After being exposed to the role of an assistant over a year ago, Claire Hunter, PA at recruitment company Bain and Gray, hasn’t looked back since. Jade Burke finds out why she took the plunge to move to London from Australia and why she feels work experience is so vital to kick-start a career
The streets of Soho are buzzing with energy as I head down to meet this issue’s profile star. After taking a stroll down the City’s iconic Carnaby Street that’s littered with a mix of bars and restaurants, I find Bain and Gray’s office located down Kingly Street. Tucked away up two flights of stairs, I enter the recruitment company’s workplace and the atmosphere is electric.
Employees are chatting on the phone to clients, while several meetings are taking place in the glass offices – it’s clearly a busy Monday morning for the team. After being greeted by a member of staff, Claire Hunter introduces herself. Hunter is the personal assistant to Bain and Gray’s two directors, Emily Bain and Claire Gray, who launched the boutique secretarial and recruitment agency in 2009.
Having worked at Bain and Gray for over a year as a PA, Hunter was initially unaware that working as an assistant was a career option. “I stumbled upon it by accident, I guess,” Hunter tells PA Life. “Now that I have been exposed to it and know it’s a thing I can do, I have quickly realised that it was a career I was interested in pursuing, as support roles have such a huge aspect of all the things I love about customer service – helping, problem solving and making people happy. Now that I’ve been exposed to the opportunity of a career as a PA, it’s something I want to continue.”
“This is the first time I have worked as a PA. I really lucked out with the job because I was dog walking for someone who said they knew a really good recruitment agency and was friends with the directors. So, I signed up and managed to get a job here.”
“As no two days are ever the same and more so than ever, no two PA roles are the same, and that’s one of my favourite things about being a PA, all the variety.”
Working closely to the two directors, Hunter’s days in the office are always full. Since both Bain and Gray work part-time the need to prioritise different tasks is crucial to her job role.
She continues: “I have to prioritise how I can best do everything because things crop up all the time and then I suddenly have to drop things and make sure I get everything done.
“As they both live in Oxford, their time in the office is precious so I just try and make it run as smooth as possible. It’s a bit like being a baton between them because everyone is on different schedules and I have to make sure I keep on top of everything.”
Despite only working in the company for a year, Hunter’s responsibilities have continued to grow – she currently handles all of the candidate meeting and greeting and manages some administrative work for other colleagues, as well as looking after the company’s social media accounts on the days the marketing manager, who also works part-time, isn’t in the office.
After moving to the UK from Australia a few years ago it’s clear she has a true adoration for the city of London, which makes the location for our photoshoot today even more fitting. Cahoots is a bar just around the corner from the Bain and Gray office, where guests are taken on a journey back to post-war 1940s in a disused underground tube station.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to go to London. I had never been before but I just decided to do it and bought a one-way plane ticket,” Hunter explains.
“It was impulsive because I think I realised there was never going to be a good time to go because of my job and parents. They do talk about it in school a lot that working overseas looks really impressive on your CV, so I thought I’d just try living in London so I could get a bit of experience and I’ve loved it so much. I was on a two-year visa and then I went back in October and extended it to a five-year visa.”
But it seems travelling is in her blood, as Hunter previously backpacked her way around 11 countries in Europe and then travelled to India for a month with her younger sister. “I’ve been to India three times and the last time I travelled via London. It’s definitely my favourite place I’ve ever been and probably will ever be,” she adds.
Getting the chance to experience so many countries at the tender age of 25, I wonder if there is a dream location she hasn’t yet ticked off her bucket list. With her keen interest in iconic cities, unsurprisingly, it’s New York City.
Hunter enthuses: “I think it has to be America as I have never been before. I know it’s probably a bit cliché but I really want to go to New York City. I have always been a little bit city mad and I don’t think it gets much bigger than that.”
With a business degree majoring in event management under her belt, Hunter also got the opportunity to take part in an internship at the Brisbane International Tennis Competition. Taking part in work experience while studying can be incredibly beneficial to any student trying to start their career, and Hunter’s time at the tennis competition was no exception.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to go to London. I had never been before but I just decided to do it and bought a one-way plane ticket.”
“I think it was really important for building confidence, because when you go through university you get to a point where it’s coming to an end and wonder if you can enter the workforce,” she says. “A lot of it is theory up until the point of an internship and that’s when you get to practice what you’ve learnt and utilise some of those skills.
“I think the one thing to take from it is that you’re training and doing the things that you’ve picked up. It’s really helpful and it gives you that confidence that you’ll be able to have a career. Bain and Gray also has a close relationship with Oxford Media & Business School, where the students are training to be PAs and we place them in work experience.”
Finding a potential assistant their dream job is the core purpose of Bain and Gray, and with the PA role evolving rapidly I wonder what advice Hunter would give to others looking to break into the field.
“I think in this day and age the PA role has evolved so much – lots of PAs I’ve spoken to recently all agree that we have to be willing to do lots of different types of tasks in a day, and know how to manage our time to make sure everything gets done,” she shares.
“It keeps the role interesting, however as no two days are ever the same and more so than ever, no two PA roles are the same, and that’s one of my favourite things about being a PA, all the variety.”