The Executive Assistant
When I tell people what I do for a living most of the time they are enamored and make comments like, WOW! That must be so much fun! Or I wish I could find a job like that! I know that I probably shouldn’t cringe when I hear those words but I do. You see on paper my job duties look pretty impressive and don’t get me wrong I work very hard to keep my boss happy no matter what it takes.
Around the office, she is known as the queen of hearts. You remember the evil queen from The Adventures of Alice and Wonderland right? The lady who so passionately commanded the phrase, “Off with her head!” In the office we can pretty much tell when someone is approaching the guillotine. (aka getting fired)
My boss, lets just call her Maggie lets us know in 3 different ways.
- She asks if the heat is on? – Typically it is not but I believe that it is at that exact moment that her anger has reached an internal boiling point that causes her to form tiny beads of sweat across her brow and her nose.
- The side head stare – She peers into your soul with an intimidating gaze. Her eyes are squinted and her head is tilted slightly.
- The coy smirk – Ah, this semi smile almost has one thinking that somehow there is still hope and that their job might be saved. However it is anything but that and before you can begin to form your lips to smile back security has already made its way down the hall to show you to the door.
Yep, I’ve seen this happen many times before. I’ve had the unpleasant task of getting the paperwork ready and scheduling the exit interview. I have even on occasion been the one to pass the tissue box to the faint hearted. If you’ve experienced any of these things in the office then you are pretty much a goner.
Well except for me…here is what happened in my case. I wasn’t always Maggie’s personal executive assistant. In fact, prior to me she didn’t have anyone really in that role. However she sat in the office closest to the door so that she could see everyone’s comings and goings. This also meant that she sat near the receptionist area. Because the office didn’t really have too many walk-in visitors, Maggie felt that the receptionists job duties should also include attending to her every need both personal and professionally. And as a result of this, the company had a very high turnover rate. Receptionists were leaving left and right. They used temps, offered paid time off, they even gave the employees referral bonuses if they could find someone to stay…but no one could.
Eventually, the office staff would each have to take turns manning the front desk for one hour per day. I’m a writer and since it’s a magazine company, I just knew that it was the perfect fit for me. When I first applied they didn’t have any openings for writers so I got hired on as a mail clerk in the mailroom. I know, pretty glamorous right? During the interview, I expressed my dreams of being a well-known writer one day, how it was my passion and how I could not live without writing. She assured me that I was in the right place. Almost a month into me working there I started hanging out with some of the senior writers. I asked for feedback, tips and suggestions on how I could make my mailroom stint short. No one offered any suggestions or anything and I was constantly asked, “Why would you want to do that?” I moved on to ask the junior writers. Surely they would have something for me. But they didn’t.
Six months into my mailroom position it became clear why the writers had the response that they did. Each one hated their jobs. I really didn’t want to end up that way, resentful, unhappy, overworked and underpaid. I had taken a big step of faith and left my small town of about 7, 000 people after college to move to the city. A lot was at stake and every time I called home my mother would ask, “did they let you write yet?” I felt like the world was on my shoulders sometimes.
During Fashion Week in New York we had a wave of the stomach flu hit our office. 97% of our writers were out sick and writers were needed to cover the events going on in and around the city. I was beyond ecstatic when I got a meeting request from Maggie. Perhaps she had remembered that I was really a writer at heart and wanted to give me shot at the big leagues. I made my way down to her office in high hopes that she did.
“Have a seat Bella.” She told me.
I sat down in one of the high-end custom made chairs and listened closely. This was the moment that was going to change my life forever.
“As you know we’ve had a lot of people call out sick this week. She continued.
“Yes, I’m aware. I have a gallon of hand sanitizer on my desk.” I joked. Her expression did not change.
“Tough crowd.” I thought to myself.
“Bella, I called you up here to ask if you would come to New York with us for Fashion Week.”
She continued on. She was pacing around the office like a lion preparing to pounce on a gazelle.
“Yes! I would love to go with you to New York!” I yelled excitingly.
“Very well then. Here is a company laptop for you. Your login information is already set up. Now I need for you to change my flight, book your ticket, update the itinerary with the newest information, also I need to you to RSVP for Martha Stewart’s Event and please request that I do NOT sit next to Monique L’huillier or J.Patrick this year. I’ll need an update by the end of the business day she commanded as she showed me the door.
That would be the very beginning of my career as Maggie’s personal executive assistant. Fashion Week was the best and the worst time of my life. I spent most of the time there traveling in cabs, calling, texting, scheduling, rearranging, ordering, fixing and just plain running around. During our last night in the big apple after things were starting to calm down a bit I mentioned to Maggie how this was my first time in New York City. She arranged for the limo driver to drive me around the city so that I could sight see. I was very excited, so excited that I got a nosebleed while in the limo and had to keep my head back during the entire tour. Although she never says please or thank you I knew that random act of kindness was her way of doing so. I enjoy my job on some level but I am waiting on that day when I am able to make a living as a writer.
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