Admin Spotlight – Rita Gunning
Name: Rita Gunning
Job Title: Executive Assistant to the CEO of IQumulate Premium Funding
YouTuber & Founder of Executive Assistant Oasis
Admin Avenues: Thank you for joining us for this Admin Spotlight Rita. Let’s jump right into it. How long have you been an Executive Assistant
RG: I have been an Executive Assistant for around 30 years, but I have had other careers in between (now I’m showing my age).
AA: What did your first day as an EA look like?
RG: I can’t remember. I transitioned from being a typist to assisting a Senior Executive Assistant as her Assistant. That’s where I got my start. She looked after the CFO and I looked after everyone else.
AA: From your first day to now, how has your definition of the EA role changed?
RG: When I started, we kept paper diaries and sent out paper memos, and now we use digital calendars and communicate via texts, messenger, slacks and emails. When I went to college for Secretarial Studies (which is now known as Business Administration), we were taught typing and shorthand. I loved shorthand but what felt like a blink, handheld dictaphones were coming in, and this new thing called a computer was making its entrance to the corporate world.
AA: You have worked as a Chief of Staff in a few companies. What do you feel the difference was in these roles that separated from your C-Suite EA roles?
RG: In my opinion and experience, the role of the Chief of Staff has extra responsibilities to that of an Executive Assistant. For instance, a Chief of Staff may manage projects for company-wide initiatives, whereas an Executive assistant may manage projects but on a smaller scale.
AA: What has been your admin career highlight thus far?
RG: I have had so many career highlights within my career, however what I would like to highlight is the fact that no matter where you are in the world, they need Executive Assistants. I have worked as an EA in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. I was also asked to work as an EA in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the UK but the timing or situation wasn’t right for an international move. I truly believe that being an EA is your passport to the world.
AA: What are 3 items you can’t work without?
RG: My phone, laptop, and a notepad.
AA: What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your position as an Executive Assistant?
RG: Executive Assistants are usually thrown in the deep end when we start a new role, or take over a project that may be failing. We quickly learn to swim, or we sink. Those that sink, usually get out of the profession, but those of us that swim realise just how strong we are. How resilient we are, and that we can do almost anything because we are put in these situations and think we are going to fail, but we somehow find a life raft and paddle to shore. That to me has been very rewarding.
AA: What’s your admin super skills?
RG: I think my super skill is that I welcome challenges in my role. The harder the challenge the better. I’m not saying I don’t have the fear that I’m going to fail, I do. I just don’t stress too much because I’m going to do all that I can, not to fail. I think the reason I love it is the way I feel after I complete a challenge. I can look back and think – I did that!
AA: What do you consider to be the most difficult part of your day?
RG: Although I haven’t been medically diagnosed, I believe I have ADHD, but not with severe symptoms. I have trouble remembering things, so once I complete a task, I get it out of my mind because there are so many other things to get on top of and do. For example, when my executive enquires about something he has asked me to do, I know I have completed it, because that’s what I do, however I don’t remember the details. Back then, there was no google or easily available resources to help me with tools that could have helped me understand this. It was through constant trial and error that I worked out a system that worked for me. I would write things down in a notebook and make tasks colour coded. I have a video on my YouTube channel that’s called ‘Staying on top of your tasks with a notebook’. It explains the colour code method I use.
AA: What skills do you possess that you believe are crucial to your role as an EA?
RG: Being able to make my executive shine by being a trusted ally to my executives. I always have their back (even though at times we may not agree). I am always honest and upfront; making sure I deliver on their behalf. I take the initiative to work on projects and research what is needed so they have the information ready to go when needed. There is a lot more I can add to this list but I think you get the picture.
AA: You founded the Executive Assistant Oasis YouTube Channel & Facebook Group. Tell us about this admin group and why you started doing these educational YouTube videos.
