I used to work with a top-notch executive assistant who taught me a lot about staying organized. She can handle anything. She has supported multiple execs at a time but never appears flustered. Of course, given the nature of her work, she’s usually pretty busy.
One thing I noticed about this EA was her inability to say “no,” but this trait is not exclusive to her. Most EAs bend over backwards to accommodate the people they support. However, this same EA gave me a great piece of advice: don’t volunteer to do extra work. This practice is not rooted in laziness but in practicality and efficiency. While taking on more responsibility demonstrates ambition, it may also show sycophantic tendencies and can lead to burnout.
My personality lends itself to helping those in need. Perhaps this is why most of my career has been in administrative support roles. In the past, for example, I was always the first to volunteer for front desk duty when the receptionist needed coverage. I suppose I felt I would be asked anyway, so I might as well have volunteered. Maybe I felt that my good deed would be rewarded in the form of good work karma. Most often, though, I resented volunteering as struggled to answer multiple phone lines, deal with guests in the lobby, and let my work get neglected.
In my current role, I am woefully underutilized. The days drag for me. I don’t have a tenth of the responsibility I thought I would have when I accepted the job. To prevent myself from jumping off a bridge, I volunteered to help the recruiter schedule interviews.
The recruiter has completely run with it, in terms of my handling the candidates. She has me put phone calls on her calendar and stays home to leave me to deal with candidates when they arrive for interviews. She’s gone so far as to send me to IT to fetch loaner laptops for candidates. Not what I signed up to do!
From now on, especially because I am a contractor, I will only do what is asked of me by my boss. Volunteering is for suckers.
*Those who volunteer for the armed forces have my full respect and admiration. I married an Army man.