Profiles of the Dream Team - The Giver

imageI came across an article in a series of articles that talk about “The Dream Team” from a professional perspective and the one that caught my eye -and might be of interest to you- is the one titled “The Giver”.

You can find the article by Software Advice HERE. You can also sign up to be alerted when more are posted.

I like this article for a number of reasons but most importantly, it really gets to the heart of what it means to a top-level Executive Assistant. It also highlights a number of other famous people who have the traits detailed within the article which shows that you can potentially have both… be a great Executive Assistant AND provide real meaning to your life and those around you.

A big part of our training is about letting go of your ego so you can effectively assistant someone to the highest level. This steps may sound simple but in fact it is very difficult. The article is great at focusing on reasons why you may or may not be a good Executive or Administrative Assistant. Some people have skills and the mindset to succeed in such a role while others do not.

There is nothing wrong with figuring out if you have the qualities that benefit the role of being an assistant… better to find out now than waste time trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Give it a read and let us know in comments your thoughts.


15 Grammar Goofs that make you look silly

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
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Our “Best Of” Blog Content

After going through all of our blog content from the last year and a half, we thought it would be a good idea to take some of our best posts and content and share them in a “best of” blog post… so here we go:

General Assisting Blog Posts

Wanna know what the number 1 rule of being an assistant is?  We tell you right here.

What does your career have to do with pizza? You can read part 1 and then part 2 to find out!

What can’t we teach you? You can find out here in this three part blog series.

Want to be a virtual assistant? You can listen to an interview from a VA coach in this post.

Assisting in Hollywood

Listen to Ethan present “Hollywood 101” to UW students at this post.

How much do Hollywood assistants get paid?  We tell you here.

Why you should work for a tough boss... we include this in the Hollywood section because most bosses in Hollywood are tough.

Specific Assistant Tips, Tricks and Tools

Email triage - find out what it is and how it can help you.

Plans. Always. Change. so be prepared for it.

Under promise + Over-deliver = Success - something we can all live by.



It’s a BOY!

Wyatt Ethan BullStephanie and I are very proud to announce our son, Wyatt Bull.

Wyatt weighed in at 7 pounds 11ounces and was 20.75 inches long.

It has been a real joy to get to know him over the last 4 weeks and he’s doing great.  We think he’s taking it easy on us because he knows we’re newbie parents.

Thanks for all of the well wishes and we’d like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy holiday season!





Tips for Being a Good Boss & An Update

being a good bossA member of ours recently read our white paper, “Defining Assistant Excellence” (.pdf format) and suggested that we create a white paper for bosses entitled “Defining Executive Excellence” that might help bosses create a better working relationship with their assistants.

We think that’s a great idea but given everything that’s going on in our lives right now -see update below-, I thought I’d give a couple of tips right here that will help even the toughest boss create a great working relationship with their assistant.

Before I go into those tips though, please note that these are just a general overview of what we (both Ethan and I) feel help us perform at a high level for our bosses.  They are both great bosses but there has been a give and take aspect of getting to know each others quarks that take time to smooth out when starting out as an assistant.  Tensions sometimes run high in both the finance and advertising worlds where we both work, but in general, these three characteristics that our bosses possess go a long way to creating a strong working relationship.

And the best part?  Any boss can employ these tactics real quick… so here they are:

1. When bosses use “Please” and “Thank You”, they go a long way in creating a solid working relationship with their assistant that will make their assistants want to bend over backwards and go above-and-beyond to please you.

2. When bosses set the rules and then sticks to them without changing them or their preferences from one instance to the next, they create a trusting relationship that is needed between boss and assistant.

3. When bosses understand that there are “uncontrollable” situations and don’t take instances that are beyond their assistant’s control against them will again create an endearing relationship where your assistant will tell you like it is but also work hard to come up with unique and out-of-the-box solutions to the particular “uncontrollable” situation.

What do you think?... If you have any additions to this list, please put them in the comments.


Now for an update to our BIG NEWS post:  I’ve got about a week and a half until my due date and my Doctor is going to induce if we reach the due date sooooo… Baby Bull should be entering the world pretty dang soon!

In terms of sex of the baby, we kinda went the unconventional route with Ethan knowing the sex and me not… pretty crazy and I was certain that he was going to spill the beans at some point but here we are a week and a half out and he still hasn’t… I’m amazed.  The baby’s room is all ready and getting that done has put us both at ease.  Sadie has been spending time in there sniffing everything out (she’s our dog if you’re a new reader) and we’re sure she’s going to be amazing with Baby Bull.

Anyway, that’s about it… Ethan will update the blog with all the details when Baby Bull enters the world… needless to say, I image I’m going to be a wee bit pooped when all is said and done so please bear with us if we don’t get back to your emails right away… we’re here, just a little bogged down.  And of course, Ethan will stay on top of any questions coming his way via the forum or email for our paying members.


