The Ghosts of Admins Past

April 13, 2010

If you’re not an admin, the word “secretary” probably conjures a couple of images.

Like this.

Or, if you’re a little twisted, this:

But if you do happen to be an admin, “other” secretaries likely have more to do with how you feel about yourself than anything else.

It just always seems like there are two camps: superstar secretaries you can never keep up with, and horrible incompetent ones that you worry other people believe you are.

Take the job postings on Indeed and the like for:

The Secretary with “10+ years of experience” Who Calls Herself a “career admin”

Who is this woman? Is that who I’m supposed to be? A “career admin” in training? Is it not okay to just do this for a while and want to move on to other things? Because these job postings make me feel ashamed for having career goals. (See my feelings on admin seminars here).

Or how about this (misspelled) ad for an assistant who possesses “a great attitude with a positive disposition.” It goes on to stress that  “Seriously, if you’re moody (or anyone has ever called you moody, cranky, grumpy, attitudinal, a misanthrope or anything even close) —Do NOT apply.” Kinda makes you do a mental rolodex of every work day you’ve had for months and fret over whether you were smiling enough.

(Side note: I’m pretty sure the grumpiness thing doesn’t apply to me since every performance review I’ve gotten since grade school has included notes like “respectful” and “a joy to work with”… but it irks me that you only hear of the “cheerful disposition” requirement for admin positions. Is it because everyone secretly knows how shitty this job is and wants someone deluded enough to enjoy it, or they’re just really attached to the Miss Moneypenny thing?)

But I digress. 

Other Companies’ Admins (Who Are Always Named Something Responsible Like “Hillary” or “Jean”)

As much as I hate sending meeting requests, it makes me itchy if I’m working with an older, more responsible, and generally perfect customer admin and she sends one. I feel like a slacker. Or not on top of my work. Or I hate her for being a little bit too excited to be doing this nonsense.

The worst ghost admin by far, though, is the one who had your job before you–or as I like to call her,

The Ghost of Your Company’s Admin Past

At first, your other coworkers laugh about what an idiot she was and how annoying it was to work with her. 

 “Oh you’re muuuuuuch nicer than Angela,” they’ll coo.

Or everyone agrees that she didn’t finish her work. “She watched movies at her desk,” the IT guy says bluntly.

But then, a few months in, maybe when you’ve messed up a task, or haven’t socialized quite as much as usual, you’ll hear new little admissions of love for your predeccesor.

“Oh, we should try to get a second assistant like Angela. Remember? She was such a mother hen! She was always hugging people when they had a bad meeting or lost an account.”

Gulp. Wait a second, am I supposed to hug people? But nobody really tells me if they’re having a bad day. Should I be asking?

And then there’s the compliment-that’s-really-a-gentle-criticism, like:

“I guess it’s good that Amelia doesn’t have candy on her desk like Angela did. Remember how Angela always had a bowl of [awesome old school candy like Sugar Daddies or pop rocks] at her desk so people would end up eating some and stay to talk about Lost? I guess it’s better that we don’t eat that much sugar anymore… but it was fun.”

…she had candy? She watched a watercooler TV show? I can’t compete with that.

Gradually, you’ll get a grip on yourself and realize it’s probably better not to be a perfect admin. It’s better to be yourself, because then when you move up (and you will move up, my darlings, keep your eyes and ears open and be bold), you’ll find a job that fits you, not just a Femme Bot version of yourself.

But while we all fight the good fight, here’s some fun “other admin” fiction that seems to catch the mystique of the secretary that actually seems human.  It’s fun to think we can be human, huh? 🙂


Until next time,



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