I just read a really fun article on LinkedIn by Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace. Called “Seven Signs You’re Too Smart for Your Job,” the article talks about all the signs you should look for that tell you that you’re operating at a lower level than you should be.
I’ve never felt I’m too smart for my job. Others apparently think I am, though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You’re too good for this job,” or “You can do much better than this position.” Why is it, because the word “assistant” is part of my title that people think I’m at the bottom of the business food chain? That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being an assistant is one of those jobs that grows with you. When you’re young and fresh out of school, an administrative position helping a whole department with a specific kind of task is a good place to start. As you advance, you learn to become an invaluable part of an executive/assistant team, taking on work that requires brains and integrity. An assistant doesn’t have to rethink her career – there’s always a new position into which she can grow, a more challenging assignment to be had.
This isn’t to say that I disagree with Liz Ryan about being too smart for a job. But what she’s really saying throughout most of her article is that you can be too ambitious, too energized, and…well, too smart…for your company. And that’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When your values and your philosophy don’t match the people you’re supporting, your motivation and happiness can deteriorate quickly. This is particularly true of an assistant, who is heavily steeped in the drive and attitude of her manager, the scope of his position and the culture he’s created. So when you…
- Work with a bunch of slugs who just punch the time clock,
- Can’t find a single person in your office that inspires you to reach for the next level, the next success story,
- Have a boss that doesn’t care what you do as long as his travel reservations are made,
- Can’t sell a new idea because your co-workers are uncomfortable with anything that’s not the status quo
…then it’s likely you’re too “smart” for your company. Their values aren’t the same as yours. Go look for some inspiration.
But being too “smart” to be an assistant? Nah. This job isn’t about making travel reservations and taking dictation. I’ve worked my way up the ladder, honing my communication skills, gathering up business acumen, until I could contribute more than my fair share to executive teams that run companies. I participate in important conversations, have an impact on our results.
And yet I can go home and sleep at night, because even though I have a great time when I’m up to my elbows in business strategy, I’m not responsible for it. My executive bears that weight on his shoulders.
So tell me again, who’s the dumb one?
Next post: Wednesday, October 22