Some Useful Links

Believe it or not, we are not the only website out there dedicated to career development, job searching and work/life balance. I know, crazy, right?

As we get ready to launch our program on May 5th, we’ve been interacting with and commenting on a number of different sites that we think might be helpful to you in addition to ProAssisting:

Expat - is a great resource for anyone looking to study abroad.
GED: Learn and meet your educational goals at your own pace. Obtain your GED with Franklin Virtual Schools.

We’ll be posting new links as we come across them but that list above will get you started. Trust us, they all rock.



Interns (& Internships) ROCK!

interns6979thumbnailI know, I know… ProAssisting is a blog and on-line learning environment for assistants… and it is but before one becomes an assistant, they usually have had some experience working as an intern.

Basically, we believe, interns and internships rock and that anyone in college (and even high school) should be interning during summer breaks and potentially during semesters when they have a break in their schedule.

But why? What’s the point? As an intern, you get real world work experience without the full responsibility of actually pulling down a paycheck from the company. Obviously, the flip side of that coin is that you aren’t making any money but as an intern you’re in the position to gain some valuable things that carry weight out in the real world:

  1. If done well, you will get a letter of recommendation that you can show to future potential employers after you graduate.
  2. You have a position to put on your resume that isn’t directly related to just your college AND you will have actionable items to list under that experience.
  3. You will increase your network of contacts outside of your school which, if cultivated correctly, can lead to future job offers.
  4. You will get a sense of what a 9-5 (usually more) position is like and the work ethic needed to succeed in that situation.

When reading over that list, keep the big picture in mind and realize that at this stage of your career, those things may even be more important than money.

Want help finding that intership?

The Intern Queen is Lauren Berger and she did 15 internships in her 4 years of college… yep, you read that right. Anyway, she started a blog to help others find interships and has also hooked up with the famed movie duo who brought us the web series Quarterlife to create an internship resource center through the Quarterlife brand found HERE. Needless to say, Lauren’s blog is a great resource for students looking for internships and her advice is spot on.

Another great resource can be found at: This site features a different intership every day in addition to having a “past internship” section that you can search through to find past opportunities that you can contact about future opportunities before they are posted in public.

Lastly, if you’re a little nervous about stepping into that company as an intern, our training here at ProAssisting is a great place for anyone starting an internship to get the training needed to be THE Rock Star Intern. Interns are assistants in many respects and our training will help you shine from day one.



Some BIG News To Share

baby BullYep, your eyes are not deceiving you… that’s Baby Bull sucking its thumb!

Stephanie and I are thrilled to announce that we are expecting at the beginning of November.

Needless to say, life has gotten a little bit crazy real quick in the Bull household… but crazy in the most amazing way possible.  It’s truly unique to feel thrilled with a dash of being terrified thrown in when one is expecting their first child.

In case you noticed, the amount of blogging that we’ve been doing on our site has been down a bit… some of that is due to being crazed with getting ready for Baby Bull and summer trips, some due to spending more time working with our members inside our training program and some due to re-thinking what exactly we want the blog portion of our site to be.

Rest assured though that we are going to keep blogging and putting out free content in addition to the paid executive and admin training program that we offer so don’t be strangers.

So that’s the big news… the Bull clam is growing by 1 and Sadie is going to be a big sister… we know she’ll be a great one!


What a top-level Assistant does…

The Wall Street Journal has a great article up today, titled “She Bosses the CEO”, about what it’s like to be an executive assistant to a top-level executive.

Their by-line states: “An Assistant knows her boss like few others. Why their partnership is imperiled.”

From our perspective we don’t believe that an assistant’s role or position is “imperiled” however we do recognize, as the article details, that the role is evolving due to technology. Because of this evolution, assistants are asked to take on more bosses and perform in a team environment versus a 1-on-1 position however at the C-Level, a 1-on-1 boss/assistant partnership is still the norm.

Also, the assistant position—even if it’s not labeled “assistant”—is still the bottom rung on the career path for 20-something recent college grads and we’d wager a pretty penny that such is NOT changing in the near OR distant future.

The ProAssisting Training Program is specifically geared toward this new, technologically advanced environment by providing tactics and strategies for using the computer, phone system, cell phone, instant messaging and other new technologies to streamline the job of being an assistant so you can be the right hand any boss is looking for and the person they are looking to promote when the time comes.


Disney Assistant BUSTED!

assistant arrestedFrom the assistant position, you’re privy to a lot of confidential information. Information that if you’re not careful with, could get you into a load of trouble.

Case in point: Disney assistant arrested for conspiring with her boyfriend to use her knowledge of Disney’s upcoming quarterly results to make a little extra coin.

Just a little insider trading… no one gets hurt, right?


Both her and her boyfriend are going to be arraigned shortly. Needless to say, they probably were a little freaked out when the FBI paid them a visit.