RG: I started the Facebook Group because I wanted a safe place where EA’s could share their concerns and ask questions without judgement. In my experience, I noticed that EAs had a hard time opening up because they don’t want to look incompetent. The reality is, we all need each other more than we think we do. We all have something we excel at that someone else might not be great at where we can offer help or advice, and vice versa.
As for the YouTube channel, I was looking for something to give me tips and teach me tricks, however I couldn’t find what I was looking for. In my personal experience, I found with most of the EA channels that were available at the time, they seemed to be talking down to the person watching. I wasn’t even sure if what they were talking about was actually something they did or something they googled. I noticed there was a gap for “real talk”. My YouTube channel talks about the good, the bad and the ugly that I’ve experienced in my admin career. I give real life tips and share checklists that I myself still use. I have tried to make the channel a one-stop-shop. Anything I learn, I share with the subscribers, and they can take what they like, and discard what they don’t like. They can add their own magic to the bits they liked, because there is no one size fits all in career development. .
AA: Can you recommend any helpful books, programs, or podcasts that you love?
RG: A podcast I enjoy is called “The Productive Woman” by Laura McClellan. I find she has a lot of great tips. I have read a few admin books of late, but I can’t say I have got much from them. I watch a lot of YouTube. This helps me enhance my skills and knowledge in the software I use at work.
AA: What role have you owned, or what experience have you had, that helped shape your admin career?
RG: I worked as an EA to a CEO for 8 years, and he gave me free reign to make decisions on his behalf, and if I got it wrong, he was fine with it. He told me that CEOs get it wrong sometimes too. He gave me the confidence to believe in myself, and because he did that, I gave myself permission to believe in myself. I have never looked back.
AA: What is the most exciting opportunity you have had as an admin?
RG: Opportunities to work overseas, travelling and being paid to do it. Being an EA and working alongside CEOs has taught me a lot about business and business acumen. It has given me the confidence to open up my own businesses and side hustles.
AA: Do you have any tips that you would like to share?
RG: Tip 1: Don’t ever give up on yourself. There may be times in your career that you come across a bad executive that makes you feel like you are incompetent. If there are areas you are failing in, then work on those areas, but never let them define who you are. You may not be the right fit for that executive, it happens. Just move on. Your next executive may think you are the best EA they’ve ever had.
Tip 2: Go for it! If you don’t have 100% of what a job description is asking for when applying for a new role, go for it anyway. If you don’t know how to do something, start it anyway and work it out as you go. It’s not going to be the best start, but you will get better the more you do it. There is a great quote by Richard Branson that goes like this: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
AA: I love that. So what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
RG: A CEO that I once worked for told me to make decisions and ask for forgiveness later. He told me that there is nothing worse in a business when people don’t make decisions in case the decision they make is wrong; which means nothing gets done. I’ve used that advice throughout my career and in my own businesses.
AA: What advice would you give other admins thinking about changing companies/employers?
RG: I would say, if that’s what you want to do, then do it! The advice I would give all career admins is to have an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months worth of expenses in their savings account. That way, if you move to a new job and you realise it’s a toxic environment, you can then leave straight away. Having an emergency fund gives you the luxury of applying for roles you want instead of applying for any role out of financial desperation which can affect your mental health. I have learnt this lesson the hard way. Just put away whatever you can afford each payday, it will soon add up.
AA: What are your top tips for keeping your resume up-to-date and job-ready?
RG: When updating your resume, look at the KPIs and achievements from previous performance reviews in your current role, it will give you prompts as to what to add in your resume.
AA: How can our Admin Avenues community connect with you?
RG: You can connect with me on LinkedIn HERE. You can join the Executive Assistant Oasis Community HERE however please note, this group is strictly for admins. I also have the Executive Assistant Oasis YouTube channel if you want to check that out HERE. I answer all comments on the channel. I look forward to connecting with you all soon.
AA: Thank you so much for sharing your insights Rita. If you haven’t checked out Rita’s YouTube channel, click through above and give another admin some love!
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