The “Murphy Brown needs a new secretary” sequel – for real

Okay, I’m not Murphy Brown, though I joke about feeling like that old Candice Bergen TV persona after my latest administrative assistant quit after only one week.

Seems when it rains, it pours job offers, and almost immediately after accepting my offer, my new hire was offered exactly the job she’d secretly hoped for (more $ and hours, less commute). At least she had the decency to cry real tears when she confessed she was leaving, and she did convince me that she was appropriately torn with guilt over her decision to leave such a great boss (admittedly my paraphrasing).

That’s okay, I told her. I knew she was overqualified. The fact that I openly called her “Mini Me” (she’s a skinnier, shorter version with short red hair, glasses like mine, and a familiar take-charge attitude) only convinced me she’d probably move on quickly – though she did break land speed records. Like me, Catherine doesn’t need a month to mull over an opportunity. Good for her, but sadly for me, Friday will be her last day at IB.

The good news is that the short time invested training Catherine how I wanted things done wasn’t wasted. I created a spreadsheet with every detail documented for her. So the next admin assistant will be the beneficiary of my explaining this new position at IB first to the “practice predecessor,” as I shall now forever refer to Catherine.

I’m also going to take the same approach to finding a candidate that I did before: tell a few people about the job and see who steps forward to apply.

First, the job

The admin assistant position is perfect for a person resuming a career or wanting to supplement a family income, since it initially will be 20 hours a week. I want someone at a desk in my office from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday (that’s non-negotiable due to my radio/writing schedule), ready to do whatever needs to be done that day. The hours are great for someone with kids to get off to school, and Fridays off this summer – that has to be a perk, right?

Perks are good because the pay isn’t “up there.” The hourly rate is fair, but not extravagant. As the right candidate becomes more indispensible to me and to Jon, the associate publisher, we’ll extend the job to 25 hours a week, which then will include benefits. (The first couple months will be considered “paid training” and so the investment of my time is considered in the cost factor to IB.)

Now, the “perfect candidate” description

Know someone who can truly handle confidential information? Someone who has good common-sense judgment and a positive can-do attitude? That’s a start. The right person would also be able to write a good business letter and handle a complicated complaint call with intelligence, patience, and grace. I want a good work ethic because I’m not paying someone to shop online, blog, or email friends on IB’s dime (I have to be a good steward of IB resources and my assistant also needs to set an example).

Either an applicant can type or they can’t (if they can’t, forget it). I need someone fluent in Word and Excel, and also willing to learn new databases. Someone to occasionally clean the staff kitchen. Catherine has it shiny clean right now. I’ve cleaned it myself, and hauled boxes, and run errands for IB for years, so I won’t be hiring anyone who would find such requests from me to be beneath their education, interest, or aptitude. We’re a small company and everyone wears multiple hats and helps however and whenever needed. That’s our culture, and rather than apologize for it, I celebrate it.

And to be brutally honest, Murphy Brown style, I want a people person who isn’t a chatterbox. I also don’t appreciate workplace drama. Don’t want to hear about home dramas, either. Just want my calendar kept up to date, messages promptly returned, and meeting materials prepared in advance. I need someone to help plan the activities I’m involved with (boards, dinners, etc.) and to occasionally assist our events planner with her needs. The right person will also be given independent projects to complete, as well as routine filing, etc. There’s plenty to do to keep busy.

I’m a pretty friendly boss and my staff feels like extended family, but I can’t lose an hour a day (20% of someone’s time with me for this position) while they exchange weekend stories with colleagues or pull me off task. I definitely prefer a friendly person (actually, that’s a must) but not someone looking to socialize on the job beyond normal pleasantries.

Admin assistant envy?

Okay, yes, I admit it: In my heart of hearts I want my colleagues to suffer openly from “admin assistant envy” because my new hire will be ever so much friendlier and efficient than theirs. (You know what I mean – like Sharon Chamberlain’s admin assistant. Joseph is a jewel and I’ve long envied Sharon’s ability to rely on him.)

What’s in it for the right candidate?

Weren’t you ready to refer someone when I mentioned “Fridays off”?

If you need more incentive to forward this blog to a potential candidate, rest assured that IB is growing, and we have a strong history of promoting from within as new opportunities arise. Our art director began his career with us as an intern. Our events manager started with us as a sales assistant, as did our business office manager. People at IB have a way of expanding their own horizons. There’s the opportunity to be respected for the job done, and appreciated for the value added to the organization. And who wouldn’t want to share an office with a beautiful view of a lake inlet?

Of course, the new hire will get to work closely with me every day, which Catherine, the practice predecessor, said was a bonus. At least, that’s what I thought I heard her say … through her sobs … as she struggled to tell me she was leaving ….

Have a referral? Ask your person to send a resume and cover letter (no phone calls or walk-in aps accepted) to jody@ibmadison.com.

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