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Top 10 career tips from *office celebrity PA Donna Coulling

Helena Bonham-Carter’s longtime personal assistant Donna Coulling addressed delegates at  *office, the new office professionals convention held at Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday and today.

Donna Coulling spoke to *office delegates today at Darling Harbour

Coulling, who was flown downunder by *office partner British Airways from London, is a personal assistant to Helena Bonham-Carter, Rachel Weisz and several other ultra-famous Brits. She spoke to the delegates about the differences between being a corporate PA and a self-employed arts industry PA.

In an exclusive interview with Spicenews, Coulling shared her insights into independent career success:

  1. Flexibility: You don’t work in an office. You work wherever you are; in your client’s homes, in the car, from your phone.
  2. Boundaries: You have to set your own boundaries around availability. Some clients will call you on Christmas Eve asking how to turn on the oven. You have to know what you’re prepared to do.
  3. Expertise: It’s your business to know your business. That’s your selling point and the reason you’ll get hired. Know an industry intimately and use that knowledge to enhance your employability within that sector [Coulling is a trained actor; hence her work with actors]. There’s no point in trying to work in something you know nothing about. 
  4. Personality: You have to be likable. On the other side of this, you have to work for people you like or it simply won’t work. You also have to be enthusiastic, passionate and love helping people.
  5. Trust: You have to be trustworthy. You must never speak to press about your clients private lives.
  6. Presentation: Dress and speak in a way that accurately represents the person you work for.
  7. Detachment: Always respect the employee/employer line. You can be great friends but you still have to remember where you stand in terms of your personal lives. Learn not to take things personally.
  8. Common sense: You have to draw on all kinds of experiences and knowledge because you will have to make decisions about everything from hiring workmen to paint the fence, recruiting nannies and deciding what to tell your clients and what not to bother them with.
  9. Confidence: You have to have the balls to do it.
  10. Learning: It either works or it doesn’t. Learn from your mistakes.

Donna travelled courtesy of British Airways who also gave all registered *office attendees the chance to win two return airfares to Singapore flying British Airways.