5 Major Mistakes Every Entry-Level Assistant Is Bound To Make

by Lauren Berger

My first job out of college was as an assistant at a talent agency -- the largest talent agency in the world.

I thought I was prepared for the position; I thought wrong. No one prepared me for what I was about to experience.

It’s not easy to be an assistant – anyone’s assistant – in any industry, but still, it’s one of the most common first jobs for recent graduates.

In my new book, “Welcome to the Real World,” I discuss the mistakes I made as an entry-level assistant. Here are the top five most common ones:

1. They “Drop” Calls

All assistants are tasked with answering phones and either connecting the call to their boss or taking a message. They also must communicate all missed calls to their boss. Sounds easy, right?

Well, when the phone rings 20 times per minute and you are unfamiliar with the callers’ names, you are bound to record some messages incorrectly, butcher some names and worst of all, actually “drop” the call (meaning, you forget to write down the person’s name and message altogether).

My Advice: Imagine that every single caller is the most important person in the world. This way, you don’t drop any calls.

Don’t be afraid to pause, take a deep breath and write down all of the caller’s information.

Also, it’s way better to ask someone to repeat a sentence than to forget what he or she said.

Try to transfer the information immediately onto your phone sheet or whatever you use to track calls. If you write down notes on random pieces of paper, you are bound to lose the message.

2. They Forget About the Details

After college, my brain didn’t operate like an entry-level assistant’s should. For one, I wasn’t as detail-oriented as I needed to be.

When booking a meeting for my boss, I didn’t think to ask about specifics, like where to park or the restaurant’s cross streets.

My Advice: Ask whoever trains you at the office for an example of how to set up the perfect meeting for your boss. Ask for a checklist of questions that you should ask before booking any meeting or conference call.

This will help you to make sure that you are on top of everything. Constantly think ahead and ask yourself: What am I forgetting? What could possibly go wrong and how can I prevent it?

3. They Don’t Show Enough Concern

No matter how good you are at your job, mistakes are bound to happen. When they do — or when your boss is simply stressed out — you must show concern but never to an extent that leaves you in tears.

Don’t get overly emotional in any way at work, but also, don’t sit there and pretend like everything is okay. If you do, your boss can only assume that you don’t care about the issue.

My Advice: When something is going wrong in the office, use your words and express to your boss that you are concerned about X, Y, Z and that you are doing A, B, C to help solve the issue.

If your boss needs to vent, let him or her vent. Just sit tight, make sure you look engaged and do whatever you can to help remedy the situation.

4. They Turn In Work Too Quickly

A quick way to get “eaten alive” by your boss is to hand in work that isn’t double-checked, spell-checked and properly formatted.

My Advice: When you get trained for your new position, you must take careful notes and ask for as many examples as possible.

Your boss is probably accustomed to specific formats and specific processes. Each person has his or her own “right” way to do something; it’s your job to adopt your boss’.

If your boss is a perfectionist, he or she will care about font, font size, indentations, punctuation, grammar, spelling -- the list goes on.

You must double-check your work before submitting it. The goal should be for your boss to look over your work and not need to make any corrections.

5. They Get A Reputation Before They Want One

Your first day at your first job is like your first day of high school (ahhh! I know). Just remember that what you do during those first few weeks (going out with coworkers, flirting with coworkers, having an attitude) can — and probably will — stick with you. It only takes one small thing to make someone love you or hate you.

My Advice: Try to stay balanced, friendly and even-tempered during this miserable/magical first job. You’ll get the hang of things, eventually.

Plus, you can only assume that you and the people with whom you work at that first job will continually cross paths for the duration of your career.

Photo Courtesy: Entourage/HBO