London's Top PA: Ruby Weaver

'Temping allows you to try lots of different and new organisations and roles without risking that you will be stuck in a job that’s not right for you.'

1.     What made you choose to temp as a PA?

I had just taken a year off full-time work to study for a masters degree. Temping as a PA seemed like a great way to get myself back into the working world whilst figuring out my next steps.

2.     How did you find your first temping job?

My first temping job was exactly what I needed. It gave me a great taste of the organisation I was working in and let me dip my toes back into full-time work. The EA/PA team was really friendly and showed me the ropes and the Director I supported was new to the role as well so we were able to figure out the organisation together – which was both a challenge and an advantage!

3.     What were your initial thoughts about temping, especially in comparison to a full-time role? 

In my case, I didn’t feel able to commit to a permanent role straight away and I wanted to keep my options open. That’s why temping seemed to be a great solution – it gave me the flexibility I needed as well as getting me back into a working routine, introducing me to a new network and making sure I could pay my rent!

4.     What’s the best thing about temping?

The flexibility and the variety. Whilst I was working out what I wanted to do long-term in my career the option of trying out a variety of different organisations and sectors was really appealing. It can be great to get a feel of what you like and don’t like about different places and ways of working. I’m also the kind of person who loves a new challenge and gets excited by change and temping definitely offers that.

5.     What do you find the most challenging aspect of it and why?

It can be challenging being aware that you are only a temporary part of the team and not being able to join in the long-term plans such as the Team Christmas Party planning (always the best form of team bonding).

Also knowing that you have to get to grips with the ins-and-outs of the role so much faster can be slightly daunting. My first temp role was 8 weeks long which is usually how long it takes me to work out what I’m meant to be doing in a new job! In this case I had to be able to hit the ground running straight away without any form of induction period. 

6.     How does it differ from previous jobs?

Everything is slightly more fast-paced as you have less time to get settled and achieve your goals. Similarly, I didn’t get involved in longer-term projects as a temp which meant I was more focussed on the day-to-day of the organisation; my priority was the immediate challenges and needs of the team I was working with rather than having a more strategic, long-term approach as I have done in other permanent roles.

7.     Who has been your biggest professional inspiration and why?

One of my Professors during my masters degree has definitely been my biggest inspiration so far. She showed me that perseverance, passion and empathy are crucial to achieving your career goals. She also taught me to trust my gut and not be afraid to say no to opportunities when I know they’re not right for me but to hold out for the ones I really want. She had spent several years working as a humanitarian responder and women’s rights advocate around the world including in countries such as East Timor and Sudan. Despite being offered amazing roles such as Ambassador positions or Country Director roles, she knew that these opportunities would take her away from what she was really passionate about –women’s rights and gender equality – and that she need to pursue her own path to her own success. I really admire that direction, commitment and determination.

8.     What would you consider your biggest achievement as a PA?

In my current role I started 2 days before my Director did. That meant I had a 2-day head start to find out everything I could about the organisation, how it worked and who were the key people to know so that I was ready to give my Director a full induction and make sure she had all the information she needed on her first day. The fact that it all went smoothly and I was able to answer all her questions felt like an achievement and also meant that I learned a huge amount in my first week too.

9.     What advice would you give someone considering temping but worried to take that first step?

Think of it as a taster session. Most of the time when you start a new job you don’t have much insight into how the organisation works day to day or who you will be working with. Temping allows you to try lots of different and new organisations and roles without risking that you will be stuck in a job that’s not right for you. It means you can make a more informed decision about what sort of role you want to take up in the future.

10.  What three attributes do you think make a good PA?

Organisational skills are an obvious one. And I think you need to be flexible and adaptive, as a PA you’re working to make someone else’s life easier which often means having to adapt your methods to suit your boss’s ways of working.

I also think being intuitive is key! It is very useful to be able to pre-empt your boss’s needs before they ask, or to be able to work out which colleagues are prone to exaggeration about exactly how urgent a task is. Sussing these things out early on, certainly makes everyone’s lives easier!

11.  What makes your day easier/ what or who couldn’t you live without? 

Coffee! If I could be hooked up to a caffeine drip all day every day I would be a very happy person.

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

I love to travel and that is unfortunately where most of my salary disappears to! I used to live in Mexico which definitely got me infected with the travel bug early on, I have since been back to Latin America several times and am hoping to go to South East Asia next year to escape the winter!