What does it mean to win at the PA of the Year Awards? Charlie Cosgrove, Executive Assistant to the CTO of TalkTalk and last year’s winner of the Robert Walters Excellence Award, shares her experience working in the profession and her journey to taking home the prestigious award:
"My journey started when I enrolled to undertake a Business and Events Management degree at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2005. The degree included modules in HR, accountancy, operations and project management and was my first insight into the complex world of business. I believe the reason for my success to date is the extensive amount of experience I have gained in my 10-year career. This has been attained by being open to working in various industries such as Telecoms, Travel, Property and Media Advertising. I have always gained the trust and respect of my Executives and in turn they have mentored me along the way and taught me how being commercially aware is critical to my role."
"I have learnt an immense amount of knowledge and business acumen from watching and listening to my C-Level Execs perform and achieve their goals. I am naturally meticulous and organised, which are my key strengths and translate perfectly to benefit my career as an Executive Assistant."
"To be successful in this profession you must be adaptable to change and progress with the times. Technology is a key factor within this. I am always looking for more efficient and effective ways to operate, not only for myself, but on behalf of my Directors and my peers, whilst being mindful of cost."
"Executive Assistants are an extension of their Executives image and part of their personal brand. It is a privileged position and it’s important to be approachable, proactive and a strategic thinker. Establish relationships that empower you to be a key decision maker and execute with confidence."
Entering the awards and the judging process
"My boss, the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of TalkTalk nominated me after we had worked together for 2 years."
"Winning ‘The Excellence Award’ in the 2017 Manchester PA of the Year Awards is most definitely the highlight of my career to date. In a profession where PAs and EAs receive very little recognition for their above and beyond commitment, most of the time you must accept that you are a shadow in the shadows."
"When I found out I was nominated for the PA Awards, I was in pure disbelief. It made me suddenly realise that my hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. The 1st stage of the process was a relaxed interview at my place of work. I spoke for an hour about my career highs and lows, achievements and aspirations, challenges and mistakes. I was excited and daunted at the same time. I knew I was one of many talented PAs in the City, going through an extremely competitive process of elimination. I thought “I’ve just got to be myself and shine the best I can”.
"When the shortlisting was published, I was elated to see my name on the list. I couldn’t believe I’d been chosen to progress to the next stage. I felt overwhelmed and exhilarated as I read the email announcement. At that time, it wasn’t about winning for me, being nominated and shortlisted was enough of an honour."
"The 2nd stage of the process was an informal 10-minute interview at Robert Walters Manchester office and I knew I had to think of an innovative way to stand out as I was one of seven finalists up for my category. This was my one chance to make myself, my family, my team and my company proud. I gave it everything and it felt like it was over in a nanosecond. It was only at this stage that winning became my goal."
Winning the award
"Two months later, at a glamorous awards ceremony in Manchester, the winners were to be announced. It was an event filled with love, compassion, friendship and comradery."
"‘The Excellence Award’ category winner was the last to be announced. When the event hosts said my name and my pre-selected winner’s song boomed through the speakers I was in utter shock. There are not many words I can use to explain my feelings. The professional photographs taken on the night say it all. The emotions that ran through my body in that moment was a real rollercoaster. Excitement, fear, nerves…pure adrenaline. I have never won anything before in my life so this award meant everything."
What winning means to me and my career
"Winning ‘The Excellence Award’ in the 2017 Manchester PA of the Year Awards is most definitely the highlight of my career to date. In a profession where PAs and EAs receive very little recognition for their above and beyond commitment, most of the time you must accept that you are a shadow in the shadows. “Thank you” is rarely heard and gratitude rarely seen!"
"It was a huge privilege to be involved with the Manchester PA Awards and ultimately winning my category. I have met some exceptional people and made some great new friends."
"Since winning the award, I have gone on to be more involved in Manchester networking events, I have taken part in a telephone interview for the Daily Mail for an article on supply and demand of PAs and I have seen a real shift of respect amongst my colleagues at work."
Advice to this year’s applicants
"Being a successful PA/EA takes a certain type of robust individual who must be able to recognise their own success. To be nominated for the North West PA of the Year Awards is a massive accomplishment within itself. Be proud of all you achieve daily, as this profession is not for the faint hearted. Find a way to stand out from the other applicants, as I believe this is what helped me ultimately win during the final stage."
If you have the belief to recognise your achievement and hard work as a PA, EA or VA, apply here.