That’s exactly what Lizzie Burdge did, Personal Assistant to Founder of The White Company, Chrissie Rucker MBE. And you can too by learning how to look beyond a job description, then market yourself on a winning combination of your personality and your skill set.
Be inspired by Lizzie’s story and see how it is indeed possible to be placed in top PA jobs with no direct experience.
When Lizzie called on RMS Recruitment, one of the leading recruitment agencies in London, to help her make her next career move, she had spent nine years working in Sports Marketing, including two years in Australia – not the obvious work experience that usually propels you to Personal Assistant to the Founder of a premium retail brand!
What was your first reaction to the proposal to interview for the job at The White Company?
I knew I was the wildcard, but Kate at RMS Recruitment had initially got to know me on a personal level before evaluating whether my skills were the right fit. She had an instinct that the chemistry would work well between Chrissie and I. Initially I thought I didn’t have the experience to be a contender, but Kate helped me view the job description in terms of the skills the position required, rather than the experience it appeared to call for. I was then able to see more clearly that my “transferable skills” could help me be successful in a top PA job.
What were those transferrable skills?
I had learned to be extremely organised, to prioritise and turn things round in a short space of time. I had also experienced what it’s like to work hard and for long hours. In event management, I had to deal with many people at different levels and being personable carries you a long way in any job. I had learned to keep a level head at all times, even in the craziest of situations.
What was your interview like at The White Company?
Actually, I really enjoy interviewing as I see it as an opportunity to network and not just a means to a job! I was a candidate alongside at least half a dozen others who had been shortlisted, so I knew it would only work out if I could show my personality at interview. I didn’t think the second interview went all that well, but I am a confident person and, after spending quite a lot of time chatting with Chrissie, I felt that my personality was a good fit with hers and we found some easy common ground at the first meeting.
How are you finding the job now?
I never envisaged myself as a Personal Assistant working for the founder of a company, yet I have to say that I love my work. What I especially enjoy is the variety within the role, as well as the chance to be so proactive. I see every problem in terms of what solution I can bring – how can I make Chrissie’s life easier and take as much off her plate as possible.
What are the most challenging aspects of working as PA to a top executive?
Managing people’s expectations of when they can get time with Chrissie. I sometimes don’t see her for days at a time myself, and there are only so many hours in a day. The key is knowing how to prioritise and manage people's expectations about her availability and time, while maintaining a friendly relationship with our customers, employees, suppliers and all stakeholders at all times.
What are your personality traits, which help you succeed in your PA job?
I am a positive person, which helps me to see solutions, rather than focus on problems. You need integrity and discretion because you are inevitably involved in your boss’ home life, as well as their working life. Without complete trust, the relationship would not work.
What role did your recruitment agency play in getting you the job?
Kate Rawlings, who is one of the Directors at RMS Recruitment in London, had met me when I was working at her local gym after I had left school and told me to get in touch if ever I needed work. It helped to have that personal connection but all the consultants at RMS Recruitment take the time to get to know you on a personal level before recommending you for jobs. They focus on the person and not just the skills, as they understand the importance of finding the right fit between PA and boss.
What advice would you give other people looking to work in PA jobs with no experience?
Don’t lose sight of your skills even if these have just been picked up at school, university or during holiday jobs. Women especially tend to look at a job description and think, “ I can’t do that”, but the good recruitment agencies will help you see your skills in the context of what a job really demands and whether your personality is suited to the environment and the boss you will be working for.
For candidates who think they have the wrong experience, it’s never too late to switch careers and don’t be afraid to aim high!
Lizzie’s story is a great example of how you should partner with leading PA recruitment agencies to help you re-assess your skills in combination with your personality traits to open up career doors you might previously have assumed were closed. Lizzie found her PA job with RMS Recruitment London. If you would like to see whether your skills can be transferred to any of their top PA Jobs in London, please call to speak with a friendly consultant on 0207 518 9170.