The Gal from Queens Speaks Again

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a woman in need of office support must be in want of an assistant.

Which is why, just a fortnight ago, I  had the pleasure of interviewing several college students for an assistant position in my department. Why college students? Because, as fortune would have it, my place of business is situated on a university campus, so the hiring of students, as some might be inclined to say, is an easy-peasy thing to do.  Indeed, I would even venture to add, it is a win-win!  For the students acquire much needed experience and the employer gets the aid of some very capable, bright young people, who are eager to learn and do great work. For many of them, this is their first real office job.

But sometimes you have to pick through a lot of clams to find the pearl. And the best way to do this is in the job interview.

Now friends, I’m sure you remember the commencement speech I gave right here during graduation season—all because no university would contact me to speak at their ceremonies, thank you very much. In it, I gave the Class of 2011 some very sound advice—and without charging the $30,000 or so that Snookie commands when she speaks at Rutger’s University. My advice was so stellar that I’m sure any young graduate who followed it to the “T” is now on the career path to CEO.  The CEO’s assistant, that is.

So, just in time for Labor Day and students heading back to school—and in search of part-time jobs that will help them offset the cost of higher learning—I have a few words of wisdom to impart.  The advice I’m about to give will be helpful to you now and even later when you’re looking for a full-time job. Trust me, after 30 odd years in the workforce, I know a thing or two about what employers are looking for from an assistant. As such, here are some basic rules to consider when, thanks to good fortune, you score a job interview.

Just like your mother said, first impressions do count!  Which is why I implore you, on behalf of employers everywhere, do not wear anything sexy or revealing. After all, it is a job interview, not a night out clubbing.  So unless you’re interviewing for a job in a bar or as a pole dancer, I do not want to see your naval or your new tattoos. Dress as if you’re meeting Grandma Betsy for tea. Tastefully and conservatively.

Know the company before you go for your interview. Think about it. Who goes into Macy’s or the Apple store and asks, “So, what is it you do here?” Visit their web site. What is their mission? What are their goals? What do they sell or what services do they provide? You want to know this before the interview.

If your cell phone rings, please refrain from taking the call during the interview. Even if it is Aunt Zelda wanting to know if you’ll be bringing your famous crème brûlée over for Sunday dinner.  Same goes for texting.  Keep your thumbs in check and don’t text! Unless, you’re absolutely positive you don’t want the job. Best to play it safe and turn off the phone before you arrive.

Know how to pronounce the name of the company.  If their name is an acronym (FBI, IBM or AT&T, for example) practice pronouncing each letter, in the proper order, a few times before the interview so that you don’t jumble the letters during the interview.

If you’re asked, “Why do you want this job?” do not respond by saying any of the following:

  • Because I need the work.
  • Because my last job was stressful and busy, but here, you don’t look so busy.
  • I’m looking for a situation where I can do my homework.
  • Because it’ll look good on my resume.

Call it selfish, but these responses do not make me want to hire you.  So, instead, talk about what you can offer the company.  How your skills will help the company reach its goals.  In other words, they don’t want to know what’s in it for you; they want to know what’s in it for them!

So the gal from Queens has spoken. Stick with these suggestions and you’ll be well on your way to the part-time job of your dreams—whether it’s flipping burgers, or answering phones.  In no time at all, you’ll be raking in the big bucks hand over fist! (And by big bucks I mean minimum wage or thereabouts.)

So go get ‘em!

The Gal From Queens’ Speech

Can’t blog. Must wait by my phone, because I’m getting a little nervous.  Graduation season is upon us, which means it’s time to line up commencement speakers. The Class of 2011 is about to bid adieu to the halls of ivy, and so far not a single school has called to invite me to address the graduates.

