Book Review: How to Be a Kickass Assistant

This was one of the first books I ever read when I entered the professional realm.  Although that was almost ten years ago now, I still use it as a reference manual when I’m having those tough days of  ”why exactly do I have to do this?” moments.

Heather Beckel has an edgy, fun writing style that lends itself very well to our fast-paced world.  She offers straightforward advice on the fastest way to get better:  EMBRACE that your job is to make someone else’s job easier.  That is the key to being an awesome assistant, and later, an awesome leader.

As a planner and project manager, I am constantly required to wear about a million different hats in order to do an effective job. My PR hat, my PC hat, my geographer/demographer/statistician hat, my research hat, and the list goes on and on.  There are times when I still make copies for other folks simply because they asked me to.  There are times when I get coffee for clients in the conference room.  These are the sorts of tasks I sometimes hear younger colleagues just entering the professional world complain about.  They crave credibility and feel that doing such “demeaning” tasks undermines their education and everything they’ve worked so hard for.  To them I say:  if you aren’t a good assistant, you will never be a good leader.  Humility and service are two of the key attributes of effective leaders.  Of course there are many more, but these two attributes are perhaps best learned through the process of being an assistant.  Ms. Beckel talks about various systems of organization that she and George Stephanopoulous established in order to communicate.  She also talks about the best way to organize your own time in order to serve your boss and still maintain a sense of balance.   All of these skills are quite useful and will serve you well; however, the best morsel from this book is to embrace the fact that you have the distinct pleasure of making the lives around you better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go clear a misfeed in the printer for my boss.



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