At our first one on one, Bossman said to me:
“When you interviewed for this job, I got the impression you were far more experienced and qualified than you actually are. So… well played.”
And of course, he was right. I had presented my relevant experience, such as it was, in the most flattering possible light. So I already knew what he was all too quickly discovering: that I had a long way to go to come up to speed.
I suspect that he strongly considered the option of firing me immediately. And honestly, although I would have been absolutely crushed, I wouldn’t have blamed him. It was obvious that it would take me weeks, if not months, to get up to what would normally be ground zero. But happily, he enjoys a challenge just as much as I do, and he decided to trust his instincts yet again and give me a shot.
There are several important things he did right at this point (take note, managers in the crowd!):
1. He bolstered my confidence by telling me he was still convinced I was the right person for the job, that I was obviously highly intelligent and a quick study, and, so long as I was willing to work hard, there was no reason I shouldn’t be absolutely killing it in no time.
2. He gave me some incredibly useful resources/homework: books to read (Getting Things Done by David Allen), podcasts to listen to (The admin-related episodes of the Manager Tools podcast series), and perhaps most useful of all, a list of specific expectations he had written for his previous assistant. Without these tools I would likely have floundered, not knowing what exactly was expected of me, nor how to acquire the necessary skills to pull it off.
3. He let me know that he didn’t expect me to take over everything immediately, rather he expected me to take at least one full week for me to master each task. That way I would have the leisure to create solid routines and effective habits each step of the way.
Had any one of these three things not happened at that very first meeting, I am convinced I would not be here today.
There are also a few things that I did right in that first week:
1. I worked my ass off. I devoured every piece of literature he threw my way, and some he didn’t.
2. I asked a lot of questions. Not just of Bossman, but of other Executive Assistants I had met in my multiple coffee meetings on the road to gainful employment (see “Getting The Job” for more on that). I didn’t let my pride get in the way of soaking up all the information available to me.
3. I honed my Google Fu and got very comfy with YouTube Tutorials. If you need to know how to do something, chances are someone out there has created a free how-to doc or video.
But most importantly, I expanded the habit I had picked up on the job hunt of doing a weekly review. Basically, on Monday, I would set three specific, measurable, achievable desired outcomes for that week. Then on Friday, I noted whether or not those outcomes were achieved, and listed off three things that went well and three things that needed improvement. But for that first week, I made it a daily review, setting goals for each new day and keeping track of what was going well and where I needed to put more energy. It was an extremely useful exercise, not only because it helped me keep track of my progress and hone my process, but because it kept me from focusing too much on my failures and drowning in despair, or going too far in the other direction and patting myself on the back while my actual output slid down below par.
And you know what? At the end of that first week, Bossman pulled me aside again to tell me,
“Congratulations, you’ve learned in a week what I would have expected you to learn in a month.”
Up next: I discover why being an Executive Assistant in a Start Up is better, and worse, than any other EA gig out there.