How EA/PAs Learn on the Job

EAPAIn last month’s issue of Shine – our popular newsletter for Administration Professionals – we asked our readers how you like to pick up new skills.

61.54% of you prefer to learn on the job (compared to 23.08% choosing face to face training course and 15.38% coaching).

At Bright*Star Training we are all about learning, and how we can best support your professional and skill development. Learning a new skill has all kinds of unexpected benefits, including improving working memory, keeping your mind active and increasing engagement at work.

We have gathered our top 7 tips on how you can fit in learning while ‘on the job’ and how to ensure that you get the best results from this learning to continue to grow your skill set and knowledge.

Note that there are two types of On the Job Training (OJT), Structured and Unstructured.

This blog focuses on the second type, however there are lessons to be learnt from the structured OJT, mainly around setting specific goals with your manager and get their support for what you are wanting to achieve. For more on Structured OJT, we recommend reading this brilliant article by Charles I Levine.

If you’re ready to start learning, here are our top tips.

1. Be clear on what you want to achieve

Make a list of the Top 10 things you’d like to master. Then prioritise in order of preference and importance to your role. Create an action plan to tackle each new skill and set a deadline by when you want to achieve it. Remember “Goals are dreams with deadlines”!

2. Get your manager involved

Why not ask your manager what areas they would like you to focus on? Dust off your professional development plan (84.62% of you have one), set a time to go through it with your manager, and ask for his/her support for your plans. This is a great way to show initiative and commitment to your role as well as your willingness to grow and learn.

3. Be hands on

Rather than just having someone show you how something works, have a go at it yourself. Take over the keyboard and actually work through the process yourself. Take time to familiarise yourself with new technology. Follow the lead of 2015 AAPNZ Award winner Rebeka Adamson and turn on the new printer and find out how it works before anyone else. It’s a great way to become the “go-to person” in your company and it can hugely increase your sphere of influence and people’s perception of you.

4. Don’t let what you don’t know hold you back

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to not get it right the first time. Nobody (other than perhaps yourself!) expects you to be perfect. It is a proven fact that we learn the most by

experiencing and overcoming failure. At the 2016 AP Day in Auckland, the keynote presenter Bev Adair-Beets really inspired the audience with her honest account of how she didn’t let her lack of knowledge hold her back – she simply started with “Mr Google” and taught herself what she didn’t know.

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad

5. Schedule in time to learn and make it a priority

How many times have you saved an interesting article with the intent of reading it ‘when you have time’? If you’re nodding right now, then you’re not alone. We have to make time and make learning a habit. Charles Bruxton said “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it”.

Emona Numanga, the President of the Auckland AAPNZ group shared a great tip with us at their last monthly meeting: if you struggle to find time in your day, spend a week noting down how you spend your time and you will soon discover time wasters such as interruptions that you can manage better.

6. Challenge yourself

The harder the task, the more you learn. No matter your role or how long you’ve been in it, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow. Find it and take it! By challenging ourselves, and overcoming obstacles, we grow our confidence and our resilience – both key attributes for successful people. Over the last few years, so many Administration Professionals have told us that these are two key areas where they struggle. Bright*Star offer training courses on both topics, however the best way to start building your confidence is by tackling a new challenge – even if you start small.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

7. Share your knowledge

The best way to truly absorb learning is when you’re asked to present it to someone else. It forces you to verbalise what you have learnt and think about how it benefits not just you but also other people. You may like to present to your manager, colleagues, a peer group such as your local AAPNZ group, or even friends and family.

As you learn on the job you may identify a larger skills gap or professional development need you can’t tackle on your own. This is where attending structured training will be helpful. The Bright*Star team is here to guide you in the right direction to find the best suitable training solution for your needs.

They say that “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try” – learning on the job is no different. Think about what you can do right now that will put you on the right path.

Click here to take the next step in your professional development

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.

Read through the Analysis of the Survey Results:

1) Do you have a professional development plan in place?

Yes: 80%

No: 20% (No opportunity to talk to boss, awaiting management approval, not sure how to do this)

2) How often do you get a professional development opportunity?

Twice a year: 40%

Other: 33.33%

Once a year: 26.67%

3) What has been the most unexpected skill you’ve needed for your job?

