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Working lives

Paul Blanks, 32, is administration manager at Squibb & Davies (Demolition)

Route to job I left school at 17 and started working full time for Asda, where I already held a part time position.

My job with Squibb & Davies (Demolition) was really the result of a chance conversation; I happened to mention to the owner, Leslie Squibb - the father of a friend of mine - that I was looking for a new direction. Mr Squibb said he was looking for someone he could trust to run the office and deal with day to day enquiries. I would be the only person in the office as the company was fairly small.

Expectations I did not have a clue about demolition. To me, a brick was just a brick and I did not know that there were different types of excavators. I had worked in an office before, I had a good telephone manner and was confident that I could do the job. I also saw this as my chance to work for a small company that was beginning to expand.

The reality I have learned a great deal in the past 12 years. When the company was small, there was always plenty of time to carry out my daily tasks and read the papers! In the late 1980s, the company had a turnover in the region of £400,000, now we have a group turnover nearer £10M. Recent contracts include demolition of the Chancery Court Hotel (the former Pearl Assurance building) in central London, Manchester's Piccadilly station and part of Nottingham city centre, to make way for a new cinema complex. I am responsible for the smooth running of head office, including administration, advertising, legal matters, insurance, maintenance, training and chasing payment. I am also PA to the directors and liaise with clients and the general public.

Dealing with the public and putting them at their ease is a very important part of my job; people tend to think 'asbestos' as soon as they see dust in the air and nobody likes to live or work next door to a demolition site.

Advice Starting as an office junior or clerk is a good way of gaining a foothold on the ladder of any industry. Try to be aware of what is going on around you and who does what. Ask questions and if you are unsure, ask again.

Watch what other people do so you can cover if there is a problem. You will need a lot of patience and will have to be able to remain calm under pressure. You will also need a sense of humour.

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