We’re going to expand on this topic in a future blog post that will detail all of the classified and confidential information you come across as an assistant but in the mean time, we wanted to point you to the above article as an example that even the little people can get bagged when they try to use such information for personal gain.

Now, if your boss is the one who wants you to look the other way when they are the ones who aren’t fully on the up-and-up, take our advice and have some “See ya!” money saved so you can blow the whistle and be the hero.

Flickr Creative Commons image by Crawford.l


8 Reasons Why You Should Work for a Tough Boss

swimming with sharksWhen we say work for a tough boss, we’re not necessarily saying someone like the Kevin Spacey character in “Swimming with Sharks” or the Meryl Streep character in “The Devil Wears Prada”—although if you can tough it out with someone like that, go for it—no, what we’re talking about are just normal, run-of-the-mill, tough people to work for, with and please.

This may sound counter-intuitive to you but working for a tough & demanding boss does a number of things that will HELP YOU when starting out on your career path.

1. Working for a tough boss teaches you to be at the top of your own game. If you’re not, don’t worry, they’ll surely let you know. By consistently working at a high level for a demanding boss, you’ll be stretching and able to perform at that level for longer and longer periods of time. Instead of being yelled at for a mistake every two days, it will turn into every two months or even less.

2. Inside the company, everyone who knows this “tough” boss knows that they are hard to work for… so if you CAN work for them and keep them happy, your stock within the company rises and opens up other opportunities for you down the road.

3. This demanding boss also gives you an “out” when asking for assistance in terms of performing your job. You get to blame the rush or circumstances of your requests to the IT department, the mail room or operations on your boss, thus getting what you (and by extension he or she) needs in the quickest time possible.

4. A tough boss also has a reputation within their industry outside of the company and that too can help you when interviewing at a competitor. Either the competitor knows that you “know the drill” given your current or previous tough boss OR they might want to poach you from your boss as “payback”... it does happen.

5. When a tough boss gives you positive feedback on a job well done, it’s like gold and you’ll feel like a million bucks.

6. You will develop a thick skin and be able to take criticism better than people who haven’t worked for a tough or demanding boss. The maturity and poise that you gain through these traits will shine through when compared to your peers.

7. The tough and demanding bosses are usually the ones who are extremely smart and know their business inside and out. If they didn’t, the company would have gotten rid of them a while ago because they are tough and demanding without the performance to back it up. Once you become trusted, these bosses can turn into mentors who will teach you what they know which then opens up career options for you down the road.

8. Lastly, if you can thrive when working for a tough and demanding boss, when it does come time to either move on or be promoted, usually that tough boss turns out to be your biggest supporter.

On the flip side, don’t be fooled by just a regular nasty person with no talent trying to disguise themselves as a tough, demanding and smart boss… these are the folks that you want to stay away from. You’ll be able to spot a boss like this if they change the rules constantly, don’t give honest feedback/advice and aren’t respected by their peers from inside or outside the company and industry. Advice: proceed with caution.

Lastly, in Hollywood, all bets are off.


Raise your hand if you like automated phone message systems…

angry callerI don’t know about you but whether I’m making calls for my boss or myself, I try as much as possible to bypass those pesky recorded messages that prompt you to input all sorts of information before it lets you speak with an actual living and breathing human being.

I know that they ask for this information—account numbers, PINS, last 4 digits of your social security number—so that the representative has your account or profile pulled up when they take your call but based on my experience 98% of the time, I have to repeat that information to them anyway… just ridiculous.

Anyway, here is a treat for you—one which we just added to our membership resource center but you can get here for free—to help avoid those recorded messages asking for information before passing you off to a real human being:! is a website that lists thousands of companies along with their various customer service numbers WITH instructions on how to avoid those automated messages and get to a real human! Very easy to search and the instructions are easy to follow… and you can also rate your experience using that number or add your own with instructions if you have any that aren’t listed.

Just another use of technology to bypass a level of technology that drives me batty. Enjoy!

Flickr Creative Commons image by jcardinal18


The plan for a successful project

plan for successAs an assistant, you’re going to be tasked with completing both large and small projects. Whether tackling this year’s holiday cards, planning a multi-leg trip for 3 executives or just ordering lunch for the board meeting, each project can be thought of using the below “outline” to achieve maximum success.

Granted, you’re not going to have to follow this plan by writing out each action or idea for each step every time—especially for the lunch ordering—, however just thinking of both large and small projects from within the below frame work, you’ll greatly improve your chances for success while not missing any important step or overlooking a specific detail.

Take a look:

Outline for a successful project

1. Define success - it’s important to know what you and your boss view as a success for each project you’re assigned.

2. Brainstorm - you need to think of anything and everything needed to reach your definition of success. Don’t worry about being neat or making sure everything is in order, you just need to make sure that your brain is opened up for everything needed for success.

