Let’s be real here.
When you were applying for jobs, did anyone ever tell you what it’s really like to be an Executive Assistant in the Corporate world (yes, that’s “big corporate”, with a capital C)?
No, because if they did most reasonable human beings would probably run screaming for the hills.
But they need you to work, and you have bills to pay, and so…
I mean, yes sure — you can read a job description and/or one of those career profile pages to see if you have the core requirements. However, they don’t tell you that you will also need a secret set of qualities in order to be a successful assistant.
Well, today is your lucky day because I’m letting you in on that secret.
Those qualities are:
- The patience of a saint.
- The mental fortitude of a child that refuses to go to bed.
- The appearance of an octopus-level of multitasking ability. Or at least the acting skills to be convincing enough.
- Enough confidence to understand your power as a gatekeeper. Though, on the scale of awkward teenager to Kanye West, you must find yourself somewhere in the middle.
- The high-level pettiness of a reality TV star/50 Cent.
There is one bonus secret quality if you happen to be a black woman, which is: you must also be an emotionless robot. You are not allowed to have feelings in the workplace lest you receive the casual yet insidious label of either “moody” or “aggressive” at any point from literally anyone.
That, my friend, is where it will all go downhill for you. The Angry Black Woman trope is taking its sweet time to die a vicious death in the thousand fires of corporate D&I away-days.
In the meantime, just smile sweetly and take up kickboxing, or an alcohol addiction, or whatever… It’s just easier that way.
On the positive side, you will absolutely be able to say with full conviction that you possess the true ability to communicate with anyone at any professional level.
Consider the following co-worker communication scale below:
Group 0: The Interns
These are the minions who are there to do their time — and so, as per Ms Carey, we don’t know her (or him). Do not make eye contact. Do not learn their name. If you do make the mistake of learning their name, do not refer to them as anything aside from “intern” unless they make it to becoming an analyst.
And for the love of God, do not get attached. It will only end in tears.
Group 1: The Analysts, Associates & Senior Associates
This group of juniors is mostly made up of the (un)lucky minions who graduated to the next stage. Upon graduation, you may discover that the temporary ego boost of gaining a title and slightly better pay will cause these previously polite minions to lose their manners.
Rest assured, you will enjoy spending the next 2–4 years of their careers pettily reminding them of the consequences of not saying please and thank you.
Be proud, you are doing the Lord’s work.
When they eventually mature, the good bunch of these guys make noble friends. The bad bunch make formidable adversaries. God help you if it’s difficult for you to tell the difference.
Group 2: The Managers & Principals
More often than not, this group will have learned how to conduct themselves both via email and in public. If not, feel free to bring out your ‘expert-level’ petty but remember to keep it subtle.
Unless you cross a line, realistically your Director/Partner does not have time to care that you are not playing nice when their project manager is being an a-hole to their colleagues.
You have no business going out of your way to make friends with this bunch unless you intend to marry a nice one who is on the Partner track. In that case, *exaggerated wink*
Group 3: The Directors/Partners
In all honesty, it’s likely that the only reason that one of this bunch will contact you directly is if they have run out of stationery/coffee/the will to live and their own assistant is out of the office — and you happen to be nearby (or appear first in the directory. True story).
As the most senior person, they are usually the sweetest to you because they are painfully aware that they would find it harder to function without you. Don’t get cocky about this — but do keep it in the back of your mind as you deal with the mere mortals in the lower groups.
You are literally paid to be a professional friend and confidante to this bunch so act accordingly. That being said, unless you are Qveen Herby, don’t get too comfortable.
Group 4: The Clients
Forgot everything that you read above because the client is king.
Unless you have a death wish: tits up and put on your happy face, m’kay?
So you see, people? Transferable skills!
And of course, there are also the various benefits of trips, events, free food, private healthcare, generous pension schemes, etc. all to distract you from the permanent damage to your soul.
There is a possibility that you will emerge from the Corporate world as a mere husk of your former self. That’s normal and to be expected. That world is meant for the sociopaths and the narcissists of this life, so you can take solace in the fact that you (probably) aren’t one of those. Unless you head off to start your own business, then maybe.
You will note that I am writing this as someone who is self-employed.
Interpret that as you wish.