So, other than answering the assistant’s phone on their desk outside the boss’s door in the course of a day and sometimes making all kinds of personal calls for the boss, the killer thing would be: setting up meetings.
On the days where I had to set up meetings and it didn’t go well I would NOT laugh, inwardly, that they paid me to work. . . and I’d wonder why anybody would want to work full time, permanently, in an office. Ugh.
Because this was the pre-email environment, setting up meetings for me meant taking a deep breath (even though I’m quite good, even sometimes brilliant at it, I have a slight phone phobia) and dialing the extensions.
“Hello, Mr. Whoosit’s office? I’m filling in for Mr. Dutcher’s secretary and he was wondering about setting up a meeting with Mr. Whoosit on August 17? (pause) Oh. Mr. Whoosit’s out of town then. Well, let me get back to you with some other dates. Thank you.”
This kind of thing would happen many times, the invitee not being available and a lot of back and forth, phoning. Aaargh!
Until I got the hang of it, coordinating meeting dates and times was a killer. You had to have multiple possibilities in order to nail one date and time down, and then consider the seniority of the invitees and prioritize. You had to have an org chart for that because usually the boss was too busy to ask. And usually at some point in the process when you reported back to the boss about who was in and who couldn’t come, you’d be yelled at, anyway.
When you finally made all the calls and nailed down the attendees, then you had to find a room for the meeting. I’d rely on other “office gals” for help, regular employees who knew the ropes and rooms.
Setting up meetings was never fun, always work, always stressful. Later on, with computers and emailing, it got better, but still. . . I found that experience useful when I had to set up band rehearsal schedules, or plan a big family gathering.