Some sample responses:

To be a Counsellor

Dealing with different personalities


Juggling the needs of multiple direct reports 

Copying with bullying

Conflict Resolution






Is your body telling tales on you?

We all know that ‘gut feeling’ when we meet someone for the first time – it tells us whether this is our kind of person or not…although we don’t always know why.

Our body language gives out messages that we may not be aware of – sometimes betraying us and the messages that we actually want to be send out. d

Imagine you are a hedgehog…what do you do when you feel threatened or under attack? Like a hedgehog, if we feel vulnerable for any reason we will do our best to make ourselves small and often cross our arms to protect our vital organs. e


Being aware of the signals our body is sending on our behalf allows us to choose whether we go with it or override it and make a conscious change.

What is your body language saying…table

With Body Language you can ‘fake it til you make it’…or rather…’fake it til you become it’.  Power, authority and confidence will help you get where you want to be…

Find out more about how to use your body language to get what you want by joining us at our next Communicating with Impact training course.

Blog Written by Bright*Star Facilitator Kerry Saberton

Ian Moir, Aztech Solutions, receiving his brand new ipad from Kerry Saberton, Business Development Manager at Bright*Star Training

Kerry has been a facilitator and organisational development consultant for over 18 years. During her career in customer service, sales and management, Kerry gained a wide range of experience to draw upon. She has built and developed teams to meet core objectives in both sales and customer service and believes the key to success is harmony and communication. She has also built and run her own companies.

Women in Leadership: The double-bind of assertiveness and influence

minute‘I don’t have a traditionally female way of speaking – I’m quite assertive. If I didn’t speak the way I do, I wouldn’t have been seen as a leader. But my way of speaking may have grated on people who were not used to hearing it from a woman. It was the right way for a leader to speak, but it wasn’t the right way for a woman to speak. It goes against type.’


These are the words of Kim Campbell, who served as Prime Minister of Canada in 1993.

It’s a message that’s not uncommon when female leaders talk about the challenges they face in being influential in powerful roles. The dilemma boils down to a few core points:

1. Whether we like it or not, even in the 21st Century, mainstream societies all over the globe perpetuate stereotypes about how women (and men) should behave

2. We are all primed to succumb to these associations about men and women, and sometimes they happen on a such a subconscious level that we hardly recognise our own biases

3. As leaders, women need to understand these biases (I didn’t say condone them) and develop a level of awareness and a range of skills that enable them to shine and be influential.

So how do we do that? In practical terms, there many ways to achieve this, but here are three simple concepts that you can explore to shape and cultivate your leadership influence as a woman…

#1 Understand the dynamics of male and female communication

That’s right, we all know that there are gaps in the way we relate between the genders at times. But what are the common ones, why do they exist, and what can you do to navigate them and minimise the potential for misunderstanding?

#2 Optimise your confidence

Yes, it’s true that we women win all the prizes when it comes to being our own worst critics. To be influential, you need to be confident – and to be confident, you need to back yourself. So we need to learn how to find the right balance between confidence and modesty, assertiveness and diplomacy.

#3 Get into the Driver’s seat

Understand that more opportunities present themselves to people who are open to them and seek them out. As women leaders we need to know how to set ourselves up to thrive, how to ensure our lives are richer for the experience, and how to make sure we take other women along with us.

Investing in our potential as leaders is the kind of investment that pays off – not just for us, but for all of the people around us. Too many women leave their leadership careers to chance, and never take the time to examine their abilities as a leader, how they influence others and what their potential could be. Don’t let that be you.

Written by Pamela Cronin

Pamela Cronin facilitates Bright*Star’s Leadership Development for Women.  

NEW Speakers for Web 201318Pamela Cronin has more than 15 years’ experience working with organisations across the public and private sectors.  Her training combines rich, contemporary theory and stimulating activity, providing practical tips and advice.  Pamela draws on her expertise in the areas of people management, business strategy, communication and team development to deliver challenging learning in a personable way. She is an accredited Team Management Index (TMI) Facilitator, and is the author of the Brooker’s New Zealand ‘Guide to Training and Development’.

Celebrating Admin Day: Inspiration Galore!

