Update concerning COVID-19 – Distance Learning (home study) courses are still available. Find out more about distance learning at Pitman Training

Update concerning COVID-19 – Distance Learning (home study) courses are still available. Find out more about distance learning at Pitman Training

Q&A - Craig Harris

Craig won the 2017 PA of the Year SuperAchievers Award. Read on to find out what he's been up to since his win...

How have you been since we last spoke to you?

I have been very well thank you. Busy as always, but things have been great. I’ve treated myself to a full lunch break so that I can do this interview, which makes a nice change. 

Are you still enjoying your role as a PA? 

Of course, I love my job. I think people probably get bored of hearing me say that, but it’s true! There are not many people that can honestly say that they are in the perfect profession for them and love their job, so I consider myself a very lucky man.

Have you taken on any challenges or set new goals for yourself over the past year?
Yeah, I’ve set myself a few goals this year. Just been pushing myself to take on more challenges which in the past have scarred me, such as public speaking. I did my first speaking event not long after winning the Super achievers award and have been trying to do as many as I can since then. I started with a room of around 30 and in February 2018 I’ll be speaking to a room full of over 100 assistants! I must be crazy! But in all honesty, it’s been great getting out there, meeting lots of assistants and having the opportunity to share some of my knowledge.

That’s always been really important to me, I believe that we all have something to learn from each other and that’s why I try to share what I can. I also have something else in the pipeline, but it’s in the early stages and is top secret at the moment! Ha!

Did winning the SuperAchievers award benefit you in any way? If it did, how so?
Oh definitely! Winning the award has helped me in so many ways and opened me up to a lot of opportunities. The speaking events have all come off the back of winning the award, so I’m really grateful to Pitman Training for making me their PA of the year. I’ve also been asked to go along and train some assistants which I never would have had the chance to do if I hadn’t won. I’m just happy that I get to share what I know with lots of people and at the same time learn from others.

We know that you’re a frequent user of social media, and twitter especially. How do you use those platforms to your own advantage?
I suppose it’s a great way of staying in contact with other assistants from all over the country. We have a group of us who tweet regularly about new learning concepts, asking for advice and we also have a laugh with each other. Social media is also a great way of sharing something that you are passionate about. For me, it’s personal development or diversity and inclusion. It is a unique way of sharing your thoughts to the world.

Do you believe stereotypes surrounding PAs have changed over the past year?
I think there is a long way to go, but there have been some positive changes over the last year. Assistants are finally being seen as strategic influencers and genuine business partners as opposed to just diary managers. I think the biggest changes I’ve seen over the last year are that more men in the profession are being nominated for awards and winning them, for example Declan Halton – Woodward who won at this year’s London PA awards and Marc Taylor – Allan who won at the Manchester PA awards. It’s great to see more men such as these two, who I respect a lot, being rewarded for their hard work.

Do you think you’ve inspired more men to take on the role of a PA?
That’s a good question and unfortunately, I don’t know. I’d hope that after seeing more men in the profession being successful that it would hopefully inspire them to become assistants, but who knows. I would like to think that people (not just men) are beginning to see that being an assistant is a fulfilling and rewarding career option.

Have you been to any interesting or eye-opening events lately? 
I’ve been to some incredible events this year. Obviously as you know, I am a member of EPAA and they are always putting on some great events. I went to one of their training days in the last few months and was blown away. Vic Darragh, the CEO, is amazing and she always makes sure the events are worthwhile. An event that is held regularly that I’m still gutted I haven’t been able to attend is one of the Manchester PA Network events, those events always look so inspiring! Maybe in 2018 I’ll get up there and have a chance to attend.

We know that you have been heavily involved with EPAA’s ‘Not Just a Girl’s Job’ campaign. Is that still continuing to be successful?
The EPAA ‘Not Just a Girl’s Job’ campaign has been great! It’s really getting the message out there that anyone can be an assistant no matter their sex. I think by addressing the obvious gender gap it’s made people sit up and question the stereotypes attached to the assistant role. This campaign is still very much alive and I look forward to continuing to support it. If anyone wants more info they can find it here: https://epaa.org.uk/not-just-girls-job/ . Also watch the video to hear from many men working in the profession.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring PAs?
The best advice that I could give anyone that is just starting out is firstly, to do all you can to develop. The roll of the assistant is growing and in order to stay ahead of the game you need to build your skills, you can do this by enrolling on a course (Like the Pitmans EA diploma), joining professional bodies like EPAA and taking advantage of free resources online. Secondly, and I can’t stress the importance of this enough - network. Yes, it’s scary meeting new people but get out there and meet other assistants! I can honestly hold my hands up and say that by meeting other assistants either in person or through social media has been the best thing I have ever done. You can learn so much from other’s doing the same role as you and the support network you get is priceless! I may also be a little bias but the assistant community are so welcoming and go out of their way to help build up your confidence. If the thought of networking scares you, start small, start by building an online network. Anyone is free to add me on either twitter or on LinkedIn I will always be happy to help or answer any questions you may have.

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