by Cathy Harris

Cathy Harris is the Professional Assistant to Kenny Rabson, Executive Director Discovery Invest and Head of Product and Development, Discovery Life.  Cathy was nominated Office Professionals of South Africa,(OPSA) Secretary of the Year 2006/2007 and has been involved with the Discovery PA FORUM since its inception 12 years ago.  She served as Chairperson and is currently Deputy Chairperson. 
Cathy is involved in various initiatives involving the development of PA’s within Discovery and other organisations both nationally and internationally.  These include the first ever Discovery PA conference four years ago, a PA Induction programme; initiated the Discovery Chartered PA programme and has recently launched the National Certificate for Business Administration programme for the PA’s in her organisation. In addition to this she has helped organisations such as SABMiller, RSV, Altech, Gijima and Eskom, to name a few, to get PA Forums started in their organisations.
She has written various articles for the secretarial profession including three editions of the A-Z’s for Secretaries published by Dictum, The Star Workplace and several magazines including Women Inc. Cathy travels internationally facilitating workshops and presentations aimed specifically at the secretarial profession, and also provides One-on-One coaching programmes for Executive PA’s and administrative assistants.
Cathy initiated the first ever National Secretary of the Year for Mauritius, (now in its 4th year), and assisted in the formation of the Professional Secretaries Association of Mauritius.   
Cathy is passionate about the secretarial profession and has been an executive PA for many years.  Her first book is almost complete and she is looking forward to sharing her experiences and personal anecdotes with her peers.  “Knowledge is such a powerful tool, sharing it is even more powerful, and having an open heart and an open mind, makes you stronger, wiser and keeps you constantly informed! Being able to participate and contribute towards the positive growth of our great profession is so rewarding for me!”

Building Your Portfolio of Evidence
Just as an artist or a model requires a portfolio of their works, so too should office professionals have one demonstrating not only their skills abilities, but also their contributions and work ethic within their profession.  It can also serve as an additional tool when being considered for promotion, seeking a new job, or even asking for a raise!
It should begin with you deciding what your Ethos is towards your profession, coupled with evidence requirements which essentially are those tasks that you have done demonstrating your Ethos.  The concept is not rocket science at all, but does require some strategic and creative thinking from your side.
To get you going on the idea, and hopefully inspired, I have outlined some Ethos elements, and provided a summary of the evidence requirements.  So here goes!
Ethos elements:
- Professionalism 
- Communication ability
- Master of time management
- Strategic partnerships
- Resourcefulness
- Champion of change
- Commitment to self development and training
- Lifestyle balance and community activities
Evidence requirements include but are not limited to:
1. Membership with a professional secretarial and administrative association:  this shows your commitment and involvement with your profession.
2. Work evidence of articles, presentations, and email communication examples, such as presentations you may have compiled for a proposal, an article you may have written for a newspaper, in-house magazine or contribution made to a professional body.  
3. Record of a personal image consultation, indicating that you are aware of your physical image and the message you portray everyday as illustrated by the way you take care of yourself, and have an appropriate dress sense for the environment in which you work.  It also a great idea to include an updated full body length photographs of you.
4. Commendations, nominations and awards for professional and work ethos conduct.
Communication Ability
Evidence that you are competent in:
1. The use of MS office; this can include a certification of competency in the use of MS Office coupled with examples. 
2. Business English and writing skills; certification, courses attended and examples of communications used in the workplace.
3. Minute taking and dissemination of information; you can outline the process you follow and provide templates of your meeting correspondences, which should also include minute and agenda layouts, etc.
4. Document management; a summary of how you manage both eDocuments and hard copy documents and filing.  A short summary on why you use the method you do, is also useful.
5. Negotiation skills; provide brief summaries of incidences where you have been required to negotiate.  These could include your approach and communication skills to acquire corporate rates for you organisation, requesting a salary increase, diary management and the reshuffling of events to ensure a win-win situation, etc.
A Master of Time Management
1. The completion of a time management training opportunity
2. A short essay or PowerPoint diagram on how you manage your own personal time
3. Evidence on how you manage your manager’s diary and examples of how you manage your manager’s time keeping
Strategic Partnership
Evidenced by:
1. An analysis of the strategic contribution you make within the business unit in which you work
2. Your department’s strategic goals
3. A description of the strategic contribution you make within your department
4. A list of the seemingly menial tasks you perform to make a difference, and how these small seemingly unimportant tasks impact on your environment if not done.
Evidenced by:
1. Examples of your financial prudence; budget control, use of company funds etc. 
2. A list of new ideas you have initiated and implemented within your team / department that has made a significant impact on the effective and efficient running of business.
3. Results achieved as a result of implementing your ideas / initiatives.
4. Proactive action you have taken, or take to be a strategic partner in your manager’s work day.
5. Initiatives you have created within your organisation that adds value.
A Champion of Change
Evidenced by:
1. A description of how you experience change and have helped others embrace it.
2. A short essay on how change has come about in your profession and the challenges you overcame to adapt.
Commitment to Training and Self Development
Evidenced by:
1. A two page resume
2. Your personal development plan
3. A record of training courses and qualifications obtained
4. An updated self assessment tool and skills matrix
5. An updated job description for your current role, highlighting new initiatives, responsibilities
6. A list of books read, accompanied by a brief summary of key learning elements gained.
7. Your most recent and updated resume and sample cover letter
8. Copies of certificates / diplomas / degrees 
Lifestyle Balance and Community Activities
Evidence any outside interests you may have as a one pager!  Here you can evidence community activities you’re involved in, hobbies you enjoy and sports you participate in.
Branding Your Portfolio of Evidence
Although some people may deny it, looks do count, and a book is judged by its cover. It is important therefore that you choose an A4 binder or good quality PVC file to document your evidence in.  Unless you’re in the floral profession, stay away from pretty flowers and funky image designed files and binders. 
Insure you have a great full length colour photograph of yourself near the front, after your index page, and please make sure you that your photograph displays a professional image of you – so no sunglasses poised in your hair, or beach backgrounds.  Keep it slick and professional.
Separate each category by section, and preferably in the order as set out above.  Portfolio categories should be neatly indexed and marked, to make it easy to access and view.  Stick to one font style.  Use colour if you want to, but don’t turn your portfolio into a rainbow mezze!
Your portfolio of evidence should be a “living document” updated and added to as you progress through your profession, experiencing new challenges, overcoming obstacles and continuing in your pursuance of excellence!

Editor's Note: Thank you Cathy for sharing this valuable resource with us and your peers. If you could like to leave a comment, please do so below - you don't have to be logged in.

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