We love to share the success stories of our members and recently we heard from one of our Fellows, Louise Duffus. Louise explains about her exciting new venture following on from working as a PA for many years and tell us about her experiences in various companies.
1. Tell us a little about your career.
I’m in my first year as a self-employed events consultant offering a personal and bespoke events management service to clients, specialising in exhibition stand management, corporate hospitality and networking. Building on almost 25 years of PA, EA and events management experience for public and private sector businesses in Central London, the Home Counties and the North East I have managed to combine my natural born organiser personality with a love of people and what makes them tick. Following my degree of a Joint Honours Combined Programme in Psychology & Sociology I completed an RSA Post Graduate Diploma in Administrative Studies and started my working career with a traditional PA role in Central London.
2. How did your career start and where has your career taken you?
My first position in the mid 1990s was PA to the Chairman of a property development company based in Belgravia, Central London. Technology has come a long way since then: there were no i-phones, my computer was really only one step up from a word processor and we relied on the post each day for the majority of our correspondence along with using couriers.
After 7 years I moved to a senior PA role within the public sector working at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. In 2007 I returned to the private sector to work as an EA for the senior partner of an international built asset consultancy based at Gatwick Airport. The role incorporated responsibility for a number of events and this was when I first began to think about working for myself.
In 2011 I relocated to the North East as an event manager for a company within the renewable energy sector and in 2018 a redundancy was the final push towards self-employment.
3. What are the challenges you find in your workplace?
As a consultant my workplace varies between home, office based, client office based or working at different venues. They each bring their own specific challenges but being flexible and adapting to new environments is key.
4. What are the challenges you find in your role?
The main challenge in my current role is the inconsistency of workload which can lead to uncertainty and stress. However, I’m learning to accept this new pace by turning it into a positive and be grateful for the opportunities it brings for a better work/life balance.
5. What is the best advice you could give to someone in a similar role and how to progress?
Don’t fixate comparing yourself with others. In the current climate of relentless social media exposure it is all too easy to become disillusioned with your own career progression. Identify and focus on your own goals and set realistic targets. Enjoy the different working experiences and learn from them.
6. What do you think the most important things are for people to develop in the current market?
Adaptability; the days of a job-for-life are long gone. Most people will switch careers several times during their working lives. Practical skills such as keeping abreast of technology are important but in equal measure remember to build your network and increase your sphere of influence; “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true in the world of business.
7. What do you feel your best achievements are?
My best achievement to date has been the courage to become a consultant, moving from a staff position to self-employment. It can be lonely at times being solely responsible for your income but none of this would have been possible without the experience gained through my career to date. I have been lucky to work in so many business environments with different people, not all of them positive, but they have all contributed to my personal development. I am excited at the prospect of what lies ahead.