Vulcan’s Peak

Four Weeks In: The New Job

November 17, 2007 2:45 pm

So what is it you do do?

(It’s so odd. Normally, I don’t like scatological humor, but that line never stops being funny. Er, anyway…)

I’m an editorial assistant, which means that I do various bits of the support work for the editors. For one, I’ve been doing a lot for the letters to the editor section of the Journal. When letters come in, I verify that they fit our guidelines, organize them, and distribute them to whichever editor handled the article that the letter-writer is writing the letter about. After the editors give their thumbs-up or thumbs-down, I take care of the rejects — mark them as such in the database and send out the rejection letters. (As a writer, that’s got to be bad karma. As an editor, well, it’s got to be done.)

I also handle the inbox that gets all the e-mail in which people write to say that they’ve written a piece on such-and-such or that they’re doing research into something and would we be interested in it? Most of this I forward straight on to the editor-in-chief, who either passes them on to the other editors or gives me a thumbs-up, -down, or -sideways. (Down says “Thanks, but no thanks.” Up says “We’re interested, submit the manuscript, but we can’t make you any promises.” Sideways says “Uh…maybe? Submit the thing and we’ll see.”) So then I send out those form letters. I also get to field the random questions that pop up and throw back the small fish who don’t have an abstract. (Usually they grow an abstract and swim right back.)

Also, I handle pay requisitions for the small honoraria that we pay to authors of certain types of articles. It requires social security numbers (at least for American authors), and we don’t always have mailing address, so I’m in the amusing position of hunting people down to give them money. Maybe this karma makes up for sending all the rejection notices.

Further down the odd job list, I place Staples orders, print out and distribute page proofs to the editors when production says they’re ready, and the other day I was shown how to do the pay requisitions to pay bills from caterers, taxis, and the university that owns our building. And I’m the back-up person for the phones, so when the person who usually plays receptionist (although she’s more than just a secretary) is out, I get it. Whee. This also translates into coordinating our lunches and so forth — I take the phones while she goes anywhere. I suck as a receptionist, but it might be slowly getting easier, and when I really get stuck, sometimes my office-mate is able to help bail me out. (Like the other day when someone called wanting to schedule an appointment with a doctor who, it turns out, used to work at the Journal several years ago. I didn’t recognize the name at all, but when I repeated it to make sure I had it right, she chimed in and was even able to find a current phone number for him.)

So, all going reasonably well. The people are nice, and everyone’s been really helpful. Two of my classmates have been working there for several years and it’s been really great to have them around — in particular, the one who works in my department has been a big help.

5 Responses to “Four Weeks In: The New Job”

Carmen wrote a comment on November 17, 2007

Sounds like you keep busy, at least. You didn’t say whether you’re actually happy with it now though. Be ye so?

Pug wrote a comment on November 17, 2007

That’s one of those things, Carmen. I can’t speak for Odette here, but I try to avoid saying anything positive or negative about my perception of my job since my boss could be reading. 😉

Odette wrote a comment on November 17, 2007

Carmen: jump here.

Sarah wrote a comment on November 18, 2007

That mix of tasks actually sounds like a good place to start, Odette. It’s a little frustrating sometimes to think –
‘is prepping order forms what I have an advanced degree to do’? However, ten years later, I’ve got my own shingle up, and yes, I’m definitely using the advanced degree now – but I’m still prepping order forms, and those people skills REALLY pay off. (I think learning to be a terrific personal assistant is one of the best biz preps you can find.) Getting quick, capable, and personable on the everyday biz housekeeping keeps the cashflow blood circulating, the taxman immunized out of the cell, etc, reserving all that wonderful fear (‘am I doing this right?’) for the Real Creative Work. Which does seem to be called ‘work’ for a reason.

Odette wrote a comment on November 18, 2007

Thanks, Sarah. It’s good to hear you say that.

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