Friday, August 31, 2007

Secretary, no Admin Assistant, no Admin Associate

My first job out of college was as an Administrative Assistant. It was basically the only job I could get with a liberal arts BA. The job was pretty demanding and fun for a while. But once I learned all the ropes and was reduced to tears by my Miranda Priestley-like boss, I started hating the position. I didn't mind making coffee or answering phones. It was the stupid power and cache attached to those tasks. No one in the office wanted to answer the phone. If I was in the bathroom, my boss would call for me to answer the phone. It was like touching the receiver gave you a disease. I bit my tongue and remained stoicly quiet when my boss insulted my family and when a board member made jokes about my salary. Once I quit, I decided that it wasn't the admin position that was toxic, it was the collection of personalities in that office. So, I got another admin position.

Guess what? It is the administrative assistant position that is toxic to me. I hate being treated like a servant or a brainless helper. Spending 8 hours a day typing and copying just isn't for me. I can feel my brain atrophying. When the opportunity to learn to do something new is dangled in front of me, I go crazy trying to be the best and fastest. Because in my mind, if I screw up more demanding tasks, I will be pidgeonholed at work as the servant or brainless helper. This is why I have trouble getting along with lifelong Administrative Assistants. They see me as a snob or know-it-all and I look at them as people with no ambition. At least it is mutual disdain.

I know I probably sound elitist and snobby. But if a life of typing, making coffee, answering phones and gossiping, floats your boat and supports your life more power to you! It just ain't for me. I do have to admit since I'm in the midst of a job search, some of those admin jobs pull down a nice salary! But the way I view those ads for an $80K admin, I see the money as a trade for pride. $80K won't stop me from jabbing a pencil in my eye if I'm asked to pick up dry cleaning.

Maybe the issue is that I'm still stuck in the notion that your profession defines who you are? I'm sure business school helped cement that. If I could view jobs as a means to an end that has no impact on who I am, I would be fine as an admin.


Jenn said...

Ha! I hear you here. I'm on my 4th admin job and it's the least admin-like in some ways, which means it's the most challenging and enjoyable a lot of the time.

I definitely know what you mean about the battle between trying not to define yourself by your job and having disdain for people who've been in admin positions for like 30 years. For me I've met a couple of different "types" of people in that category. One that let their jobs define them, and they make me CRAZY, and the other that don't, and they're typically awesome. They learned how to not let the job define them and to live their lives.

While I don't plan to do this forever, I do try to let my life be about my life and not my job. Good luck with your job search.

Ms. Anonymous said...

OMG, sometimes it really makes my brain melt.

I hear you sister.