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Also referred to as "Departmental Assistant" or "Administrative Assistant," this is a fast-paced, exciting and important position in any office. You will endure heavy responsibilities such as sorting the mail, accepting mail and sorting it, removing mail from a box or container and arranging or classifying it in such a way that becomes sorted, and taking unsorted printed matter and applying a manual organizational process that will result in a conclusion in which the aforementioned printed matter is in a fashion whereupon it is no longer unsorted.

You also have to get lunch.

Sorting the Mail

There are a few procedures you should probably know about. For instance, what happens if you get mail for an employee who is not in your department? What are you gonna do? You gonna cry? Baby.

Sorry, I was having a bad day when I wrote this.

The correct procedure in this situation is to look up the employee in the company directory, which was last updated in 1804, cross out the address on the envelope, write in the new address, and drop it back in the mail. When this mail is received at the department you have forwarded it to, the assistant at that end will cross out what you have written, re-write the original address, possibly scribble Not Here!!! on the envelope, and send it back to you. Within a few weeks the envelope in question will be completely covered with scribbles and scrawls and nasty notes, while the employee in question, who is probably sitting just a few yards from either of you, will probably never receive his airline tickets, and you and your counterpart will have formed a lasting, hating relationship.

Clerical Tasks

No, you donít have to wear robes and chant. But you will have a number of secretarial duties to perform. This is where you will truly begin to see how the inner workings of a professional office closely resemble the lower planes of Hell, with the exception that Hell probably has better carpeting.

Simple, simple tasks will be dragged out and distorted until you can no longer remember what it was you were originally trying to do. Something as basic as updating a phone list or modifying a conference room availability chart will last for weeks, involve hundreds of phone calls, countless approval sessions, and a Brazilian forestís-worth of wasted paper. The problem is that the inner-office chain of command has grown so intricate and detailed that no one on the lower limbs dares make a decision without consulting those higher up, who of course have those above them, who have those above them, and even they who appear to be nearest the zenith still have miles of branches above them, through which one cannot even glimpse the very sky.

Well, that may be a bit dramatic (not to mention grammatically unsound). But itís true.

This, for you, can be incredibly frustrating. Any little bit of work you begin, no matter how trivial, will take forever. And Iím not exaggerating. It will takeÖ forever. In twenty billion years, when the sun finally goes supernova and the Earth plunges into it, that phone list I started updating at U-Haulís corporate office will be at last consumed by the flames, along with the post-it note, still stuck to it, reading: Have Stan look at this before distribution.

While youíre busy working on assignments that will never, ever be fully completed, keep in mind that every office has its own little rules, preferences, and guidelines. Donít ever think you can use a template or format similar to one you used at your last job. Here, itís different. And while you might simply be typing up a sign that says WET FLOOR, your supervisor will have specific instructions on your choice of font, width of margins, type of paper, and color, size, brand, number, and spacing of pushpins. And weíre talking about a simple sign, here! Just imagine what it would be like if you had to produce a travel itinerary or group e-mail! And hours later, while youíre stepping over the three injured, writhing employees who have slipped and fallen on the wet floor, youíll think: Does the president of the company really need this faxed to him in Singapore for approval?

Getting Lunch

Iím not really going to go into this. You have to get lunch for people. It sucks.