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Maggie Mistal

Maggie Mistal

December 18, 2014

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Being Promoted to Manager

Everyone has to start somewhere, and often that means taking a job as someone’s assistant. At first, you’ll be thrilled to get coffee, run errands, manage schedules, or deal with a demanding boss. And after a year or two, if you’ve done your job well, you’ll probably get a promotion. But though you’ll be more than ready to assume your new role, your co-workers might have trouble seeing you as more than the girl who orders the office supplies and knows which bakery has the best cupcakes. While it’s tempting to continue doing your old duties while easing into your new position, if you keep acting like an assistant, people will keep treating you like one. Here, some tips on how to lose your entry-level image without alienating everyone.

Dress the part. Take a good hard look at your wardrobe and eliminate anything that doesn’t make you look and feel confident. Get rid of the usual uniform you used to wear as an assistant and start dressing more like the boss. For instance, if you’ve always worn pants, perhaps it’s time to upgrade to skirts. If you’re not sure how, take your cues from the most successful person in your company. If they’re not wearing jeans to the office, you shouldn’t either.

Teach others how to treat you. It may take some time for your co-workers to stop asking you to make copies or record meeting minutes. But if after a month in your new position you find that you’re still ordering lunch for the entire office, you need to make people aware of your new role. Change your e-mail signature to reflect your new title and when your colleagues ask you to do something, let them know that Sara, the new assistant, would be happy to take care of that for them. Then give them her extension.

Build your presence. Most communication is nonverbal, so be aware of your body language. Notice how you stand around others. Do your shoulders round or are they pushed back and strong? Listen to your tone of voice. Do you tend to talk softly or trail off at the end of sentences? If so, it’s time to start speaking clearly and evenly. The amazing part of body language is that even when you don’t feel confident, you can use it to make people think you are.

Recognize a dead end. In some instances, the assistant position can be a dead end rather than the start of a career path. If you’ve tried several times to interview for positions in other parts of the company and have not had success, your image may be to blame. No matter what you do, some people just won’t see you as anything but an assistant. And staying too long in an administrative role can take its toll not only on your résumé but also on your self-esteem. You risk believing it’s the only job you are qualified to do. Sometimes you just have to start fresh somewhere else, a place where no one has ever uttered the words “But I asked for the dressing on the side!” and expected you to do something about it.