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I believe that all of the men that contributed their story to Bob Greene’s “Cut” were affected by rejection and humiliation as children. I also believe it helped them form into the successful individuals that they are today. Sometimes good can come out of a bad situation. I was pretty lucky as a child, because I did not experience rejection. And if I did, it had no effect on me as an adult that I can remember. It was later on in life where I experienced not only rejection and humiliation, but total and complete disrespect by my co-workers. Although, because of it, I feel that it pushed me in the direction I’ve needed to go in.
Over my 10 year administrative career, I’ve held more jobs than I care to mention. I worked for temporary agencies, I’ve worked for big corporate companies, I’ve worked the back office at a Doctor’s office and on and on and on. They were all dead end jobs that barely paid enough for me to be able to pay the rent on my 2 bedroom apartment, let alone enough to be able to feed my son. As I was searching the job boards online, I saw an ad about an amazing career opportunity in my field that paid double what I had been making. Even though I felt it was a long shot, I applied as quickly as I could to be one of the first in line!
I didn’t get my hopes up much because the job market wasn’t at its best and because it was an Administrative Assistant position, I was sure there would be an overwhelming amount of candidates applying. Much to my surprise, I got a phone call from the company’s office manager that very next day. My interview was set up for the following day. I had so many different emotions going on inside me, I couldn’t think straight. I was nervous, excited, anxious, overjoyed, and most of all, determined. At this point, my hopes were up. I’m a very competitive person, so I saw this as a competition.
I was one of the few that got called in for an interview, so I was going to fight to land this job! I wanted everything to be perfect. So I had the perfect grey pinstripe dress suit to wear, some killer Steve Madden heels, and my favorite Versace perfume, just not too much. I fixed my hair to perfection, gathered my Samsonite briefcase, a couple of copies of my resume and references, and was out the door. Little did I know at the time that I should have just showed up in a pair of 5 day old sweatpants with greasy hair so they would have sent me on my way. This was not the dream job I had in mind.
This turned out to be a nightmare. On the day of my interview, I arrived 45 minutes early for my interview so I could size up my competition. After doing my research on this company, I learned that this was a job placement agency that placed degreed professionals in Operations Management, Engineering and Accounting. It was privately owned and had been in business for the past 28 years. The purpose of my job would be to assist the several Consultants and Office Manager. So when I walked in, the first thing I noticed was a lobby full of men and women and dress suits and business suits.
I wasn’t sure who my competition actually was, or if any of them were my competition since this was a job placement firm, I could only assume that a majority of the applicants sitting in the lobby were in Operations Management, Engineering and Accounting. I walked in confident in myself, my abilities to do the job as described on their ad, and it’s always a plus to get there as early as I did. I sat down, legs crossed, with a magazine that I found on the coffee table, and waited to be called into my interview. The office was in a great location, not far from my house. It was in a beautiful ten story building that had covered parking, score!
The suite was on the second floor, which is a huge plus for me because of my fear of heights. And the actual office itself was gorgeous! Large glass doors, dark wood floors and molding, leather chairs and couches. Best of all, the desk that would ultimately be mine was huge, complete with cabinets, books shelves, a big computer screen, a hands free phone system and a big comfy leather desk chair. Oh yeah, this job was mine! Finally, I was called back to be interviewed by, who at the time I thought was the Office Manager, but was in fact one of the Administrative Assistants whose husband was the companies Vice President.
At this point, I started to get nervous. I began questioning myself. Did I forget anything? Are there any misspellings on my resume that I didn’t notice before? As soon as I sat down, I calmed myself down. After all, there is nothing I can do about it now. The interview went on like most interviews do. I felt I had done a great job and answered all of her questions to her satisfaction. She went over what my job description would be and asked if I would be confident performing those duties. Of course I said “Yes”!
She informed me that there were three Administrative Assistants that worked in the office, herself included, all with separate duties. My main duty was to check in applicants and make sure the phone was answered. Sounded easy enough. There were a couple of questions she asked that caught me a little off guard. She asked if I had kids, to which my response was, “Yes, I have a son in 4th grade. ” She almost had the look of concern on her face. She then asked if his father watches him or if I have a babysitter. I informed her that my mother lives close by and has always watched him for me when I worked. She then seemed relieved.
