It’s true. Transitioning out of “secretary” is really fucking hard. Despite being a smart, logical, creative person - I have been typecast and it’s so difficult to get anyone at an office to see you as anything other than a secretary once they see you as such.
^^^^^ Although if you have the skills to do administrative work well, you’re just as qualified for those “white collar” positions IMO. I often am amazed at reliance and general incompetency of many individuals doing white collar work w/o administrative experience ( beyond just depending on support staff, i mean just really erroneous and “costly” mistakes) and the few women i know who have transitioned from “secretary” to those positions make for stronger and reliable employees, if given the chance of course. It is REALLY hard though and very upsetting obviously when you know you can do the work. I know I am trying very hard to work my way up and am encountering this wall.
I have A LOT of thoughts about this. I’ve been doing admin work since graduating from college (well, I did two years of program development combined w/ some admin-like duties and then switched over to a different org and am now strictly admin) and it’s complicated. Admin work is hard — it’s a very particular kind of emotional labor, it’s typically thankless, and if you work in a non-profit (or for-profit but still “mission driven” organization) then supporting the mission of your org is often expected to be its own reward (you know, as opposed to getting a raise or some upward mobility).
As an admin, I’m always being told to wait — I just had my 6 month review for this fiscal year and the message my boss closed with was: wait. “You’re so smart and you work so hard and I know we’re using you in the wrong ways, but if you can just wait a little longer, we can talk about some major changes in your job description.” I have been hearing this for my last three reviews.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between my career trajectory and my boyfriend’s. We both have bachelor’s degrees, but similarities pretty much end there. He’s in finance & quickly progressed from a job as a grants administrator to being a “Senior Budget and Management Analyst” (WHATEVER THAT IS) and is making approximately 2.5 times my annual salary & also has a killer pension, meanwhile I’ve toiled away behind a desk answering phones and managing people’s personal calendars while being told, “Wait. We love you. We don’t want you to go anywhere.”
And if you’re like me — if you’re young and you don’t have a family to support and your only expenses are your rent and your student loans and you’re comfortable with making a living wage as opposed to a saving wage for at least a little while longer and, worst of all, you really do believe in the mission of the org you work for and the possibility for your tiny role as someone who answers phones and makes copies and does endless amounts of invisible (but careful and wholly intentional) arranging and rearranging of people and space and various other resources to make some kind of tiny difference, then it is so, so easy to believe your boss when she says they want to be using differently and to say to yourself, “Just a little while longer,” when you are asked to wait.
I really appreciate the kind of dialog that’s happening around this post. Lookuplookup’s addition is so spot on and it makes me feel all sorts of ways.
Last position with company known for promoting its managers and executives from within was nonetheless very detailed and explicit in what they thought my position could potentially lead to: Secretary to more/higher level dudes. Be still my heart!
Ugh! It also burns me up because I know that they expect me, as a Black woman, to play Mammy on top of the actual work itself.
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