Being An Assistant Is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done. And I’d Do It All Again.

Being an assistant is not glamorous. It may feel like The Devil Wears Prada, but without the designer purses and international travel. Or it could be similar to The Bold Type, minus the hot parties and hourly gossip sessions in the fashion closet. But really, being an assistant is starting the day before your boss gets in so you have time to do work before work. It’s leaving the office once it's dark out and traveling with your laptop in one hand and a hotspot in another, just in case something comes up on your commute home. It’s demanding. It’s sometimes thankless. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. 

I started my career as an editorial assistant at a women’s magazine the day after I graduated college. As grueling as it was, it gave me skills that I didn’t even know I needed to get me where I am today. Now a senior editor at Her Campus, I’ve held all types of roles — I’ve been an associate food and beverage editor, I ran a Snapchat Discover channel, I’ve been on the TODAY show, and I've produced videos with Jonathan Adler and Lauren Conrad. That being said, if a genie were to visit 21-year-old me and offer the chance to skip being an assistant and go straight into a junior level role, I would say absolutely not. Here’s why:

  1. 1. You have very random (but valuable) life skills.

    From processing invoices and tracking down packages, to talking your way into a dinner reservation for your boss at a fancy restaurant, there's no task (big or small) that you can't handle. Not to mention all of the trade skills you have that landed you the job in the first place. As an assistant, everyone turns to you because they know you can complete any task efficiently. That will never go away. 

  2. 2. You have direct access to company decision-makers.

    The visibility you get as an assistant can shape your future. Your boss is the person responsible for hiring and promoting people and you’re their right hand. If you’re good at your job, that will go a long way. And, on top of that, you get to communicate with your bosses boss. Whether it’s by sitting in on meetings or having to stop by their office to pick something up, key players at the company know you. There's a lot of value in that, even if you don't realize it at the time. 

  3. 3. You’re calm and solution-oriented.

    When you’re an assistant, every problem is your problem and it’s your job to resolve it. In these situations, you’re forced to be resourceful and do whatever is humanly possible to fix it because “I don’t know what to do,” is not an option. This taught me to how to present solutions, not just flag problems, in every role I’ve had since and I’m a more valuable employee because of it.

  4. 4. You’re extremely independent.

    As much as I love working with a team, I don’t need to be told what to do to know that it has to get done. As an assistant, your boss is busy (you know, running the company) and doesn’t have time to field all of your questions — many of which you can Google. This ties in to those problem-solving skills, and makes you a very efficient worker.

  5. 5. You're an expert at time management.

    If you’ve ever been impressed by someone’s time management skills, ask them if they’ve been an assistant. The answer is likely yes. In this role you become a total pro at prioritizing your time and your bosses time. From creating reports to sitting in on meetings and taking notes or organizing the refrigerator, you're an expert at figuring out how to get a long list tackled in a short period of time. 

  6. 6. You know the type of boss you want to be.

    As an assistant, you're getting valuable time with someone who runs an entire team of people. With that, you learn how to lead straight from the leader. You'll understand how to navigate difficult workplace situations, like someone resigning, or how to deal with an internal issue that needs to be addressed. And, hey, you might even learn some management techniques you don't want to take with you. 

     

  7. 7. You understand what the company values. 

    Your boss knows what the company cares most about at the moment, which means you'll know too and will have the opportunity to learn the topic and add to the conversations surrounding it. If you do this, you'll start offering new ideas and solutions based on these goals, which can get you to your next step. Soak everything up. Even though you're an assistant, you're sitting in meetings and brainstorms with top thought-leaders at the company and it can help you accomplish your future goals. 

Now in its 8th year, Her Conference® is the biggest, boldest gathering of college women globally. At each Her Conference, you will experience up-close interaction with industry leaders and badass keynotes covering everything from media, marketing, and entrepreneurship to entertainment, tech, social impact, leadership, and more. Join us in Los Angeles for Her Conference: Inspire on June 1st, in New York City for Her Conference: Empower on June 22nd, and on the @HerConference Instagram for constant career inspo & advice from amazing career-minded women just like you.