Administrative assistant rapidly gains responsibility by applying her advanced degrees on the job

Have you considered working as an administrative assistant? In this interview we talk with an administrative assistant who is pursing her MBA while working full time. She tells how quickly her responsibilities at her current job have grown because of her willingness to jump in wherever needed.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
My job title is Administrative Assistant in the recruiting and staffing industry, and I have been working in this job for 8 months. I would describe myself as creative, laid back, and eager (to learn, grow, help, etc.)

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
My job title is administrative assistant. I work for a small team of executive recruiters in Northeast Ohio. However, my job duties are far beyond that of a normal secretary. I created and maintain the company’s website as well as related social media. I create sales presentations which the recruiters use to present to our clients. I help scour the net for job leads or new candidates. I run our summer and fall internship programs, managing currently a team of 4 interns, setting goals for them, interviewing them, monitoring their progress, etc. I assist with marketing emails and newsletters which go out on a weekly basis. I am branching out into new areas continuously, after having only been here for about eight months.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I’m a female Caucasian. I have not faced discrimination in professional environments; However, my hobbies, and my study choices have often been dominated by males. In 2006 I received my BS in Technology and Design. There were many times in the classroom environment where I was the only female student. I recently returned to school for my Master’s in E-commerce. I find that I am often asked why I chose this field of study, and many people think it is an odd choice (especially for a female who is now in her 30s). My personal hobbies have always revolved around technology, video games, Asian culture, animation, etc.

In my youth I was often disconnected from my peers, feeling that I had very little in common with most of them. I had a hard time figuring out what people who didn’t play games or enjoy technology actually did with themselves. Girls my age back in the early 90s, seemed to only like books or music or make up or other mundane things that it did not seem like I really fit in. Now that I am older, I welcome the chance to talk about my hobbies and I enjoy being different. It’s what makes me “me” and that is special to me.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

I would rate my job satisfaction a 10. I enjoy the ever-increasing responsibilities, the ability to have my input heard, and to make an impact on the organization. I also enjoy having my weekends off, and I enjoy the company of my coworkers.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
This job is very fulfilling. I choose my own projects and work for the most part at my own pace. There are stressful days some days, someone might tell me they need a sales presentation prepared for a meeting with only a 2 hour notice for example. But for the most part, I’m in charge of what I work on each day. I have the ability to experiment freely with new technology, new ideas, and the company invests in these ideas and in their employees. Working just 4 miles from my home also increases my job satisfaction.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
One of the most touching things to happen at my current job was when I was brought on full time in January 2011, the President invested into a course for me to take to boost my self confidence and integrate more smoothly with the team. This was a $2,000 professional course. Upon my completion of this course in April 2011, the President and Vice President came to present my diploma and I won the award for highest award of achievement in a class of 32 students. The award is the highest honor bestowed upon one member in each graduating class, elected by their peers.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I never thought I would end up on this path. Ever since I was 12 years old and first had a computer and copy of photo shop, I wanted to be a graphic artist. There was never any doubt in my mind. I knew what college I was going to enter and what major to follow by time I was in 6th grade. It was a long hard battle… It took me 2 years after college before landing my first paid gig in my field. I worked a few internships and lots of unrelated jobs (retail, customer service, call centers, etc). My first job in my field was with a small fireworks wholesaler. I designed all the packaging for the consumer fireworks, I developed web, DVD, and print catalogs, and helped with event coordination.

It was a good run, but short lived, when the economy took a turn for the worse, back in 2009, myself and the other graphic artist found ourselves out of work. At that point I decided to pack up my things and move in with my then boyfriend and now fiance. I worked many temp and contract jobs, some for newspapers, some designing packaging, some doing web work. All basically in my field, but all short lived. Desiring stability in my life, I chose to go back to school for my MBA in May 2010. Now, I am months away from finishing said MBA.

