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How I Went from Temporary Admin Assistant to a Project Manager in 14 Months

About 16 months ago I was struggling to find a job. I would have accepted just about anything just to bulk up my resume when a recruiter from Robert Half reached out to me. She'd recognized my name because she was also from Minnesota, so we scheduled a call and within a week she had me in interviews for receptionist and administrative assistant positions. Was this something I wanted? Not exactly, but I was desperate.

I showed up for every interview she passed my way, even if the job didn't sound appealing, at least it would be good interview practice. For about two weeks it seemed like I had an interview or follow up interview every other day. That's when she found a position for a temporary administrative assistant at a start-up tech company.

It was one of my most memorable interviews, probably because the person interviewing me seemed more stressed than I was. Turns out she was insanely overworked and under a lot of pressure. I did my best to remain calm and helped her as she tried to get things printed and signed. Needless to say, I was offered the job less than 48 hours later.

The job was temporary with a 3 month contract. Worst case scenario, I'd have more on my resume. I quickly learned that it was going to be a high demand job, it was in the tech industry after all, so what else did I expect. I worked my butt off and in less than 2 months they were in negotiations to buy me out of my temp contract and offered me a full-time salaried position with benefits. Fast forward a few months of me working non-stop to claw my way into a better position, they closed their doors. Unfortunately that's always a risk with start-ups and at the time it was good for all of us.

I did another project or two for the president of the company as a freelancer after that and then went off in my own direction. Fast forward another few months to August 2019 I get a text message from the previously mentioned president of the company saying that he was at lunch with some old coworkers and they were all talking about me. I was honestly surprised and flattered. I was only an administrative assistant when I worked with all of them, after all. Well, I come to find out that a few of them are working on a new project and wanted to bring someone on to do more of the executive assistant type duties. So I mentioned my current status and that I only had about 10 hours per week to spare and would want to work from home. They accepted and offered to pay me almost 20% more than they were paying me before.

Of course I said yes, I'd be crazy not to. It's now four months later and they've added hours and deemed me a project manager for their company. So here I am now, 14 months after being a temporary administrative assistant for this company and am now a work-from-home project manager. It sometimes doesn't feel real. How did I do it? Let me tell you...

Be Willing + Responsive

If you can get something done, get it done. Even if it isn't "part of your job description". Going above and beyond shows you are willing and able to be a team player and it shows them what your competencies are so that when jobs above yours open up, they've already seen you perform some of the duties per that job's description. Also, ALWAYS respond within 24 hours. Even if you don't have an answer, give a quick progress update so they know you're working on it and haven't neglected a project.

Under Promise and Over Deliver

I LIVE by this. If you think you can get a project done by 4pm but know it'll be done by 5pm, say it'll be done by 5pm. Then if you get it done at 4pm, they'll be impressed. This works for what you can get for them too. I have had to do research projects in the past and I always say things like "I'll see what I can find", instead of "I'll find that for you." Why? Because if you can't find it, they'll be disappointed and it'll seem like you couldn't get the job done.

Fake It 'Til You Make It

This used to seem so cliche to me until I had no choice but to implement it and boy does it work! I've been asked to do projects that I knew were possible but didn't know how to do them yet, so I said I'd get it done, did my research and handled it. No one needs to know that you don't know how to do everything right now, but if you're willing to figure it out, bonus points for you!

Set Boundaries

If you don't respect yourself and your time, they won't respect you. Saying no doesn't make you difficult to work with, it just means you can't do it in the given timeframe. Keep in mind, you also don't need to give a reason why you can't do something. If they ask you should probably answer, but 9 times out of 10 they'll just work with you to fit your schedule.

Stop Caring What Others Think

I used to lose sleep over things I'd say or fear of sounding stupid. Then I decided to really listen and pay attention to other people in meetings. Guess what, they stumble over their words too. They forget their train of thought too. No one is perfect. So don't lose sleep over wanting your speech to be perfect in a business meeting. Let your brain and energy worry about other things that truly matter. Whether or not you said "um" really doesn't matter as much as you think it does.

Stop Waiting for a Fairy Godmother

News flash! Things don't get handed to you. If you're sitting there waiting around for the promotion, chances are you won't get it. I had to ask. I had to literally stick my resume into their hands. I went to plenty of interviews I knew I wouldn't get just for the practice. When the chance to go to CES in Las Vegas presented itself and I knew it would be a great time for me to showcase my talents, I asked if I could go to assist. If you want something, go out and get it yourself.