After completing her Agent’s Representative Diploma back in 2008, Rachel Bergstrom parlayed her passion for property into a coveted role as an Executive Assistant at property development firm, Gurner TM.
She reveals what a typical day as an EA is like, shares her career highlights so far and offers advice for candidates looking for a similar position.
Tell us about your current role; walk us through a typical day in the life of an Executive Assistant.
I am the Executive Assistant to the Director of Gurner TM, which is a luxury Melbourne-based property development company specialising in inner-city off the plan developments.
Our Director, Tim Gurner, is a young successful entrepreneur, so I can say that there is no ‘typical’ day for me! I thrive with juggling dozens of balls in the air and problem solving; some days will be quite structured while other days I may not get through anything on my to-do list!
It comes down to the ability to apply common sense and resourcefulness, to think outside the box and pre-empt what is required on a day-to-day basis.
What do you think are the most important qualities to have as an Executive Assistant?
The obvious ones would be multitasking and organisational skills.
I personally think the most important thing is the relationship and trust you build so you become a team together. Once this has been established it becomes a natural relationship and you are able to understand them as a person and how they like to operate. Next is the way you execute things… which should be seamlessly!
Ultimately, as an EA we are here to make their lives easier and to remain one step ahead of them.
How have you put your previous experience to use in your current role?
I originally studied at RMIT and completed a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Public Relations, but I fell into working in property and I loved it.
Prior to working for Gurner TM I worked for five years at a family run commercial property company with approximately 270 employees. One thing that did help me with the transition from commercial property to residential property was the fact that I had my Agent’s Representative Diploma from RMIT.
Having the background in property definitely helped me to settle in quickly to the new role. At the time we were only a tiny team of 10, and there was no previous EA to train me, so it’s fair to say I had to learn on my feet!
Assisting with the public relations side of the business is also something I help with and it gives me a chance to apply what I learned from my years spent at University.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Working in property has always been exciting for me, particularly my role at Gurner TM.
Operating as a small team means we work very closely together and this has allowed me to gain valuable knowledge about the business side of property development, from the acquisition stages right through to settlements.
Being a part of a development from its infancy; the floor plans in the marketing stages, through to construction and then practical completion is definitely a highlight of the job. Typically not all EA’s will be so involved in all these aspects, so I enjoy the fact that I have been given the opportunity to do so.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of being an EA?
Diary management is particularly challenging in my role. Our Director is extremely hands on and super busy so it’s always a challenge to manage his days, interstate travel and meetings, etc. and to ensure we maximise his working day and maintain some sort of balance. It’s a work-in-progress.
What advice do you have for people looking for a similar position?
From the start of your search for an EA role, consider the working environment and the person(s) you will be working for; it is imperative that your personalities click.
When you meet with your recruiter sell yourself, but also be yourself and show your personality. It is very important when they are placing you for interviews that you fit in culturally.
In the interview make sure to ask questions, such as what characteristics and qualities are required for the role – this will demonstrate that you’re proactive, which is a sought after quality in an EA. Then once you obtain the position as an EA, ensure that you verse yourself in as many aspects of the business as you can. This will make you a valuable asset to the business and someone your colleagues will rely on.