One minute you’re making sure your boss is prepped for her meeting with investors, the next you’re sorting through mail and booking travel. You’re definitely not limited to one type of task to keep the office running smoothly.
Who are we talking about? The administrative assistants of the working world.
If I asked a bunch of people what their “dream job” was, how many do you think would say it was an administrative assistant? Probably not many. This job doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being exciting or particularly rewarding. Yet, when you really look into the responsibilities involved, you can see it has the promise to be both of those things.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned:
1. Jobs are 9-5. Careers are much more than that. Even with a company that offers a great work/life balance. Being an assistant means your time is not always your own. If your boss is up brainstorming ways to change the world at 2 a.m. and needs you to schedule a meeting immediately so they can make it happen, you (absolutely should) do it.
2. Your job will always be to make your boss’s life easier. That will never change. Often in an assistant-type role, you become every higher-up’s assistant by default. That’s overwhelming! When everyone needs you to do everything, remember that your boss and their priorities are your priorities. Everything else is secondary.
3. It’s a waste of time to resent your menial assignments. You know that, right? Everyone has to do post office runs at some point. Everyone.
4. Your boss WILL notice when you put in extra effort. It’s not hard to do exactly everything asked of you to get by as an assistant. It is hard to make time to go above and beyond. Offer several flight options in advance, pitch ideas after a meeting you were in just taking notes, and remember their quirks (even if you have to write them down).
5. They’ll also always notice when you don’t make the extra effort. If you’re leaving at 5 p.m. every day after a solid day’s work of doing the bare minimum, they know. They definitely know.
6. It’s better to ask a million questions and get it right the first time. This is something you will learn the hard way. Confront that millennial fear that you’re annoying or that your boss is mad at you. Force yourself to ask all the questions you have upfront.
7. You’re likely working for someone you want to be, so ask the big picture questions. Ask all the questions. How did your boss become who they are? Would they want to do coffee or lunch sometime to talk about how they got there? If they took you on as an assistant, they think you have the potential to follow their footsteps. How exciting is that?! Take advantage of it.
8. When your boss takes the time to give constructive criticism, it’s because you’re worth it. If you’ve asked for feedback, you have to be prepared for receiving feedback. If your boss has taken the meeting and said you need to do X, Y, and Z better and that burns, know that you are capable of doing it and they want to help you get there.
9. There’s no situation where it’s smart to blame anyone else for a mistake you’re responsible for. Everyone screws up. Believe it or not, your boss screwed up too. They would much rather you just own it, apologize, and hear your brilliant plan to fix it.
10. Pay attention to detail. Triple-check your work. See above. It often takes a major mistake to realize it’s so important to be diligent with your work.
Being an assistant is stressful and exhausting and blah, blah, blah. It can also be the best way to get your foot in the door toward your dream career. After all, today’s administrative assistant is a long way away from yesterday’s secretary.