’ mothers, with a rod of iron and god help us if we didn’t reach our minimum target of 70 letters per day)
Mutual trust and respect in the PA/boss relationship is vital. If you don’t have that, it’ll never work.
As a supervisor, you’ll have to make tough decisions and you’re not always going to be liked. That’s the job - it’s not your fault, so don’t take it personally.
Change is good, but sometimes a little scary. But if you don’t embrace it you will get left behind.
All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl
On a personal note, my time outside work is mainly spent with family & friends (shout out to the Prosecco posse), doing any sort of quiz, puzzle or crossword with my partner Paul (we’re slightly obsessed with Pointless) and walking my furbabies Elli & Murphy. And trying to find my inner Paula Ratcliffe to help me complete the Manchester 10k Great Run in May.
Oh and networking obviously!
Finally, 3 things you didn’t know about Jane Brazzill
1 I’ve done a bungee jump
2 I once stole a bottle of Smirnoff Ice from Will Mellor
3 I was in a theatrical production at Bury Met
If you want to know which one’s the fib (or maybe they’re all true), come along to a MPAN event and ask me!