It was in August 2010 that I first interviewed with my current employer. I had 2 job offers at the time and initially chose this one because the other one was further from home and another temp assignment. When I first started here, I worked only part time, and for very low wages. The job that I had turned down was offering almost double the salary and twice the hours. I stuck it out and continued to work hard. I jumped at any opportunity to help or take on a task outside of my “job description” When I had my first review, I was asked “what are your long term career plans” I told them honestly that I hoped I would still be here with the company, and hopefully working full time. The president told me that he was prepared immediately to bring me on full time and that he was just waiting to hear me say that as well.

Within 3 months of working here, I was brought on full time, had health benefits, and had taken over control of the website, and many other tasks which increased my job satisfaction. Most recently, just last week, we held another quarterly evaluation. The team was asked to come up with new ways in which I could help support the team. The result was 2 pages, single spaced, typed, of new ideas and activities for me to begin to undertake, which took 3 morning meetings (each a half hour in length), to discuss and begin to implement.

If I could do things differently, I would not change anything. I have enjoyed all the experiences – even the jobs I rather not have held (such as retail and other low level positions) They taught me about myself, my likes, dislikes, and overall gave me experience working with people, and the opportunity to try new things.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
I learned the hard way to become more organized and take careful notes as I began to receive many tasks and be swamped with more deadlines. I also learned how to say no, or tell people I could not have something prepared until the following afternoon when necessary.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
I have learned to trust my team mates and to loosen up and have fun with the job.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
The strangest thing to happen on the job was being trusted to work independently after only being on the team for 3 or 4 months. The rest of the team went on a winter retreat and I stayed to manage the office.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I am most proud of the progress I have made as a very introverted person, learning and blossoming now into a professional, happy, and settled adult.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
I face many challenges each day, but I think the hardest challenges are ones I inflict upon myself. I have very high standards for myself and my work. I want my work to always be up to these standards. Also in creative situations, I come under a lot of criticism and review of my work, which often involves changes which I do not always agree with from a design perspective. However, being new to the team, I usually concede to the wisdom of my team mates unless I can intelligently defend my ideas with some ROI or other marketing evidence other than just “it looks nicer this way.”

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

My job can be very stressful at times with a lot of tasks and responsibilities. If I miss a deadline, not only does it reflect poorly on myself, but also on my teammate. I am very good at managing stress. I am a naturally carefree, laid back individual, very even tempered and easy going. I just take things as they come and try to adjust accordingly.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
I’m currently making $22,000 a year base salary. With bonuses, I have the potential to achieve $35,000 a year. I realistically probably make around $26-28k a year.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
We do not have a formal vacation package – we are fortunate to have the ability to call off with advanced notice and within reason. I took a vacation back in February for 3-4 days and actually have a 2 day outing planned at the end of this month. It’s fairly flexible, plus I get weekends off.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

I think this is generally an entry level position; however during the interviewing process, the President was impressed by my (in progress) MBA and my chosen field (E-commerce). I think any experience or education one can get, will pay off in the future.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
Keep an open mind about your career. Be willing to take odd jobs or odd tasks, and learn about yourself and what you took as just a “job” may turn into a career.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

I hope to still be working at my current employer taking on even more tasks and growing both personally and professionally. I love my job.

Eric Shannon


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  • This article is very encouraging especially for young ladies who are trying to move up in their career as well as fulfilling personal self-confidence. I am also in school working on my BA and I have worked as a secretary for years. I really believe that experience is the best teacher and I love the way this young lady was able to express her growth, tenacity, and perseverance to pursue her career path that is unique to her and pretty unpopular with others. These are qualities of a leader and this young lady possesses all those qualities. I am inspired by this article and it helps me to realize and understand that though your beginnings are small, greater are your days ahead when you choose to further your education and take initiative in your career.

