Prepare to Limp Away

Mia L. Hazlett

“I’m just trying to get my foot in the door.”  I’ve heard this numerous times throughout my career.  Most people think “the foot in the door” is the administrative assistant or EA path.  I always find this interesting.  I started as an administrative assistant and worked my way to EA.  That was the entry-level position for my career.

If you’re trying to become a big marketing VP in a company, make sure foot-at-the-door2you choose the correct entry-level position to begin that career path.  Now there are companies who will try and sell an open position by stating, “so-and-so started as our receptionist, now she’s our project coordinator.” Great, except you need to ask how long it took that transition to happen.  Why waste years of your life and professional CV with a filler job?

Again, this is for the C-Level Executive (CLE) and the Executive Assistant (EA). Take the EA role seriously.  I remember when I interviewed for EA positions, CLE had no idea I was interviewing them also.  I was discouraged by those who wanted me to eventually transition into another position.  One time a CLE actually asked, “So what do you really want to do? Not like this job here, but career wise, what is your goal?” In my head I responded, Not work for you…like ever. He was caught off guard when I told him this was my career. Maybe I didn’t get the job because I also told him my goal, to assist a president or chair of the board of trustees one day. I don’t think he had the goal of ever becoming a president or chair.

My point is, CLE, you don’t want someone who is just trying to get their foot in the door. If they are not career focused and just looking for a job, prepare for high turnover and your office to be a mess.  It is going to take several months, maybe a year for your relationship to build with EA.  You want that person for the long-haul of your career.

EA, our role is not easy.  It’s demanding and we are dealing with the most high-profile person/s within the company.  We must be available at all times, especially when they are traveling. Ugh, travel. Plus, there is no room for error.  We will make mistakes, but I’ve met very few CLEs who have a high tolerance for multiple errors. Again, we are not just secretaries. We are some of the hardest working professionals at the company.  Could you imagine if one day none of the assistants showed up?

If you’ve managed to “get your foot in the door” as an EA, prepare to be in high demand after office hours and get comfortable wearing a cape. You have to come in prepared to do this job, because CLE has no time to stop their schedules and train you.  Nor do they have the tolerance to clean up your mistakes.  So come to the job with a career in mind or prepare to limp away when the door slams on your foot.

© 2016 Mia L. Hazlett

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