The End of the Assistant Era

JANUARY 16, 2013


I am really used to being an assistant.

I’m also one of those people who have always had jobs. It started with babysitting, then moved on to hobby shop employee and receptionist in high school. Then I mastered the art of internships in college. Yes, I was one of those people that signed up for an internship freshman year and continued through the end of college, except when I allowed myself a break to study abroad.

When I graduated from college in 2006 I was devastated to not have my dream job upon graduation. My solution was to take on three positions: a thankless retail job, a not-so-thankless retail job, and a part-time paid internship in my field of choice, publishing. It was a rough six months before I went home for Christmas with pneumonia and my mom convinced me to quit everything and focus my efforts. And I did, landing and accepting two assistant jobs over the course of the next year and a half that were just out of reach of my dream job.

When I finally got a job offer from a “Big Six” publishing company in New York City, while still living in Boston, I was over the moon. I was ready to pack up and hack it in the big city. I was ready to prove myself. This is what I had been working towards since my first babysitting job at age 10!

I have been at that company for the last 4.5 years doing the work of both the assistant and the manager and I have loved almost every minute of it. Really. I love marketing books, interacting with people to talk about books, meeting the amazing authors and really, truly all of that has made the minutiae I deal with as an assistant worth it.

But then there are days when dealing with general email inboxes makes me crazy. And MAILINGS, oh mailings. You time consuming things! But I did it because I got to write great advertising, travel on the company dime, write and execute marketing plans and perform so many other interesting job functions. And I was good at both roles. My boss was even mystified by the seamless way I moved back and forth between assistant and almost manager, the eventual assistant manager title seemed ironically fitting.

But then the work began to pile on. The more I mastered things the more I wanted to take on, but it became clear that I couldn’t do both roles anymore. My boss really valued my high level work and began to recognize that if I was going to make a habit of it we needed a new full time assistant. It’s also been a time of growth. I was taking on more titles, our publishing house was taking on more books. Things were just getting bigger.

So last week a new assistant started.

It’s a little bit like the end of an era. I still mail things, but I am not in charge of mailings. Or checking the generic email inboxes. Or upkeep of contact lists. It’s all so new it seems strange even typing this now. I now run meetings, decide my own workflow, only worry about my own expense report, and our new assistant is now looking to me for guidance. He sees me as a manager.

Last week was my intern’s last day and I asked her if she had plans for next week. She said nothing, traveling. And I said, “Enjoy it while you still can!” And then paused, wishing I could take it back.

It was the perfect moment to realize, I might not be able to completely let it go, but I’m definitely not the assistant anymore.

Note: Since this article was written Zoe has been promoted Marketing Manager, officially leaving her assistant days behind and looking forward to a new phase in her career.


  • gayle kerns 5 years ago

    Great article…well said and so true… the experiences will make you a stronger, better administrator and/or “manager”!