Sunday, September 16, 2007

Need an Assistant?

Second in an occasional series

Last week, I posted about my qualifications for being a nanny. Tonight, I am writing up my qualifications to be an assistant. Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, Secretary, Office Clerk... I'm not sure what all the shades of distinction are there, but there are many titles for the same general job; helping someone who is more in charge get their work done, by making it your work, and not screwing it up so that their life is even more harried and difficult.

Here goes, my qualifications to be an assistant:
  • I find it to be humorous that job posters feel it necessary to put "greet guests and visitors courteously" and "answer phones politely" in the job descriptions. Last time I checked, in a business/work environment, it is generally important to always be polite and courteous to whoever one encounters. Golden rule and all. I'd hate to meet the assistants who caused those descriptors to be added to the listing.
  • I type well. Its a side effect of using instant messenger-type programs since I was 14 or 15. I believe that I type around 50-60 wpm, and I don't suck at 10-key data entry either, provided that I don't have to switch between a keypad and a phone frequently. Does anyone know why calculators and computer keyboards are reversed from touch-tone phones in the order of the numbers? I misdial frequently when working on a job bid because I'm switching back and forth a lot.
  • I have good math skills. I haven't studied past Calc 1 in 1999, but if I can break a problem down to an algebra, geometry or trig equation, then I'm golden. Apparently, I learned something in school.
  • I take good phone messages, as my parents trained me well at an early age.
  • If you, the boss, would like me to, I will keep track of your calendar. I attempted to do that for a previous boss, and it turned out that he didn't keep a calendar at all, and didn't want to start. I just kept an eye on him, and he told me when I needed to remind him about things.
  • I read people well. I can tell who is slimy and who is for real.
  • My PDF making skills are pretty darn good for someone without any formal training. Your tear sheets will never have catalog prices going to the client.
  • I am skilled with Excel and Word.
  • My proofreading skills are good. You won't send out any notices about "costumer service" unless the dressers and stitchers are going to be receiving massages.
  • I travel a lot, and know my way around travel arrangements. I can get you fancy digs, refundable, first-class tickets and a car service to pick you up, or I'll get the cheapest plane ticket, a bed at the Red Roof Inn and a compact rental car. Tell me what you need, and I'll find it, book it, and give you a neatly typed up list of all the details you'll need to have smooth sailing through the trip.
  • I know how to use ACT! I do not do it willingly because in my experience it is cumbersome and slows down the whole computer, but I know what it does and how to get around in it.
  • I am good on the phone with screening calls, and promise to actually find out what the caller wants before passing them on to you.
  • I have experience with ordering food for large groups of people, having taken that on in high school during shows with matinĂ©es. You won't have to eat the same old sandwich tray everyday if you don't want to, and I'll make sure to find out (and write down for future reference!) what the clients' likes, dislikes and restrictions are.
  • Having seen the wide variety of holiday gifts and cards sent out to clients and vendors, I can help you avoid the duds and get the most bang for your buck.
And now, of course, the down-sides of me as your assistant:
  • I have successfully avoided Power Point almost entirely for a decade because I've never seen it used well except as a server of images for a theatrical production. However, its just another MS Office product, and I'm pretty sure that if you know what you want in your presentation, I can make it work and not be so boring it puts the clients to sleep.
  • My experience with QuickBooks is solely in the Sign*A*Rama custom install, but I've read the manual and it sure doesn't seem like rocket science or brain surgery.
  • I hate slimy sales people with a passion, but enjoy developing relationships with vendors who are genuine. Please don't make me order mini-blinds, but I'll get you a great price and service on flooring!
  • If there isn't a certain amount of math and hands-on production of stuff (even well-made presentation packets work for me) I will become bored and irritable. Especially if you are working to bring about the downfall of society.
  • I need to eat every 4 hours or I will edge towards a melt-down. Conveniently, I tend to come with snacks just-in-case.
This time around, the list is a bit more balanced between pros and cons, but I think that is because I have less knowledge of what assistants do, besides anticipate the boss' needs and try to work independently.

More to come in the future.


Anonymous said...


This is a really clever way to advertise your services. Good call!



sarah deutsch said...

The ability to be flexible, figure things out and solve problems as you go is also an important part of being an assistant. Being good at research is a plus too - and I know you're good at all of those things!

Every assistant job is totally different, so don't fret not knowing exactly what the job description is - you never really find out until you get there... ;)