Dare to dream, says Hilary Stoddart, Designated PA’s client development manager and former office-based senior PA…
If you’re considering taking the leap from office-based employment to the world of flexible, home based, virtual work and feel (understandably) daunted, Hilary’s story is sure to reassure and motivate you!
It was August 2014 when I made the biggest change in my career. I was working for a major investment company in central Edinburgh, when I resigned from my Senior Executive PA position. My health was suffering from the long daily commute and my doctor advised that I either move closer to my job or work closer to home. The first option wasn’t possible, so I started to look for a new job in my local area.
“I was already aware that jobs like mine just didn’t exist outside of the city, but I was determined not to settle for anything less.”
Rewind further still, to the snowy winter of 2013. I was stuck on yet another late train home when I picked up a newspaper someone had left behind, and read a brilliant article about virtual PAs. I remember thinking how amazing it would be to work from home, doing the job I love. In fact it was a standing joke between my boss and I that if I had red sparkly shoes like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I could just click my heels and be magically transported to the office, without the terrible commute! Sadly, I thought this could only be a dream. But I just couldn’t get that newspaper article out of my head….
Back to 2014 and by the time I completed my notice, I had already set up my own virtual PA business. I had commissioned a website expert, decided on a name, ordered business cards, and signed up to some local networking groups. I had already signed a couple of small clients from ex colleagues and I was being introduced to some amazing opportunities. I was also networking on LinkedIn and had researched similar companies.
I remember finding a post by Designated on LinkedIn. It was like the most wonderful and exciting breath of fresh air! I loved how the company came across and compared to others, and they seemed like a great team. Soon enough, a role was advertised for a virtual PA to join the Designated PA team. At that point my own clients were very intermittent, and a large contract had just ended, so I wasted no time and applied. I got a reply the next day followed by a lovely call with Managing Director Jane Braithwaite herself. I was subsequently offered the job and was beyond happy…
“Finally I could do the job I loved, be part of an amazing team and do all this from home!”
I had a couple of London based clients in the early days, and also loved the direct contact with Designated’s customers and answering questions from new enquiries. I started signing up new DPA clients and felt a buzz from using my own experience to advise them on how Designated PA could make a difference to them. I was passionate about the ethos of Designated PA and how we could support all types of businesses, large or small.
“Within my first 6 months, I was promoted from PA to Client Development Manager.”
Fast forward to April 2018 – I am approaching my second anniversary with Designated PA and I couldn’t be happier. I manage all new business enquiries as well as working closely with our existing clients to ensure they’re getting the very best service from us. It took a while for me to adjust to a sales focussed role but the fact that I was promoting something I loved and believed in made it relatively easy. I honestly feel so lucky to have a job I love and to be part of such a brilliant team.
My final note would be to always have goals and never compromise, lose sight or give up on them. I’ve worked extremely hard to get to where I am now; my health is the best it’s been in years and every day I get to be Dorothy, click my heels and I’m in my home office. It’s funny that all those years ago I thought it was only a dream!