I then became a bit concerned myself, because the question asked about me having a child wasn’t to get to know me better, but almost seemed to be a deal breaker. My concern was short lived because her next question was to see when I would be available to come back for a second “working” interview. My response was, “Anytime you’d like! ” I was to come back in 2 days later in business casual attire and work the front desk. I had this job in the bag. I was confident that in 2 days, I would have my dream job. After my second interview, I was offered the job on the spot by the Office Manager, who would be my boss.
She said, total, there were over 1,000 applications that she received for this position. I felt so blesses to be offered the job. She informed me that I would actually be receiving an hourly wage plus a percentage of the commission made on placements by the job recruiters, which on average turned out to be way more than I had ever made before. I couldn’t wait to not have to live paycheck to paycheck. I was also told that one of the other two Senior Administrative Assistants would soon be retiring and there was the possibility of myself taking over that position in the future. It just kept sounding better and better.
Boy was I wrong. I was training my first week with the girl that I was replacing. She was having a baby and was quitting to raise a family. She went over all of the duties that I would perform on a daily basis. It was a lot more than I was used to, but I was getting paid more so I surely was not going to complain. There was no manual or written instruction guide, so basically I had to learn it all while she was there, write all the steps down myself, and hope I had it perfected by the time she left in a week. Luckily she was a good teacher, and I’m a pretty quick learner, so I got most of it down.
The following weeks after my training and after my trainer was gone, I had already started to notice a change. A lot of the other 2 Administrative Assistant’s work was being passed onto me. I was finding myself with tons of papers stacked on my desk while my co-workers were back in the break room chatting and doing nothing. Included in those co-workers was my boss. I quickly learned that you don’t question her about anything, or you made it to her hit list, and could expect double work until she got over whatever it was she was upset about. As the job market got worse and worse, more negative changes were taking place.
The cost of my health insurance went up drastically. I was told I wouldn’t get more than 5 days of vacation for 3 years when originally it was supposed to be 2 weeks after 1 year of service. No sick days. One of the Administrative Assistants did retire, but they had decided to not fill her position, but to instead split up her work between the remaining two. In reality, it was I that ended up doing all of her duties plus my own. On top of all that, the commission I once made from job placements was being taken away since my position didn’t have direct contact with the clients.
Then, one Friday after quite a few months of me being there, the Office Manager told me that I needed to start cleaning the office. This office consisted of the front lobby, the kitchen/break room, the bull pen, which contained all the job recruiter’s desk where they made their market calls, their personal offices where they interviewed potential candidates, 2 conference rooms, the owner of the company’s office, the Office Manager’s office, and the other Administrative Assistant’s office. And by cleaning, she meant vacuum, sweep, dust, mop, do dishes, wipe down desks and computers, all while having to wear my business casual clothes.
I didn’t understand why, after months of me being there, she would tell me I need to start doing this. Especially since the building has a janitorial crew. Then it hit me after not seeing the crew come in for a while. They don’t want to pay for the crew to come in and clean, so they will have me do it. From this point on, for the next 3 years, I completely dreaded waking up in the mornings and having to come to work. I came in, did what I was supposed to do, didn’t talk to anyone in fear of getting on the Office Manager’s bad side, and left as soon as the clock said 5:00.
I was doing my job, and I was doing it well, but somehow I still became the “whipping boy” of the company. I watched several people quit from that company because of the way they were treated. But I had my son to support, and there was nothing else out there, so I had to suck it up and stay. It was difficult for me to even enjoy my weekends knowing I’d be right back there again come Monday morning. It began to affect my attitude, my home life, even my relationships. My live-in boyfriend, seeing what I was going through, told me to get out of there.
He said he would help support me while I went back to school to complete my degree. That was the best news I had heard in 3 years! I couldn’t wait to leave that place. So I did what was right, I got everything in order to go back to school, I enrolled myself and registered myself in my first class, then I gave them my two weeks’ notice in writing. I felt such a sense of relief knowing that they could no longer “steal my happy”. My last day at my “dream job” was the best feelings I have had in years. It was storming outside, but the sun might as well have been shining because I never had to go back there again.
A veil has been lifted. The world seems brighter. I no longer have that sick sinking feeling in my stomach anymore. For 3 years I had to work with some of the most negative people I have ever come into contact with. For 3 years I was miserable. For 3 years I was making my loved ones miserable. However, I can say that I did learn a valuable lesson, and that is when I graduate from college, and become someone’s boss, I will never treat my employee’s the way I was treated. I now know exactly how that feels, and I wouldn’t wish that kind of misery on my worst enemy.