3. Organize actions and steps based on priority and time line - For larger projects, create a work-flow document that lists these actions/steps in order along with level of priority. This is especially helpful when working with a number of different people on the project.

4. Do the work and delegate specific tasks to the proper people/departments - as an assistant you’ll need to do a majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to completing your projects however don’t lose sight of the fact that at most companies, you have other departments and resources at your disposal to help for specific tasks.

5. Frequently check completed work against your time line & priority work flow document - these “check-ins” need to be used to make sure you’re on track to complete the project on time.

6. Once complete, reflect on the outcome of the project - What worked? What didn’t? What could have been done differently for future projects? These questions are very useful for streamlining processes and making sure your next project goes even smoother than the one before.

Next time you have a project, either large or small, think about these steps to ensure complete success. If you have any ideas for steps we might have missed or tactics that you use that help you with your projects, let us know in the comments.


Email Triage: What it is and how it can help you

triageTo be honest, I don’t know exactly where I first read the term “email triage” before—and if it was you who coined the term, please let me know in the comments and I’ll edit this post—but when I read that term, I realized that I was performing email triage for a very long time without actually having a name or term for the process.

It’s an extremely useful technique for dealing with the vast amounts of both work and personal email that comes in on a daily basis but before I go into detail about what email triage is and how it can help you too, let’s first start by defining the term “triage”:

Function: noun
1 a: the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors b: the sorting of patients (as in an emergency room) according to the urgency of their need for care
2: the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success

When I read that above definition in terms of “email triage”, here is what it says to me: “the sorting of an allocation of treatment to emails… according to a system of priorities designed to maximize success in the shortest time period”.

Now I’ll detail how I use email triage with the hope that you see a use for this technique in your dealings with both work and personal emails to “maximize email success in the shortest time period”.

On Sunday evenings, I log onto my work email from home to take a peak at my inbox and perform my initial round of email triage so I don’t feel caught off guard come Monday morning bright and early when I boot up my computer at work. In this round of triage, I go through and delete any emails that I’ve signed up to have delivered to me daily like The New York Times since I usually keep up with the news over the weekend.

Then I quickly scan through for any emails from my boss as action items for the upcoming week. It’s not that I’m going to actually do anything with these emails, just make myself aware of them for the week ahead. Then, I go through the number of Microsoft Outlook invites that are sprinkled throughout and delete the ones that I can and leave the ones that need to be accepted on Monday morning in my inbox.

Lastly, I familiarize myself with which emails deserve priority. When I log out, I am familiar with what’s happening and have my inbox in tip top shape to tackle the following Monday morning. Two of the best benefits of dealing with my work email in this fashion is that I’m not stressed out come Monday morning and I’m on top of any questions my boss has first thing in the morning.

Email triage has also crept into my personal email habits which allows me to label emails and keep them as either read or un-read so I know what I need to get to and what can be left for when there is a break in the day… again, reducing my stress—even personal email can be stressful—and keeping me on my game with email communication.

What about you?... how do you handle the massive amounts of email you get on a daily basis?


From Executive Assistant to CEO

Ursula Burns Xerox CEOThe New York Times has a great article about Ursula Burns, the new CEO for Xerox. She has held many different positions throughout her 30 years working for the company but what is particularly interesting to us here at ProAssisting is how Ursula was mentored in the executive assistant position by her two different bosses.

During downtime, they would talk with Ursula about her communication style and how she could round off some of her edges so she performed her job better. Here is a key section of the article:

He offered her a job as his executive assistant. It was January 1990, she was 31, and the offer felt like a dead-end. “Why would I ever want to do that?” she answered, assuming that the title meant secretary. The job was much more, of course. She would travel with Mr. Hicks, sit in on important meetings, help get things done.

She accepted, and, Mr. Hicks remembers, they talked a lot about leadership. Mr. Hicks, a vice president overseeing marketing and customer operations, explained the need to manage people in different ways, not to intimidate them, and to make them feel comfortable by listening carefully.

And then this too:

Later, the phone rang. Mr. Allaire [Xerox’s President] wanted to see her in his office. She figured that it was not good news. But Mr. Allaire wanted to poach her from Mr. Hicks, so she could be his executive assistant.

They, too, would talk about leadership during down time. He didn’t want to discourage her candor, but, like Mr. Hicks, he offered tips about how to be more effective—“like giving people credit for ideas that they didn’t have, but you sold to them, to give them ownership,” Mr. Allaire recalls advising her.

These working relationships are a perfect example of how much more the position of executive assistant can be and what that can lead to in the future. Finding the right boss who took the time—when there was time—to mentor her was key to Ms. Burns’ future success. You too can make the transition from executive or administrative assistant onto the career path of your choosing and when you think you can’t, just remember Ursula Burns and how she did it.

Photo credit: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

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