I got a job exactly a year ago. OK, not exactly, more like 13 months ago and it’s given me some cause to reflect. Being “out there” then was an interesting experience. I suppose when you are competing in a large metropolitan area for a job with thousands of other similarly qualified candidates, it couldn’t be anything other than interesting. And grueling. The rules of engagement have changed for a job that is traditionally undervalued: assistant.
First of all, I’m rather lucid about who I am and what I have to offer the market. I’m an executive assistant. I can almost remember where I was when we changed from secretaries to assistants. I kinda liked the secretary verbiage. It means keeper of secrets and I was. I am. I digress.
Many years later I know I am not a risk-taker. I’m not going to be the guy in the window office trying to raise money or materialize profitable ideas. I will however be happy to execute that person’s vision and in all other ways kick ass to make it happen.
And believe it or not, industries still need secretaries. The cutbacks of the last few years have seen many of my peers cut loose and it’s been a mistake to let them all go. One of my window office friends works in a small industrial tools office. Highly specialized. They let their two assistants go rather than sacrifice the “real” talent. Now he spends three hours on some days trying to make an airline reservation. He spent two hours yesterday uncovering his FedEx account number. I think their investors would croak knowing this talented sales guy who could be out nailing contracts, growing their business and ensuring their long term success is instead spending hours trying to create a six leg travel agenda that an experienced assistant could do in ten minutes – then she could help put his sales presentations together, make sure he had all of his materials for the road show and be on stand by in case he needed items FedExed (an account number she has memorized).
What I do is not glamorous, but it is significant. And sure a lot of people can do it, but there are a few of us who do it really well. That’s what was interesting about the interview process, trying to figure out how they were separating the wheat from the chaff. In the end I think it came down to direct honesty rather than strategy. I was upfront, “This isn’t rocket science, I’m not developing new ideas. I’m not even interested in being creative. I’m interest in making you succeed, because when you win, the client wins, the investor wins and, yes, I win too.”
I’ve been doing this too long, not be in for the win. Secretaries can have killer instincts too. I just wish I could have brought a few of my friends with me.