Stepping Up and Moving On

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When you’ve reached a certain level in your career and you’re looking to move upwards or onwards, the same old advice just won’t cut the mustard. So we’ve asked Maggie Love – who runs Pitman Training learning centres in London EC2 and Regent Street, and also leading recruitment consultancy Love & Tate – what employers are looking for to fill their top level roles in today’s tough climate and ever-evolving use of technology. She shares some top tips on your CV that you might not get elsewhere…

When you’ve reached a certain level in your career and you’re looking to move upwards or onwards, the same old advice just won’t cut the mustard. So we’ve asked Maggie Love – who runs Pitman Training learning centres in London EC2 and Regent Street, and also leading recruitment consultancy Love & Tate – what employers are looking for to fill their top level roles in today’s tough climate and ever-evolving use of technology. She shares some top tips on your CV that you might not get elsewhere…

“When I’m asked what employers demand when it comes to top level PAs and secretaries, my answer is always the same; you have to be a linchpin. A one person ‘hub’ of the organisation or team who knows exactly who to contact and what to do in any situation. Not much to ask, is it? Now, more than ever an executive secretary has to be a mover, a shaker and a fixer – and there’s certainly a necessity to manage your manager, as well as any team that you might have responsibility for.

“Being able to respond on your boss’s behalf – without consultation – is critical to success. If you can demonstrate that you’ve got the ability to do that then you’re more than halfway to securing a job of the highest level, with a package to match.

“It’s never going to be a 9-5 role, but it’s worth bearing in mind that technology developments in recent years – particularly smartphones and laptops – mean that a top level job can demand availability 24/7 – at home, in the supermarket, on the beach, wherever!

“The last decade was all about technology changes that have facilitated the globalisation which is now having a major impact. Cultural awareness is important – learn how different countries do business, how different cultures communicate and what’s expected from top level PAs and you’ll get ahead in most organisations. Very few are solely UK-focused and with the online explosion even small companies have been able to go global.

“Key skills that are a ‘must’ include being techno-savvy and financially astute. More and more we’re seeing responsibilities for some finance – such as departmental or marketing budgets – and updating website content, sorting out webinars and global events on the job descriptions we receive. It’s the candidates who are taking responsibility for their own development and training that we pick up the phone to first for these roles.

“In terms of those who are being held back in their career development, at Love & Tate we find that it’s down to confidence and attitude – if you believe and act like your boss’s equal, then that’s how you’ll be treated. It sounds simple, and it can be but like most worthwhile objectives it takes practice.

“So, when you’re ready to take that step up or move on, the challenge is to make sure you’re packaged up in the right way.

You’ll already know about how to layout your CV, proof-reading and making sure you’ve explained any gaps such as maternity leave or sabbaticals. What you need now is a CV to take you to the next level. Your skills and abilities might speak for themselves when someone meets you, but you need to sell yourself and make you sound as good on paper as you are in real life.

“Good luck with your search and in your new role. It’ll be well worth it, I’m sure.”

Top five tips for polishing your CV

1. It’s standard advice, but still a rule that people think they can break: Unless you’re Stephen Hawking keep it to two pages maximum. Less is most definitely more.
2. Include an overview statement of no more than three lines, which highlights your unique attributes, key strengths and potential contribution to the company. But beware of sounding like Superman/woman, it’s arrogant and unconvincing.
3. You’ll be adept at using business language in your current role anyway, so make good use of it in your CV. Don’t sound like a robot – use active verbs like ‘saved, installed, established, planned, initiated’ to bring it to life.
4. Highlight specific achievements or contribution you have made. For example, ‘Reorganised the document filing system to save the team one day per week through ease of retrieval.’ Or ‘Improved accuracy on order inputting from 90% to 99%, saving time and making customers happier.’ Or ‘Wrote and instigated marketing plan which doubled incoming enquiries.’
5. List all of your useful business skills (software, languages) but only the hobbies that are meaningful – the ones you can talk about. Knitting, anyone?

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About Author

Maggie Love established recruitment consultancy Tate & Love in 1982. She is passionate about the value of training and personal development as an essential ingredient in maximising career opportunities, which is why she set up Pitman Training centres in EC2 and Regent Street in 1995. As well as training and recruitment Maggie has a background in journalism and sales. Her company is a National Training Award winner and she is a National Training Award Ambassador.

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