April 20th was Administrative Day and New Zealand witnessed the coming together of some of the country’s finest and brightest admin professionals. The Association of Administrative Professionals of New Zealand (AAPNZ) hosted simultaenous celebrations across the country to celebrate the amazing skills administrative staff bring to all businesses and organisations


As one of the longest supporting partners of AAPNZ, Bright*Star Training decided to add some more Shine to the AP day celebrations. At the AP day event in Auckland and Wellington, we decided to recognise an inspirational admin professional for their contribution to the field and reward them with a Bright*Star training voucher so they can take the next step in their Careers.

image1Congrats to Simone Bantjies and Rebecca Sykes on winning our Admin Day lucky draw. Shine on Ladies! A big shout out to our friends in Hamilton, we heard the event was stellar!

At the Auckland event, Lone Tapp from Bright*Star Training who is returning as judge for this  year’s AAPNZ Administrative Professional Award shared her tips with some AP professionals on what it took to be a standout administrative professional.

If you are considering entering or nominating someone you know for the 2016 event, do read on Lone’s previous blog for her tips.

We are proud here at Bright*Star Training to hold a long standing commitment to the EA, PA and administration community. Each year, we offer a comprehensive and vibrant calendar of specialised EA/PA training courses. Please browse the many courses here or contact us to discuss how we can create a bespoke training programme for your organisation.

Register for our free Shine EA/PA newsletter today!
White papers, interviews, articles, subscriber only offers, recipes and much more. Join us!

Nominate an Exceptional Admin Professional

personalpresenceLone Tapp, General Manager Bright*Star Training, is returning as judge for this  year’s AAPNZ Administrative Professional Award and we wanted to repost her blog from last year where shares her tips on what it takes to be a standout administrative professional. If you are considering entering or nominating someone you know for the 2016 event, do read on…

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to judge the Administration Professional of the Year Awards at the AAPNZ conference in Christchurch. It was a real privilege to get to know the three finalists and to learn about their journeys. What talented women!

With so many amazing applicants, whose stories I was fascinated to read, it was hard enough to get down to just three finalists, so imagine the difficulties in choosing the winner.

What made Rebeka Adamson stand out in my eyes was that her passion for the profession really shone through, she was extremely well prepared, and she was very clear on where she was headed in her career.

Since July I have been thinking about what advice I would give to other administration professionals looking to enter next year’s Awards. What would help them stand out and possibly get to the next stage? Here are my top five tips:

  1. Let your personality and passions shine through in your application and in the interview
  2. Don’t be shy to talk about yourself and what you have achieved (please give examples)
  3. Talk about yourself and your role rather than about your organisation
  4. Be clear about what your goals are, how you plan to achieve them and how winning the Award can help you do that
  5. Make sure you follow the format and instructions given in the application form

I strongly encourage all Administration professionals in New Zealand to consider entering the 2016 Awards. This is your chance to step out from “behind the scenes” and share your story and your experiences with your peers. Don’t be daunted by the process – I promise you that you will not regret entering. We need to celebrate the amazing diversity of roles, skills, and career opportunities that are available to administration professionals and continue to raise the profile of the profession. Your stories should be heard. Your contributions recognised. Imagine how amazing it would feel to win!

If you can answer yes to the following three questions, then you should apply.

  • Would you like to take stock of how far you have come in your career?
  • Would you like your boss put down in writing just how outstanding you are?
  • Would you like to be recognised within your profession?

These are just three of the many reasons cited by previous applicants as to why they find it so rewarding to put themselves forward for this award. Whether you win or not, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it is hugely beneficial and eye-opening to go through the process. It builds their confidence, allows them to reflect on their accomplishments, and makes them consider what’s next in their role or career.

I have met some absolutely inspiring administration professionals over the last decade, both through AAPNZ and through my work on training courses and events for EA/PAs through Bright*Star and Conferenz. What these women have achieved, the responsibilities and huge workloads they seem to carry with such grace, it really does humble you. What then surprises me is that almost every single one of them feel that they don’t have what it takes to be considered for the AAPNZ award. Digging a bit deeper, what I’ve found is that the main two things holding them back are:

  • They don’t feel confident enough to put themselves forward
  • The prospect of having to do a short speech in front of their peers terrifies them

I understand where they are coming from. I have struggled with those two areas myself but in the end found that the only way to overcome my fears was to tackle them head-on. Both are simply skills that can be learned. Once you pick up a few techniques and start practising on a regular basis, the fear goes away. Personally, I joined Toastmasters and went through an assertiveness training programme. There are many options available to you so if you start now you will be ready for when nominations open for the 2016 AAPNZ Awards. If you want any advice on options, I would be more than happy to help you. Contact me directly on 099123610 or

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.

