5 Ways I learnt how to survive a Private Office 

These tips can actually be used in any office, but I have only worked in private office in my life as a personal assistant. Let’s just dive in as we all know we do not have an awful lot of time, before the boss wan-


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Only kidding, I know being a Personal Assistant can be tough and very lonely. We often don’t have any support especially in the moment when we need it. However, remember, you’ve got this and everything is figureoutable even if it feels like it the tunnel is so dark.

These little nuggets of wisdom I am sharing with you are the biggest hurdles I have had to overcome, so I am pleased to share these with you. I hope you find them useful.

  1. Don’t take anything personally. If they (the principal, family, even other colleagues) are having a rant then allow that space, do not try to rescue them, unless you are offering a solution in an emergency. Read the situation, if you need to step in then do but if not, stay quiet until they have had their rant. If their frustration or anger seems very over the top for what they are actually dealing with, then more often than not they have been triggered. So, it is not about you, especially how you are as a person, it is about them. Please do not take on the energy or try to match it as that can make it all so much worse.
  2. Do you ever struggle to navigate sudden negative feelings at work? Picture this, you are having a great day, you are ploughing through your to do list, bouncing the ‘urgent’ requests out like water through a sieve when you are summoned into the principal’s office. Five minutes, fifteen minutes or even an hour goes past, you come out feeling like you have been on a spin cycle in the washing machine. You think, what the hell just happened?

Has that ever occurred? Well, you may have just taken on a projection of feelings that are not yours. If it feels very overwhelming, try some breathing exercises or a quick 2-minute meditation and release the feelings. One of the ‘perks’ (said in a sarcastic tone) of this role is that we tend put our feelings and needs aside so we end up not dealing with them, and those are just ours, imagine having someone else’s to deal with too? Having a practice to release those feelings can help enormously. And, try not to take on their projections.

  1. Do not allow your identity to be ‘the job’. This can be a tough one as we are so often asked ‘what do you do?’ when we meet new people before being asked any questions of who we are as a person. We also spend so much of our time and energy on and at work it can feel like our job is our whole identity (especially if you are a 24/7 PA). BUT you’re worth and identity should not be defined by your job or what you do. This allows you to disconnect when the shit gets tough and you can be present. 
  2. Have passions outside of work. This kind of ties in with number 3 and your identity, but it is important to be able to focus on something that makes your heart sing and release that dopamine. We all need those feel-good vibes to ensure our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being is in tip top condition.
  3. Although, “they” rely on you so much, please remember you are indispensable. Period, this is business and anyway being indispensable is not actually good. I am going to reiterate this BEING INDESPENSABLE IS NOT GOOD. An example;  when I was in my first role, I loved the idea I was so relied upon, I felt important and needed BUT it came at a huge price to my personal and physical life as I never got any time off and time off is crucial. Even now I am dealing with the burn out after 12 years of being ‘relied’ upon. If you feel that sense of power that you are so relied upon then it is a good idea to step back and realise that that is maybe some stuff you may want to look at.
  4. Now, a bonus point – one of the lessons I learnt very early on which I am so grateful for and still use to this day is – when you start a new job especially in a private or family office then don’t tell people who you work for, even if you have not signed an NDA. I say this because if you don’t you can talk about your job, day and annoyances slightly more freely than if people know who you work for. Make sense?

Well, that is from me. Keep up the good work, being a PA is enormously rewarding but we also get to see and deal with things only a wife or family get to see. Prioritise building relationships and boundaries, but  it certainly is not all doom and gloom, life is for living not just working, so have fun!

By Sophie Sherwin

Sophie has a long career as a personal assistant but her real passion is writing. Her flare for drama and comedy is noticeable with relatable, heartwarming stories with authenticity and a unique voice expressed through her blog and book. Not one to sit still for long, she also writes screenplays and is dabbling in the world of TV and stage writing. Finally, if that wasn't enough she is setting up a business 'Sophfree' to teach women how to embrace, love and allow the simplicity of being just them.

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