London's Top PA: Ariane Henniger

Ariane tells us about making the move from Germany to the UK to be a PA 

Ariane HennigerHow did you get your career started as a PA? 

Not many people know my first career straight after graduating was as a flight attendant for Lufthansa. It had been my dream job but I realised very quickly that it wasn’t for me at all.  Christmas was a quiet time and I needed an action plan so contacted a temp agency and get a junior role as a team assistant. I spend the first four weeks on my feet everyday, scanning and filing documents. One day, I approached my boss and said I can do more. The next day, I had a desk and a team to look after. 

 

What was your experience of finding your first PA role? 

I entered the recruitment agency game very late because it was pure coincidence that I found my first job in London - I had read about the role in a German forum and decided to go for it. A friend referred me to my second job as a PA to someone very senior which helped me take the next step up the ladder. It is important to throw yourself out there though, as the market can be quite overwhelming. My advice would be ‘quality over quantity’ when it comes to finding good agencies. 

What has been your most challenging PA role to date and why? 

My first role in London was working as an EA at the tennis racquet company Prince. In 2011, they went bankrupt but just before I joined, they were trying again with new investors. Not only was it my first job in the UK but we had no money, no stock, unhappy clients and were risking repetitional damage. On top of everything, I had no clue about tennis, strings and racquets! It was manic at time, to say the leats, but we got there in the end. Working in the sports industry can be really fun with lots of perks! 

How does it differ from previous jobs? 

It’s not every day you get to high-five Rafael Nadal while walking into the changing rooms to deliver a bag full of racquets to your team! 

Who has been your most inspirational boss and why? 

My last company was fairly small when I joined. In the beginning, the atmosphere was very relaxed with a real family feeling. Jack’s appreciate was to give people as much freedom as they needed to thrive in their roles but he offered guidance and advice whenever it was needed. This helped both my professional and personal development a lot, something I’ll be eternally grateful for. In the three years I worked with him, he wasn’t only a boss but became a mentor, a friend and father figure. I eventually outgrew the role but he is still all these things to me to this day. 

 

Biggest achievement as a PA? 

I once overheard someone saying “I would go to Ariane. Trust me, she can be a life saver.” To hear that was amazing, it is exactly what I’ve worked very hard for. 

Biggest hurdle you have had to overcome as a PA? 

Having moved from Germany to the UK, to start with everything every day was one big hurdle. The cultural differences were bigger than I expected and my communication stye would often clash with other people, particularly the ones I would report to.  

Do you feel valued as a PA? Do you think PAs get enough recognition? 

I do. Whilst the thanks might not come every day, I know that it’s because of me that the show is running smoothly as I’m the one pulling the strings in the background. I have a lot of freedom and there are some perks, which are a reward for me delivering and doing a good job. So yes, but it is subtle! 

What advice would you give to candidates finding their first job in a support role in London? 

A receptionist role can be a great stepping stone if you have very little admin experience. You get to learn how an office runs which is vital for everything that comes later on. If you are smart about it, you can take on team assistant duties. Someone always needs help with a document, or their expenses and as quickly as that you have added skills to your CV which will be helpful for moving on and stepping up. 

What three attributes do you think make a good PA? 

Thick-skinned 

Empathetic

And most importantly:, to be a good PA you’ve really got to love being one.  A lot of people think it is an easy job but it’s not. 

What couldn’t you live without? 

My purple inked Montblanc fountain pen. 

What are you most proud of? 

That “I did it my way.” I arrived in London in 2012, staying in an Air BnB, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t know anyone but I thought “just give it a go”. One of the first recruiters I spoke to told me it would be hard finding a job because I was German, my experience wasn’t relevant in the UK and my CV wasn’t interesting enough. 6 years later, I can choose my dream role from various offers and I am writing this article. 

What advice would you give to a young PA starting their career? 

Do not be afraid to ask questions and if you are lucky enough to get to work with other assistants, watch them and learn from them. Start building a good network early. Knowing people everywhere and being able to help each other out is vital and goes a long way. It will come in handy when you need it, I promise!

When you’re not being one of London’s top PAs, what do you enjoy doing? 

I have a food blog which is actually coming along quite nicely, and people told me I do cook very well. It helps me relax after work!