That's the only excuse I can offer for my blanket refusal to sub for the office receptionists.
What my boss was too kind and polite to say, was this:
"I hate to break it to you, kiddo, but this is your first full-time job and that means there is nothing (legal and ethical) that is below your pay grade. You've never made a penny for this company, and you're not in any grave danger of doing so for the next six months.
"For now, you're here to learn, and to learn how to learn. I've been where you are, I've done everything you've done, so trust me when I say that working as a receptionist will be of use to you—and more importantly to me. Now thank me for this opportunity, which you don't yet deserve, and get out there and be the best darn receptionist this company has ever seen."
Nice people won't say this kind of thing when you start your first job, but they will think it and, odds are, someday you will come to agree with them.
In the meantime, you'd be wise to heed the advice of Sara McKinniss, author of the blog Young Profashionable (youngprofashionable.com ).
"The biggest piece of advice to remember is the first job you have is not going to be your last," says McKinniss.
In other words: keep your perspective, make a good impression before you move on, and don't worry that you're wasting your time. If you're fresh out of college, just about any first job will give you valuable real world experience.
"Even if you're a secretary or administrative assistant, you'll learn from other people and you'll learn why people are in the positions they're in: because they're talented. They may not have the best personalities, but they know what they're doing," McKinniss says.
Among the rookie mistakes that McKinniss advises against:
Turning up your nose at menial tasks: It's not just me; McKinniss has former classmates who bungled prestigious internships because they didn't put in their time at the copier. "You're setting yourself up for success when you take on things you might not want to do instead of complaining about it," she says. "Bite the bullet and do it."
Playing memory games: McKinniss was once scolded by a boss for showing up at his office without a pen and paper to write down his instructions: "Where's your notebook? Where's your pen? Every time you come in here, I want you to have something to write with." You may feel silly writing things down, but you'll feel sillier if you forget a key detail.
Ignoring the big picture: Pay attention and ask questions, McKinniss says. Try to understand how individual tasks contribute to the overall business.
Showing up sick: It's OK to go to work with a cough or a runny nose, but not a raging fever. You don't want to be known as the Typhoid Mary of the cubicle farm.
Making a mess: As McKinniss observed in an article at GenYJourney (genyjourney.com ), "Your mother doesn't live at work, so clean up after yourself." You'll get noticed if you make a mess in the common kitchen or let the latte curdle on your desk, but not in a good way.
Office Hours appears weekly in TribU. If you have a work-related question—and remember, no question is too serious or too silly—send a note to Nara Schoenberg at email@example.com.