Regarding Professions and Professionals

This is pretty much for RJ and any other sister who felt offended by my entry yesterday.

When I said that I spent the first thirty of my working years as a "real" professional, versus my current status as an executive assistant, I did not mean to demean the status of secretaries. RJ, in her comment, pointed out that she's been making a living at this since she graduated college.

In my book, that does indeed make her a professional. I, on the other hand, fell into this job by the grace of the man I work for. I can type and file, and answer phones. I can make copies and meetings, and if I had to, flight reservations. But it isn't what I ever planned to do. I never searched the want ads, looking for this gig.
I was an art director. I was a web master. I was a corporate artist/hack. Those jobs entailed skills and the training I received during my four years of art school. I have a degree in graphic design. I spent years going to seminars, taking classes, keeping current on trends in color, design and printing techniques. I did for a living what I studied in college.

I never had to support myself by selling shoes in the mall, or, excuse me, using my ability to type.

I thought I made clear that I respect the women and men in secretarial positions. I know who holds the power in the corporate world. And if, like RJ, this is your chosen field, then you are working in your chosen profession.

I am not. I am working for a living, because after I was down-sized, I couldn't find a job as a designer. I hadn't done print in six years, and people didn't want to hire me for print because the industry had changed so much since the last time I sent a job to press. Everything is direct to press these days, no boards, no paste-ups, no type setting by (other) professionals.

I couldn't get a job as a web master, because 1) I earned too much money and nobody believed that I'd take a cut in pay that steep to continue working 2) I only had two web sites in my portfolio and even though one of them was over a thousand pages, and I'd built it entirely by myself, web designers half my age (and salary demands) have portfolios with dozens of sites and 3) I'm 50 years old, and that's getting pretty long in the tooth for this field.

In short: too old, too well paid, too long in the corporate world to be allowed in to the agency world.

Am I bitter? Not too much, not any more.

I work for a wonderful company and I have a wonderful boss. I have no responsibilities that I carry home to worry about. I have more creative energy for my own work than I have had in years.

But on the other hand, I get no respect. I am treated by one of the directors I work for like the lowest field hand on the plantation. If the stupid bitch chews me one more new asshole, I'll look like a fucking sieve. And not because I've done anything wrong, or failed to meet a deadline, or do anything she's asked me to do. She does it because she can. Because she's a director and I'm an executive assistant. She's reamed me out for following her orders and the person she insulted through me got offended. Now it's my fault he's pissed. She's reamed me out for not following up on things she's ordered others to do. She's made me spend hours and hours ordering paper clips for her. The first box she sent back because they were plastic coated. The second box she sent back because they were too big. The third box never arrived at her off-site office (she says). The fourth box was just right. And then she had me order a box of the bigger size that she'd already sent back before.

In the time it took me to do all that, and the money the company spent paying me to do it, she could have gotten in her car, driven to the nearest Staples, bought a box of paper clips, filed the paper work to be reimbursed the mileage and petty cash and been done with it.

But where would the power play be in that?
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/28 at 08:45 AM in As I See It Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/28 at 08:45 AM in Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho

(2) Comments
#1. Posted by LM on April 28, 2006

Oh, secretaries run the world, that’s the God’s honest truth—and of course, another God’s honest truth is that they’re painfully undervalued. Every single one of them. Receptionists, too. The woman who sits at the front desk of this agency knows the answer to every question in the universe. Happily, most of the people around here know that and treat her with the respect she deserves. I’m sure she has her stories to tell, though.

Funny thing is, I work at one of the “hottest” agencies in the world and have a fancy title and lead teams and make an awful lot of money, but I never think of myself as a professional anything. If someone were to walk up to me and say, “HEY PROFESSIONAL!” I’d look around and try to figure out who the hell they were talking to.

I don’t know if I’ll ever reeeally be comfortable in this reality. I think I’d feel much more at home as someone’s secretary.

Wonder what that says about me?

#2. Posted by Miss Bliss on May 01, 2006

Yeah…see that corporate crap is the reason that I’m not sure I’d ever be suited to life in any sort of company other than a crazy entertainment company…such as the one I work for…

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