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June 12, 2016

Life as an Assistant - the good, the bad and the truth

As I'm on the cusp of turning 24, I can't help but question everything up until this point in my life. Did I make the right career moves? Should I have gotten my degree? Did I attend the right university? How much money should I actually have saved by now? What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to be known for? An endless amount of questions bombards my mind.

In regards to my career, I feel as though I am where I'm meant to be (I know. SO cliché). I've been out of university and working in the real world now for three years. I've mainly worked in Assistant roles for the majority of this time. My first gig was with a local PR agency as a PR Assistant (I graduated from Kwantlen University with a diploma in PR). It was an amazing opportunity and the perfect way to get my feet wet within the industry. Eight months later, I decided I needed to go back to school and get a degree in Marketing. That didn't last very long and within a few short months, I was back out there in the real world looking for my next job.

CTV Vancouver became my new work home. I was hired as a Promotions Assistant and worked on projects for 94.5 Virgin Radio and 103.5 QMFM. Keep in mind that I didn't have a broadcasting degree nor did I attend BCIT. Sometimes I would sit at my desk and want to rip my hair out. I just didn't understand. Radio terminology and procedures for this PR graduate was a struggle. As I grew more into my role and a few months passed by, I started to feel more confident in what I was doing and really enjoyed my job. I loved shadowing the Promotion Coordinators and having them take me under their wing. It was the best way to learn my job. I could see a future with the company. However, as the saying goes ‘all good things must come to and end.' I was told that I was going to be laid off, which meant back to the drawing board for me. I was on the hunt for my new work home.

My searching led me to my current job as Marketing Assistant with one of Western Canada's fastest growing restaurant groups. Everyday I'm learning something new and setting new goals for myself. I'm lucky to be working with a passionate and talented team. However, not everything is always rainbows and butterflies. Let me explain.

Working as an assistant, in general, is not a glamorous job. You're often looked down upon. It can be a challenge to command the respect of coworkers that you know you deserve. It can also feel as if people look past you or see you as replaceable. You're usually the first one on the chopping block when layoffs roll around. Oh, and my favourite one is when your coworkers clearly don't want to do something (that they're totally capable of doing) and they say ‘oh I'll just get one of the assistants to do it.' That's my favourite (FYI this is sarcasm).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not by any means trying to talk you off the ledge of pursuing a job as an assistant. Not at all. The best learning experiences for me have been these last three years. When you work as an assistant, you're an integral part of the team. It may not always seem like it and it can feel like you're always doing the shitty, boring jobs, but the truth is that those jobs have to get done regardless. If you're just starting out your career or questioning where you are like I have, just know that everyone at some point or another has to start at the bottom.

I've had my fair share of weak moments. You know those moments where you go to the bathroom and feel like you're going to break down? Or maybe you just need to walk outside and have a quick call with mom and vent (moms just know how to make you feel better). Or those situations where you find yourself killing someone with kindness because what you really want to say will actually get you fired? I've had all those moments. These experiences are what make you a stronger person. You learn how to compose yourself in the working world. I'm thankful for these moments. I've learned from each and every one of them.

In some of these roles, I’ve often questioned what I was doing or why I chose to pursue these jobs. When I was working with CTV, I was so stressed that I wouldn’t be able to stay-a-float because I didn’t attend radio broadcasting school. I lacked the education that many of my coworkers had. Yet the most valuable lesson that I learned was that I didn’t need it. Sometimes we accept jobs that we’re not exactly qualified for on paper, but I believe that it’s the work ethic and willingness to learn and excel at a job that makes us qualified. I chose to ask a million and one questions. I chose to shadow my coworkers. I did all of those shitty and boring tasks with a smile on my face to prove to myself that I could do my job. I was determined to prove to my coworkers that I had the drive and ambition although I lacked the formal radio broadcasting education. I even learned how it feels to be laid off (let me tell you that life goes on and everything will be ok).

The same can be said about my current job. I’ve never been a server, never bussed or hosted. Qualified or not, it's all how you choose to compose yourself. I choose to ask questions, be a team player and have the right attitude. Like I’ve said, working as an assistant can teach you many things about yourself and the company that you’re working for. Just know that when you get where you’re going and reach your work goals, it's what the job teaches you and what you take away from the experience that truly matters. So here’s to all of us assistants trying to pay our dues and prove to ourselves that we are capable of anything!

Fist two Images: Gracelle Bonifacio Photography
Last Image: Bo Youm Photography


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