Not being used to my full potential

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Question: I am the executive assistant for the CEO/president of a small (45 employees) company. The boss frequently travels, either on business trips, family trips or hunting trips. While he's gone, he might check his e-mail once a day, but he relies heavily on me to check his e-mail, handle things that I can, return calls, answer questions, etc. Usually, once a day, he’ll call and get any pertinent info from me.

He gets about 30 e-mails a day and one or two calls. About five of his e-mails contain something that needs to be handled; most are simply “junk.”

When he’s around, I have JUST enough to keep me working very slowly. I feel as though I'm not used to my potential; I really prefer to be TOO busy! I have assumed all the responsibilities he will allow, I assist others in the company as much as I do him, and do a lot of research on potential customers, partners, vendors, etc., without being told. I have P...(register to read more)

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Barb. August 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm


I feel your frustration, I’ve been on that road many times. I agree that this forum is designed to seek advice of administrative peers and applaud your tenacity at sticking to your job for your bosses sake. Not all bosses are willing to look at letting someone expand their skills, I had one that wasn’t comfortable with me moving in directions other than the one she had in mind for me. She had hired me with the thought that I would take over a position of a co-worker who would be retiring in a few years. We had a combination of the co-worker was not the type of teacher I needed to learn that job, it was a VERY slow position to begin with, and my boss finally now had control of my area with me on board. I declined the position change because I also like a fast paced work environment and my co-worker admitted that her job was like being a firefighter – no fires, nothing to do. She played online solitaire a LOT during work hours and nothing was said. I can’t handle that much down time, so I declined the position, which included a significant raise. My boss understood, hired someone else who was much more skilled in the technical areas that job required and ended up taking on aspects that I never would’ve been fit for, but didn’t want me to take on any other responsibilities, so I also spent several hours bored and fidgety.

My advice would be to bite the bullet and be thankful that you have a job right now. With the economy being what it is, there aren’t a lot of them out there. I’d stand firm with what you’ve got and polish every skill (or as my former boss would put it “add more arrows to my quiver”) as you can possibly manage to accomplish. Any polishing or new skills will be adding to your ability to move up or to land a new position. Learn accounting, desktop publishing, web design, etc. A lot of those classes are available online through a local community college or small business center near you. They run 6-8 weeks and are fairly inexpensive.

My boss ended up leaving our company and her replacement and his boss recognized my initiative and willingness to take on more duties and acted on it. I’m now the only person remotely located from our main office, have tons of interaction with people whom I highly respect and who respect me in return and have garnered the respect of many co-workers and local dignitaries. My job will end in a couple of years and I’m already checking out possibilities.

Hang in there and keep your chin up. It is nice to have a boss who appreciates your dedication and recognizes your skills, even if they aren’t willing to help you fill your time in the office. Maybe you should ask for that adjusted time schedule, especially when he is out of the office. Ask for half days those days, since you are reachable by phone to put out fires should they arise.


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