Frankly, I’m a bit puzzled.  Surely, I should have been contacted by now. Do you think Yale University phoned Tom Hanks a day before their graduation ceremony?  Did West Point ring up First Lady Michelle Obama the morning of graduation to ask if she’d be the commencement speaker?  I’m sure even Aron Ralston, whose harrowing experience and loss of arm were chronicled in the film, 127 hours, got at least 48 hours notice from Carnegie Mellon.

So why am I being dissed?  What am I, chopped liver?

If you ask me, it’s not right that only prominent people are asked to be commencement speakers. Sure, if you’re a student at Princeton University and you learn that Brooke Shields is speaking at your graduation, maybe you get a little punch drunk. Maybe your mom gets verklempt. It is Brooke’s alma mater, after all.  But having a famous person at your graduation doesn’t bring you a whole lot of cache. It’s not as if you’re going to be able to put it on your resume that Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation.  And even if you did, I absolutely cannot fathom any potential employer saying,

“Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation? Maybe you do deserve this job.”

Plus, a lot of these fancy schmancy speakers are paid buco bucks—about enough for a down payment on the mansion of your choice.  Me? I’d settle for the paltry sum of $10,000, plus green M&M’s in my dressing room (not that I’m particularly fond of green M&M’s but I always wanted to see what it felt like to be très demanding).

So enough with just asking the somebody’s of the world to address the graduating masses.   How about us nobody’s?  Sheesh! You’d think that only famous people have something important to say.  Well, I am here to say that any university should thank their lucky stars to get me. For not only am I available and ready to speak, I have valuable tips to convey to the multitude of poor souls about to leave the comforts of college existence and delve into the hard, cruel world that is life, economic downturn and all. Plus, I know my way around a good yarn or two.   If that’s not enough, know that I keep a portable podium handy, standing by for any occasion! And for another $5,000, I’d be happy to share some anecdotal stories of my own, slightly scandalous college years.

Sure, Apple's Steve Jobs was once asked by Stanford to speak, but me? Forget about it!

So what would I say to the Class of 2011?

Welcome to reality! You are not owed anything. There are no more entitlements, so snap out of it. Enough with the hard partying, the jello shots, drinking games and Halo mania. Time to sober up, pound the pavement and get with the program!

As my first boss, Jeff, used to say, “Monica, wake up and smell the coffee!” It didn’t make a difference that I didn’t drink the stuff. I knew what he meant.

You need to start earning your keep. Get a good job, one that offers health insurance coverage. Start putting some money away for retirement. At your age it doesn’t have to be much; any little bit helps. While you’re at it, take out a “whole” life insurance policy. One day you’re going to need one and the younger you are when you get it, the cheaper it’ll be.

No one leaves college landing a CEO job.  Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffet’s kid, there’s a good chance you’re not going to start at the top.  Be prepared to start a lot lower and then work your way up.

Don’t act like you’re above any part of your responsibilities.  What, you can’t make copies? You can’t file?  Well, how would you like to be in charge of the mimeograph machine?  What, you don’t know what that is? Well, that’s where I started!  Trust me, be grateful you don’t know—black ink on fingers can be nasty—so get thee to a copier now!

No matter what your job is, have high expectations of yourself. Your boss does, so don’t just get by. No slackin’ allowed. Strive to be your best and don’t always wait to be told what to do.  Identify and seize the opportunity!  Look for what needs to be done, then, do it.  You will impress your boss and all those around you.

Dress for success. Leave the flip-flops and cut-offs at home. You’re not a bum, so don’t come to work looking like one.

Don’t expect a barrage of compliments from the boss.  (No entitlements, remember?) Just do your job the best you can and the compliments will come, though maybe not as often as you’d like, but then your boss is not your parent.

Oh, and one last thing: if you think you’re never gonna get old, think again. It will happen to you. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but certainly before you know it. So think twice about getting that tattoo. Looks icky on wrinkly skin.

I’ll bet anything Brooke Shields’ class day speech won’t be as good as mine might have been. Princeton, it’s your loss. West Point, you too. And Yale? Call me, I’m available!