From stressed to relaxed: The power of Mindfulness

Our facilitator Chantal Hofstee, shares some great insights on how to utilise mindfulness to ease the stress of the season. Learn more about Chantal Hofstee’s Mindfulness in Business course:


Your brain is your most complex body part and science still does not fully understand how it works. Your perceptions, thoughts and emotions are equally complex. They are constantly changing and interacting and consist of many different layers. Some are part of your conscious mind while others are part of your subconscious mind.

At any given moment, if you peel away all the different layers of thought and emotion, all the way down to the bottom of our subconscious mind there are only two options: you either feel safe or unsafe. All of your thoughts, feelings and actions in that moment, will come from either the safe or unsafe brain state.

The red brain: a state of stress

There are various levels of safe or unsafe – you can see this as a spectrum with extremely safe at one end of the spectrum and extremely unsafe at the other end. Where you are on the spectrum depends on the situation, your personality, core beliefs and current thoughts. The unsafe brain, also called the red brain, can be triggered when there is no actual physical threat. Your brain reacts to how safe or unsafe you perceive a situation to be. Your thoughts are the most important factor in determining how your brain assesses a situation. For example: if you fear public speaking and would say to yourself ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘this will be a disaster’ your brain perceives the situation as unsafe and the stress response is activated.

The red brain state triggers the stress response also known as the ‘fight or flight response’. When this happens your brain and body are in the best possible state to deal with a threat – hence ensuring the best chance of survival. In this state the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, creating the following effects:

Physical effects

  • Tunnel vision
  • Stopped or slowed digestion
  • Increased blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Increased heart rate
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Tensed muscles

Psychological effects

  • Judgmental thinking (black and white)
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Narrow/ fixed point view
  • Unkind manner
  • Stressed
  • Disconnection from others

Having the option of the fight or flight modus available is essential for you to be able to cope with extreme situations. However, spending too much time in this state of stress does damage to both your brain and your body.  You risk negative physical consequences such as high blood pressure and heart failure and of psychological problems like burn out, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you want to live a healthy and balanced live the stress state does not have to be eliminated but should be reserved for emergencies only.

The green brain: a state of calm

The safe brain state is also referred to as the green brain state; or as I like to call it ‘calm and present’. In this brain state the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin are reduced and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is released stimulating the following responses:

Physical effects:

  • Wide vision and flexible attention
  • Optimal digestion
  • Reduced blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Active immune system
  • Relaxed muscles

Psychological effects:

  • Non judgmental thinking
  • Processing emotions
  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Kind
  • Calm
  • Connecting with others

The green brain is the state in which relaxation and processing of events and emotions happen. When the brain feels safe, the guards come down and all the resources in your brain become available to you. Creativity and flexibility are unlocked and you can see the bigger picture. It is in this brain state that you can make good decisions and be truly effective and productive. On top of that, the release of oxytocin immediately increases compassion, empathy and the desire to connect with others. This hormone is the fuel for our relationships and essential for wellbeing.

shutterstock_148116878The power of worries

Worries and judgments are perceived threats because they communicate to your brain that something is not right. Underneath all the rational thinking the brain understands this as ‘something is not safe’ and the stress state is activated.

For example; if you worry about your finances you may have the thought ‘I don’t have enough money’. Your brain sees this thought as a signal for a potential threat and the red brain state is activated. Your thoughts keep coming back to the perceived lack of money (fixed point view) and you loose sight of the bigger picture of your financial situation. You cannot come up with creative solutions or prioritize. On a physical level you might loose your appetite (slowed down digestion), your breathing becomes shallow and your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar go up. Your brain and body are getting ready for fight or flight even though there is no physical threat to run from. Your worries about money have then activated the stress state, making you much less able to effectively deal with any issues you might have!