  • The major I decided to take upon is Health Service
    Administration. As a little girl, on my free time, I’ve always had the
    advantage to volunteer at Rehab Hospitals which in fact has taught me what it
    is to be in control of thousands of people whether it is personnel, residents,
    or visitors. Taking on such important responsibilities can make an immense
    change in the lives of others considering that some may be close to death or
    simply suffering from a bodily disfunction. Because planning is so important, organization
    in this job field saves you from a variety of complications that may seem
    insignificant but in reality, they are extremely significant when you try and
    tackle them. What I really enjoy is that everyday is something new. No matter
    how stressed you may be, there is always something to look forward to. Having
    that feeling that everyone is counting on you may seem overwhelming, but when
    all is taken care of, just to see a smile or a simple thank you are memories
    that last a lifetime.

    Graduating with this degree will take time and dedication
    that I am willing to do. Nothing in this world is given to you in your hands.
    You have to work for what you want and that is exactly what I am putting my
    mind to. I love helping others, making a drastic change that will improve their
    life puts me at peace and also makes me happy. Taking on this responsibility is
    my main goal. My confidence and positiveness will help me strive for what i
    want in life: to make a difference in the lives of others.

  • I would first like to say congrats to you for having determination to show that you can stand above the rest. I am currently employed as a CSR, but I have been with the company for almost three years now. I can say that I do enjoy working for the company. Like yourself, I am currently always looking for an opportunity for advancement in the company to show them what I can bring to the table. I can stay that I did enjoy reading your article.

  • I am obtaining my bachlor degree in healthcare administration. With being a supervior in different types of employment I thought this would be the best way to go. I am currently in the banking industry and thought that I better make some changes fast. I enjoyed your article.

  •  Four years
    ago I began my journey in acquiring a higher education, at the age of 54. I have
    worked as an office manager for more than 30 years, mostly in the landscaping and
    swimming pool industry, so in our present economy finding work in that field is
    difficult. I had been working for a major pool company and was laid off after 4
    years when a new manager took over. I was on unemployment and desperate for
    work when a perspective employer suggested I would have been hired if I had a
    degree… So in 2008, I took that step and in 2010, received my Associates
    degree in Business from the University of Phoenix through long distance
    learning. I am now starting my 16th course in pursuit of my Bachelors degree in
    Criminal Justice Administration with a concentration in Human Services, my
    graduation date is in site, August 2012.  It was scary at first but the freedom to be
    able to attend classes on-line allowed me to work full-time and go to college
    full-time. I hope with my education I will be able to find a new profession,
    within the justice system…

    When I am not studying, working, babysitting with
    anyone of my 16 grand-children, ages 2 to 27, or caring for my hubby of 35
    years, who has been on hospice care for the last 2 years and defied the doctors
    by living 2 years longer than predicted, I enjoy making porcelain dolls,
    photography, net surfing, computer games and reading and chatting with my 7
    children or their spouses.

    I have loved every minute of my college experience
    and can say without a doubt that it has turned into a marvelous adventure…………..

  • I have been a healthcare administrator for about 1 year and have 5 years experience in customer service and healthcare benefits. The best adjective that would describe myself is organized, industrious and joyful all the time.

  • I personally related to this article because at my last job I was an Administrative Assistant and I really enjoyed it. Apart from the sense accomplishment you feel when you successfully manage several projects at a time and are still able to meet deadlines plus take on additional responsibilities, my workplace was a very relaxing day to spend 8 sometimes 12 hours a day. For me the culture and employees make for an productive, creative, relaxing job environment even when you are having a crazy day and you feel swamped, a pat on the back or an offer of help from a colleague goes a long way.  Although I am not presently employed I know that furthering my education is a key factor in attaining a job in any company. Having a degree means that you have attained a certain level of education and it is only when you work that you are able to apply that knowledge. Whatever company I get started with I hope that I am able to start from entry level and move by way up that way I will learn how the entire organization works and have a better feel for how each department interacts or is related to one another( get the whole picture) a clear understanding of how things work in a work environment provides a clear picture of how your work contributes to the overall success of the company.