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PA of the Year 2019 Sergeant Claudine Martin on the power of playing to your strengths

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Gett partners with PA Life to celebrate the EAs and PAs at the top of their game. At the PA Life Star Awards 2019, Sergeant Claudine Martin, PA to the Director of Engagement and Communications at the Ministry of Defence, was named PA of the Year 2019. Here, she speaks about the skillset needed to make an award-winning PA.

How did your career path lead you to where you are today?

It was my sense of adventure that led me to apply to the Army in 2006. A school friend of mine is in the Army and hearing her talk about her career prospects sparked my interest in joining the Armed Forces myself. Looking for an opportunity to see the world and meet new people, I applied and within six months my basic training was underway. I threw myself into regimental life and thoroughly enjoyed it all, from being deployed to Iraq and my time as a foot guard to being at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. But last year, I felt ready for a new challenge and that’s when I applied for a role at the MoD as a PA.

What’s a normal day like for you at the MoD?

As a PA, I’m the backbone of my boss’s diary. It can change at the flick of a switch so I have to be flexible and able to act quickly. Typically, I’ll begin each day preparing my boss’s office before he arrives. Then I check the diary as soon as I’ve logged in and brief the General about his meetings for the day. Each day is different – one day I’ll be sitting in the office, the next, I’m out on active duty. If the boss is overseas, the tempo and the workload relaxes a little but there are days where the working hours are long.

What’s your advice to anyone looking to enter this profession?

Listen to your peers to help you to identify your strengths. It’s so important to know yourself in this profession. Throughout my time as a Sergeant, I listened in my yearly appraisals as my line managers consistently told me that I had the skillset and potential to be an excellent PA. Personality is really important; I’ve learned that you need to be unashamedly yourself, confident and believe in your decisions. You have to be trustworthy to be able to build mutual trust with the person you’re working for, and diplomatic, too.

What has been your biggest learning curve to date?

This role has really opened my eyes to the power of networking. I’ve learned so much from other people in the PA Life network. The journey’s been amazing. Being in the Army wasn’t just a job, it was a lifestyle. My role now is so different and coming into it was a little daunting, so I wanted to understand the industry better. Through networking events, I started meeting like-minded people and realised I was learning a lot about the industry practices through them. I’ve even got a LinkedIn account now, so I can stay in touch with my connections. Networking also means I get a chance to hear from others how my strength and determination has inspired them. That makes me feel even more determined to continue on this journey and in this profession.

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