The power of Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice activates the green brain through kind and non judgmental thoughts which signal to the brain that the situation is safe. By focusing on the here and now you are taking the focus away from worries about the past or the future that could trigger the stress state. By having a mindful attitude towards what is in the here and now, you are further reducing the stress state and activating your optimal brainstate.

With mindful attention and attitude in place you are activating the safe brain more and more. This will not only make you healthier but also happier and more successful.

“In this life you’ll find some trouble, if you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy” Bobby McFerrin

Written by Chantal Hofstee, Clinical Psychologist

Chantal is a Clinical Psychologist who specialises in practical Mindfulness training. She is registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board and has worked in the private and corporate field in both the Netherlands and New Zealand as well as for the New Zealand government.

Survival or Self-Worth, What Would You Pick?

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”.

André Gide‘s 1925 novel The Counterfeiters Freebird_June 2014_Istanbul_PR

“You cannot sit like a jewel waiting to be discovered, you should have told me what you wanted,” these were the words of my former boss and Editor in Chief of India’s leading broadcast news network, as I announced my decision to quit my job. Following a rigorous couple of years in a highly competitive and volatile workspace, I had made peace with the fact that I wasn’t assertive enough to climb the news chain at that early stage in my career.  “List down what you want on a piece of paper and we can talk about it”, he said temptingly.

Life would have indeed been very different had I caved in and continued oiling the television news machine. It would have earned me recognition, good amounts of money, a plush life, pretty much anything one could dream of. Alas, I would still be holed up negotiating for survival each day rather than feel good about what I was doing. Now, nearly a decade since transitioning from journalism to international development, I have amassed enough life experience to realize that grabbing career opportunities is one thing but building self-worth is another.

Working as a journalist was a tremendous learning experience for me in my formative years but it was also a time where I needed to find some acknowledgement from within, something I would have never found had I negotiated my way up the leadership chain. It does takes a great deal of assertiveness to say ‘No’ in order to stand up for what really matters to you.

Which begs the question, how many times have you felt the urge to say ‘No’, be it to your supervisors, colleagues, family or even yourself and just couldn’t get yourself to do it? “At the heart of the difficulty in saying No is the tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship,” writes William Ury, in his book, ‘The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No & Still Get to Yes’. He elucidates that this tension makes us slip into what he calls the Three-A trap:

  • Accommodation (we say yes when we really want to say No)
  • Attacking (we respond with aggression and frustration)
  • Avoiding (we simple take the escape mode and do nothing at all).

Ury seems to suggest that the way to free yourself from the aforementioned situational traps is to learn to say ‘No’ amicably, something worth reflecting. We are constantly battling for approval and fear that saying ‘No’ would hurt our image. At the end of the day everyone has their own moral compass and it does take guts to stick to it in order to sustain your self-worth.

5 ways to be an Authentic Influencer- The power of ‘No’

  • Stick with Your Gut: Only you know what’s in your best interests. If it doesn’t feel right, be assertive and free yourself from an unhappy situation.
  • Take Ownership: Snap out of the blame game. Take ownership of the decisions you make and accept that making mistakes are part of the learning curve. Failure can provide inspiration.
  • Engage in Healthy Competition: Be mindful that opportunities that come your way don’t come at the cost of intentionally supressing someone else’s. The path to becoming a great influencer is to ensure you act in the best interests of everyone concerned.
  • Set an Example: Remember that you are not alone, there is always someone looking for inspiration out there. Think about the ripple affect you can create as an influencer.
  • Build Credibility: Ultimately your values will determine what is right for you. What legacy will you leave behind?  Don’t let your ambition hurt your integrity.

Saying yes in a survival mode will take you up the ladder for sure. Eventually though, sustaining self-worth is what will keep you on a strong footing up there.


Blog by Pavitra Ramaswamy

Programme Manager, Conferenz & Bright*Star Training, New Zealand

A former journalist, Pavitra established herself as an international leadership and development consultant through her work with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, USA. From India to America and now to New Zealand, she continues to work closely with leaders and organizations to build educated communities, something she is deeply committed to. She is currently the programme manager at Bright*Star training and engaged in executing professional development programs across New Zealand and beyond.

Interested in building Assertiveness?

Let Bright*Star help you expand your influence: