street smarts: learning from experience


The next article is about the appropriate way to call assistants.

What do you call the person in your office who provides support to the staff? In the old days, this was called the “secretary.” But nowadays, most people call her (yes, usually her) an administrative assistant. Since that’s a lot of syllables to get out — even for a native speaker of English — this is often shortened to “admin” or sometimes “assistant.”

Assistants tend to be on the front lines when a company adopts new technology, said Ray Weikal … They can be the ones coordinating remote teams, managing their company’s Web site and learning cloud-based applications.

At Adecco, the staffing firm, more clients are asking for assistants with college degrees, said Joyce Russell, its president. “They want that broad-based knowledge that you pick up in college,” she said, and she has seen clients promote people who perform well in that role. But Ms. Russell added that she didn’t think a college degree was necessary to perform the job.Ms. Duncan said: “I’ll take street smarts and common sense” over a college degree in an assistant.

When it comes to job duties, where do assistants draw the line? Will they be expected to serve coffee? Pick up dry-cleaning? Boundaries are best established during the job interview, Ms. Duncan said. The relationship works best if both parties see it as a business partnership, she said, adding that there is a difference between providing a service and “being a servant.”

Good luck,
Amy lou