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Anything You Can Do…

By: Kylah Frazier
Last updated 10/15/2012

Think I just answer the phone and photocopy things? Wrong! I am tremendously skilled—far more so than you may know. Here are five things I can do that you can’t:

1. I can weigh packages by hand: That’s right, you read correctly—I can accurately guess the weight of any mail simply by holding it in my palm, and I’ve got deadly accuracy. I can also tell you from memory how much it’s going to cost to get it to most major American cities and more than a few international locations by when via at least three different carriers. I am the Expedia of mail service.

2. I can navigate the building blind and armless: I can open doors with my knees. I can also navigate the entire building with my vision obstructed (usually by boxes I’m carrying). I attribute this to Belle from Beauty and the Beast. After watching that movie as a child, I realized how much time I was wasting by not reading as I walked. So, I’ve been practicing that one for a while. Good thing, because my hands are always full in this job, both literally and metaphorically. Bonus skills: elevator calling and floor button-pressing using my right foot only (it sounds easy, but just try it).

3. I instinctively know how people want to be spoken to: A big part of my job concerns speaking with the countless guests in the reception area while they wait for a meeting, so I’ve perfected this technique with time and experience. Just by looking, I can see who wants to chat, who wants me to be impressed by them, who wants me to be interested in their work, and who just wants to be left alone. Prostitutes are perhaps the only other professionals who rely on this skill as much as I do. Maybe therapists. No, neither of these occupations figure into my long-term career goals.

4. I know how things really get done: Power comes from knowing and having relationships with the CEOs and upper management, right? Maybe for some things, but for everyday issues, your most valuable friends are the security guards who always give you a break, the caterers who show up and make no mistakes, and the janitors and maintenance workers who readily respond to emergency requests. To use an analogy: when you check into a hospital, you’re not putting your life in the hands of the surgeons. Your life is in the hands of the file clerk who makes sure your records are correct, the orderly who makes sure you’re in the right ward and bed, and the trainee nurse who knows your food allergies. Remember that.

5. I can predict the future. Sort of: At least in connection with office administrative issues, I can anticipate and prepare for the actions of any employee or guest. I can tell when a guest verbally commits to showing up that he won’t or that he’ll be very late.  I know which employees will ask for my help and when and with what. I ask certain coworkers to turn out their pockets as they reenter the office, because I know they’re walking away with the bathroom key. You may just think that this skill comes from experience but I knew you were going to think that! Proof!

Your resume seems less impressive now, doesn’t it?

(This article originally appeared in the BK Communiqué, Kylah’s company’s e-newsletter.)

Do you have an interesting personal story to share? Email Shari Lifland at slifland@amanet.org. We’d love to hear from you.

About the Author(s)

Kylah Frazier is the administrative assistant at Berrett-Koehler Publishers. She writes: “I hear and see everything that goes on in the office. In my position I learn all sorts of interesting things: the (quirky) habits of my coworkers, which authors are divas, how to coax vendors and transfer a call, to name a few.” Sign up for her company’s e-newsletter, the BK Communiqué.