In the early stages of my career post-college graduation, I worked as an Administrative Assistant. While striving to find my bearings, I quickly realized that the role came with great experience paired with a strong stigma. Administrative Assistants occupy an important role; however, oftentimes these roles carry a negative connotation and those working in the roles feel it.
I managed the front office which included assisting all visitors. I interacted with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of guests visiting our office. Most interactions were the same. I would welcome the guest, ask him/her to sign in and notify the individual they were waiting to see. There were many days I felt that our visitors didn’t see me as anything more than the girl at the front desk. Nearly one year after accepting the position, one interaction with a candidate interviewing for an open position completely changed my perception, and in the long-term changed my life.
My day started the same as every other day. I settled into my desk, scanned the calendar, and prepared for the day ahead. I noticed an interview had been scheduled and continued business as usual until the candidate arrived.
When the candidate arrived for her interview, she entered our office with a warm smile. I felt her positive energy from across the room. I asked her to sign in and invited her to take a seat in our waiting area. Rather than heading to the waiting area, she remained at my desk and asked what my name was. I smiled and introduced myself and before I knew it, we began chatting as if we were old friends catching up.
She told me about her kids and how she had been preparing for the upcoming holiday season. She asked me what my plans were for the holidays and we talked about our families. She shared parts of her professional background with me and I told her more about my educational background. Towards the end of our conversation, she expressed that she was nervous and anxious about the interview. I gave her my best words of advice and wished her luck. Upon completing her interview, she thanked me for the time we spent together as she left our office.
The introduction and conversation we shared had a lasting impact on me. So many times before I had felt stigmatized in my position. For the first time in quite some time, I felt like the person on the other side of my desk saw me as more than just the girl at the front desk. Even though she was older, of a high-respected military ranking, and was much more worldly, we met on a level-playing field and she didn’t look down on me as an Administrative Assistant.
Fortunately, the candidate later became an employee and we had the opportunity to work together. When she joined our organization, I thanked her for our initial meeting and let her know that this interaction alone had spurred a friendship I would always be grateful for. We went on walks during our breaks together, frequented coffee runs, and shared different training opportunities given that we shared the same interests. She later became one of my mentors and helped me prepare for the next step in my career.
To this day, I still cherish the day that we met and have made a goal to always recognize and engage kindly with others, no matter their position.
Thank you, Jenny, for making the world a brighter place.