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Shocked and Flattered


Just when I’ve decided that I’m a complete loser at work (it hasn’t been the best year), and have almost allowed the passive-aggressive co-worker to beat me down completely, I get this in my email:

"I know you are a very, very, very busy gal, but wonder if you'd take a minute to respond. My aspiration has always been to work for a senior executive. While planning out my new goals for this coming year, I'd like to get some honest feedback from you so I can be just like you when I grow up - in other words - what skills, knowledge, attributes do I need to work on now in order to work for an senior executive some day?

Thanks, in advance, for your time and feedback!"


Talk about the world turned upside down! This is a woman down at the other end of the building – very nice, very professional, and very poised. In short, all the things that I admire in people who are in my line of work, and that I aspire to.

Who would have ever thought that I’d get an email like that? The truth of the matter is that I tripped and landed face first in this job. Grant you, I’m a little self-conscious and uptight about my lack of education. It’s always in the forefront of my mind that I’m sitting here with a high-school diploma and three semesters of college. Not exactly a shining resumé. But I’m good at what I do, and I’ve been doing it for over a decade, and in this line of work (administrative assistant) that counts for a lot. But I got the job by being placed as a temp in a department that is just too busy to interview people. I was here, I did a good job, I meshed nicely with my bosses and co-workers – so they kept me. Partly because they liked me, but partly because it was easier than interviewing.

The change to supporting the Senior VP was equally accidental – the gal he hired turned out to be a disaster, but for a lot of reasons we were stuck with her in the department. So he reassigned me to himself and re-jiggered the assistant’s assignments to make it work. I’d say it’s because I’m the best one out here, but let’s be honest – there’s only four of us, and I had the most time in the department. There weren’t a large number of choices.

So while I’m flattered, I’m also disconcerted. I’m pleased that I’m projecting a good air of confidence in my work. I’m pleased that I’m approachable enough to ask that kind of question, because that’s not something easy to ask. But because it IS such an important inquiry, I need to figure out how to address it – fast. "Dumb luck" is a good part of the truth, but an unsatisfying answer. My VP is extremely undemanding – anyone could take care of him. That is also true, but also unhelpful. I need an answer that contains those important kernels of truth, but is respectful and helpful.

Or maybe I need to learn to see out of her eyes to tell if I’ve actually become more than I believed myself to be. Have I somehow *become* the persona I’ve tried to project?

I just don’t know.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
I'm not a bit surprised...you're one of the most competent people I know. :-)
Oct. 5th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
There's also that whole layer of Pelican experience that slips under the resume radar. (And which I'm convinced you could parlay into life-experience credit in some bachelor programs but I've sworn not to get back on that soapbox so I'll drop it.)

It's the same mindset developed by an experienced Project Manager.
Look at the task, figure out what needs to be done first, break it down into manageable pieces, don't forget a piece unless you specifically decide to delete it from the list, estimate the time needed for a project, communicate it clearly to the people who need to know, deliver on your commitments, figure out after the project is done what went right and what could have been done more efficiently and communicate that as well. Not to mention you've got the critical level of sticktoitiveness, no matter how unpleasant a task you knuckle down and get it done.

I desperately want to learn how you do it too. I mean really, you've been in your house just a year and it's almost completely redone. Compare it to mine -- we've been in it over a decade and it's still missing a piece of paneling on the back porch where the former owner's dog chewed it.

I am in awe. If you figure out how to teach her, could you teach me too?

a fan
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )