am I in a dead-end job?

A reader writes:

I’ve been a receptionist at a large reputable company for a few days shy of eight months. During my interview, I asked the recruiter why the position was available. She said that the previous receptionist wanted to be promoted within the company, but there wasn’t anything available, so she decided to resign. When I trained with the previous receptionist, she seemed pretty spiteful that she had to leave in order to advance her career. I don’t know her well enough to know, but this may or may not have been due to her work ethic; however, she also mentioned that the company has a hard time finding a good receptionist, so when they do, they try to keep them around and don’t want to promote them.

Now, there are a lot of things I love about this company. It’s in a great location; they’re really flexible with vacation time; they have a great benefits plan; I’m receiving an above-average wage for my role, and I’m never micromanaged. At first, the only thing I disliked about my job was that I am not allowed to leave my desk unless I call someone to cover my desk for me. I feel more guilty than I should when I have to ask for someone to cover my desk, because I’m interrupting their work. After less than a year, I’m starting to understand what the previous receptionist was feeling. I’m realizing that, despite my stellar performance review, I am not receiving the respect and high regard I feel I deserve. There are some people who treat me like nothing more than an order taker and in effect signal that they feel superior to me. I’ve spoken to my manager every time someone internal treats me this way, and she’s made efforts to curb their behaviour. Maybe I need to develop a thick skin to better cope with abrasive personalities, but I’m now beginning to realize that I could be doing much more with my life.

During my performance review, our HR rep and my manager both had great things to say about me, but they were complimenting my character traits more than my actual competencies. I know I have a lot more to offer than just being trustworthy and calm, but I don’t want to shell out all my talents for them to be incorporated into my present position. I made a point of telling our HR rep and my manager that although I like my job, I aspire to do more. Their response was, ‘Most people who start off in your position move up to another role with more responsibilities, so just be patient and we can talk about it in your next review (in eleven months).’ I’m weary to accept their response, because while it’s true that some people who started off in my position are still around, I know that a lot of previous receptionists have also resigned. Since the few people that started as receptionists now work in different offices, I don’t really have the opportunity to ask them what they did to move forward, and since I hardly know these people, I don’t feel comfortable emailing them out-of-the-blue to say ‘I’m unhappy with my job; how do I get yours?’

I’ve tried to ask for work from different departments in order to get some experience and prove that I can do more than keep calm and answer phones, but when I do I am often given some menial photocopying task rather than any challenging work. The truth is, I don’t want to be a receptionist for the rest of my life. For me, this is more of a means to an end, and now I’m more than ready to move on.

I guess I’m torn, because I want to stay loyal to the company but am not sure how much longer I need to wait to be promoted. Is it too early to feel it’s time to move up in the company? Given my restrictions (i.e., not being able to leave my desk, rarely being given meaningful work), do you have any suggestions on how I can prove to my manager and HR department that I’m ready for more responsibilities? And finally, if I don’t get what I want, do you suggest I hold out a little longer, or should I start looking more responsibility outside of the company?

Wow. You’ve only been there eight months. It’s pretty common to expect someone to stay in a job for a couple of years before getting promoted. So it strikes me as odd that you’re not just already looking to move up, but actually feeling bitter that you haven’t been given opportunities to move up yet. You’re still far, far away from the time when that would be warranted.

What’s more, they’ve even told you that it’s common in your position to move up, and that they’ll talk with you about it at your next performance review. And you even know that they’re not BSing you, because you’ve seen that there are other people who started in your job now working in higher-level jobs elsewhere in your company. So you don’t even need to wonder if this really happens; you can see that it does. But you’re still feeling angry. This is odd.

Basically, you’re working at a company in a great location with great benefits and flexible time off, getting paid an above-market salary, you’re not micromanaged, they promote from within, and you’ve been told that they’ll talk with you about advancement in the company in the not far-away future. But you’re angry anyway.

Your expectations are waaaayyy out of whack with reality. There’s so much wrong here that I’m just going to take some specific points in your letter one at a time:

“When I trained with the previous receptionist, she seemed pretty spiteful that she had to leave in order to advance her career.”

Yeah, sometimes this happens. Sometimes there aren’t any positions for someone to move into. In this case, it sounds like the company does like promoting from that role into others, so I’m going to guess that with the previous receptionist, either (a) nothing opened up on the timeline she wanted or (b) her work wasn’t good enough to make them interested in promoting her.

Speaking of which …

“I don’t want to shell out all my talents for them to be incorporated into my present position.”

This is how people move up. They show that they have additional value. If you decide to hold back in your current position, people may never think you’re capable of leaving it.

“The truth is, I don’t want to be a receptionist for the rest of my life. For me, this is more of a means to an end, and now I’m more than ready to move on.”

Yes, but you are a receptionist right now. That is the job that you accepted. And you’re only eight months into it.

Do you not see how whiny this sounds?

“Is it too early to feel it’s time to move up in the company?”


“Given my restrictions (i.e., not being able to leave my desk, rarely being given meaningful work), do you have any suggestions on how I can prove to my manager and HR department that I’m ready for more responsibilities?”

Do your job, do it cheerfully, and believe them when they say that they’ll talk to you about advancement at your next review. And if you don’t find the work meaningful, you need to think about that. I assure you that the work is meaningful to them; that’s why they’re paying someone to do it.

“And finally, if I don’t get what I want, do you suggest I hold out a little longer, or should I start looking more responsibility outside of the company?”

I suggest you do your job for two years before you start feeling disgruntled that you haven’t moved up, and also that you radically revisit how you’re thinking about all this.

Right now, you’re not coming across like an employee anyone would want to have. You’re coming across as — I’m sorry — whiny, disconnected from your own choices, really high-maintenance, and pretty out of touch with reality

Yes, everyone wants intellectually challenging work. Yes, it’s frustrating when you’re in a job that bores you. But you are actually in an excellent situation compared to most people, and with what I’m betting is fairly light experience. That’s a good thing.

Step back and reconsider all of this.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    I feel for the hiring managers who have to hire receptionists. Because it seems like they’re all very careful about explaining that they want someone who’s going to stay in the role for a reasonable amount of time, and inevitably people decide after six months that they’re not happy in the role, so they quit. Which means that every six months, the hiring manager has to look for and train a replacement. This is why some office managers I know will no longer hire recent grads as receptionists — instead, they choose “lifers” (people who clearly want to be a receptionist forever) or people who have circumstances that make staying in that job long-term necessary (for example, we’ve had receptionists at my company who are aspiring actors/actresses; the steady 9-5 hours mean they can appear in community theater at night).

    OP, please try to see this from your manager’s perspective.

    1. K.*

      This is why some office managers I know will no longer hire recent grads as receptionists — instead, they choose “lifers” (people who clearly want to be a receptionist forever)
      I did a couple of short-term temp gigs (a week tops, covering vacation time) as a receptionist, and both times the receptionists I was covering for were career receptionists in their 50s. I was working at companies where I’m certain a 22-year-old would be using reception as a stepping-stone, and I’m guessing the powers that be in hiring got that.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’m a receptionist for the admin offices ata large community center. I understand the little frustrations that come with front desk work. Even having to go to the bathroom can become a big deal. The non-stop chit chat with every Tom, Dick and Harry that walks by doesn’t help when you’re trying to get your work done isn’t great either. Being a receptionist can suck and I understand not liking it. I’ve only been at my reception job for 8 months too. I’ve begun looking for something else and will quit once I find something better. There aren’t really any opportunities for me to move up though…the department I’m interested in is extremely small and I don’t want to count on anyone leaving their job soon since many people stay there for 10+ years.

  2. AnotherAlison*

    Alison really left nothing out of what I would say to the OP, but I did want to mention this:

    Many larger companies outsource things like the receptionist, mail room, and building maintenance to an outside management company precisely to avoid this situation.

    In my company’s case, people doing those jobs are unlikely to fit into other roles in the company without a lot of training (essentially, certificates or degrees and a career overhaul.) It doesn’t seem fair to have people in those dead end jobs, but it doesn’t make sense to promote them into jobs that don’t fit, either. Receptionists have other opportunities within the outsourcing company, beyond being receptionist at Building 101 for 5 more years, so outsourcing really helps everyone.

    1. Melissa*

      Outsourcing most definitely does not help everyone. As a receptionist in such a situation, its extremely frustrating working for such a cheap company that will not allow/ encourage its employees to move up. The typical steps used to be that after receptionist, you would move into a low level administrative position and so on. There are some companies out there that still encourage this. As someone that is attending school at the moment, I have to deal with this out sourcing situation, but I will never ever again do it. It creates a huge disconnect between the contractors and the staff. The contractors end up being treated like they are lower than those that are internal and it doesn’t make for creating a harmonious team environment.

  3. Nodumbunny*

    “I’m realizing that, despite my stellar performance review, I am not receiving the respect and high regard I feel I deserve. There are some people who treat me like nothing more than an order taker and in effect signal that they feel superior to me. I’ve spoken to my manager every time someone internal treats me this way, and she’s made efforts to curb their behaviour.”

    In my opinion, you’re lucky they are still promising to talk to you about promoting you, because you’ve been whining to them every time someone hurts your feelings by asking you to do something and not – I don’t know, saying pretty please? – first. All of us who have bosses, whether we are receptionists or highly-skilled engineers – are order-takers – get used to it. It’s what they’re paying you for.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I totally skipped over this. OP, if you are complaining to your boss every time someone doesn’t speak to you with the “high regard you feel you deserve,” it is a miracle that your boss is still willing to talk about promoting you.

      1. Sara*

        I jus twanted to address that point–is it at all possible that maybe people ARE speaking to her in a disrespectful tone? No one wants to be barked at at their jobs for simple duties; OP has said that her bosses commend her for being calm, which to me means they know how people might talk to her and she appears not to take it eprsonally? just a wild speculation

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Maybe, but here’s what she wrote: ” I’m realizing that, despite my stellar performance review, I am not receiving the respect and high regard I feel I deserve. There are some people who treat me like nothing more than an order taker and in effect signal that they feel superior to me.”

          The job does involve taking directions from other people. Some of those people are probably going to be a little brusque because they’re busy.

          And I’ve got to say, I haven’t known anyone who would refer to “the high regard I feel I deserve” who wasn’t a prima donna and pain in the ass.

          1. Mishsmom*

            + 1 on ALL of the above. and AAM: “And I’ve got to say, I haven’t known anyone who would refer to “the high regard I feel I deserve” who wasn’t a prima donna and pain in the ass.” – AMEN to that :) (and i speak as a “lifer” receptionist/admin)

    2. Kelly O*

      Sara, I think the thing is the disconnect.

      The impression I got from the original email was that the OP seems to feel above what she’s doing. She talks about not wanting to use her talents if she’s not going to move up, and to me that seems indicative of someone who… well let’s just say there are no self-esteem issues going on here.

      So I would expect that to a point there are some perfectly reasonable receptionist-related requests that are being perceived differently.

  4. Heather P.*

    I’m hoping this OP is really young because this faintly smacks of myself in my very first job. Expectations completely and utterly out of whack, no idea how the system worked or what “a long time” working in a job really meant. Hopefully AAM’s advice wakes this person up a little bit.

    1. Piper*

      I worked a job like this, too. But the difference was, receptionists were typically promoted after less than six months. They’d hire temp ones and then move them into better roles, so I suppose it depends on the company for what a long time to be stuck in the receptionist role was.

      I ended up moving out of the area after 4 months, so I never moved up, but that was pretty much the story there – if you were there longer than 6 months and hadn’t been promoted, it was time to move on.

  5. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

    I actually supervise the receptionists for my company and have seen both good and bad receptionists. From what I’m reading it doesn’t sound like being a receptionist is the right role for the OP. I feel like the OP is blaming the company because she doesn’t like being a receptionist. If so, why did you take the job?

    1. Piper*

      Can’t speak for the OP, but I took a receptionist job very early in my career because of a bad economy and lack of work. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

        1. Admin Advocate*

          Alison, may I inquire as to why you did not encourage the OP to think more long-term about her position and how to best market herself for future positions wherein she might find work better suited to her interests and skills?

          I am somewhat disappointed that you did not actually tell her to begin preparing a new resume now emphasizing what she does in her current position and then diligently research companies where she could effectively leverage those skills in positions a tad higher up the proverbial food chain. Once the OP began her job hunt, the four months until her first year as a receptionist would go by much faster, and she might discover herself more willing to use the skills that she’s so far declined to bring forward in the position.

          After a year in the position, the OP would have a much clearer idea of the company and be better able to weigh its pros and cons. S/he might also be better equipped to transition to another position, as indicated above, with a solid year of administrative and receptionist work under his/her belt.

          A final point, if I may. The economy has forced many young, idealistic college-educated people to accept positions far below their skill levels in order to pay bills and develop a work history outside of summer and university jobs and internships. These people should be cautioned against feeling entitled to rapid acceleration in said entry-level positions; however, berating someone for daring to articulate such frustrations really does any party– the letter writer, the career blogger, the blog’s readers– little good.

          **Side note: Are you sure that unconnected is a word? I looked it up at and could not find it. Disconnected, however, was listed.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Because her questions were about whether it was too early to expect to be promoted in her current company, so that’s what my response focused on.

            And whoops. Fixed “unconnected.”

        2. Anonymous*

          That’s what kept going through my mind as I read the post. This company’s need is to have a receptionist – not to help someone fulfilled her career aspirations. It’s great when those things overlap, but guess whose interests win out when they don’t?
          See also: the Golden Rule – he who has the gold, rules.

          1. Anonymous*

            Telling her to begin looking for another job is not good advice. It looks very bad when people job hop.

            1. A hiring manager*

              It depends on what you mean by “job hopping”. If you mean someone who changes jobs every 6 months you are absolutely correct, unless those jobs were project based temporrary positions. If you mean someone changing every few years, then this is very old fashioned thinking and no longer the case. As a matter of fact, if someone had stayed in one job for 10 years despite not getting promoted, I would be asking questions about their motivation and thirst for advancement!

  6. Zee*

    It sounds like she spent a little too much time around her predecessor. She now has this bug in her head and is anticipating the news that a promotion will never come down the pipe for her. And I do believe that if she keeps up this negativity, which is what I sense her coworkers are picking up from her, then she will never get a promotion. She is doing this by finding all the little itty-bitty flaws in her day-to-day routine and thinks it’s hindering any potential promotion in the future.

    OP, stop being negative, do your job, and see what happens in a couple of years. Good things come to those who wait, and you have to earn them!

    1. jmkenrick*

      I did reception work previously, and found that one of the ways I could stay engaged was by creating projects for myself – for example, I totally reorgaized our supply room so that it was much neater/easier to find thigns. There was no “guide” on how to complete a variety of the reception tasts – so I created one. The FB page was managed as an afterthought – so I worked on finding good material to link to and add on.

      Granted, all these things had to be worked on in between my regular role (obviously, a ringing phone takes priority) but it can be really energizing. Even the menial tasks (like organizing a supply closet) can be much more rewarding if you get to have ownership and feel like they’re YOUR projects.

      Good luck!

      1. fposte*

        It’s also an interesting position to learn about much of the company from. A lot of people really enjoy explaining what they do to new employees, and it gives you a chance to ask for involvement if there’s anything you can do to help out.

        1. jmkenrick*

          Oh yes. I’m a huge fan of asking people out to coffee and asking them about their jobs. (And always offer to pay!)

        2. Natalie*

          Even that menial photocopying can teach you a lot about the business. I saved my terrible job where no one assigned me anything interesting by reading all of the files and other items that crossed by desk and learning a lot.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        One of my first jobs was as a receptionist. I actually loved it — I loved having my own area that I had ownership over, being able to figure out how I wanted things to run in my area, finding ways to improve things (even if it was just organizing the file room or whatever), and being sort of a voice of authority to callers who needed information.

        I continue to think that I would be an excellent assistant to a high-powered executive, and would enjoy it, if my life were ever to take a different path!

        1. Lexy*

          Exactly! When I was reception the front of the office (which included conference rooms & kitchen areas) was MY DOMAIN. I didn’t feel condescended to (although some people were jerks) because I AM IN CHARGE OF THE FRONT DESK BOW BEFORE ME.

          I mean I wasn’t like an egomaniac about it, but I had confidence in my position and pride in my work. Is it easy to straighten up the papers on the coffee table? Sure, but if I didn’t do it no one else was going to. I wanted everyone to have a good impression of the office when they walk in and the only person who could make sure that happened was me.

          1. COT*

            Receptionists are really indispensable to most workplaces. Yes, some people will look down on you, but they’ll miss you when you take a vacation. Don’t let others dictate how you feel about your role–recognize and celebrate how important you are.

        2. Charlie*

          This! I did work experience at a big media firm and I sat next to a PA who looked after three executives. She was well paid and her execs LOVED her (in a totally appropriate way) because she was great at her job. She got great satisfaction out of organising their lives, being a great gatekeeper and making everything perfect. I remember two of her executives came back from a trip with a gift for her – Tiffany jewellery. She was well paid, didn’t have to stay late and was very rarely stressed. Looked like a great job to me!

        3. Job Seeker*

          I have been a receptionist in my former life too. I loved it. I really believe having a sense of being grateful for a job in this economy is lacking here. I would love to have the opportunity this OP is being given.

          1. Heather P.*

            Have you read the OP’s response letter? I think the original letter came off in a tone that was not how they intended. The OP’s been called ungrateful so much here that I’d be ungrateful at this point for being called ungrateful were I her/him. Please give them a break :-)

      3. Zee*

        I’m confused. I was writing about her negativity and how she might have caught it from her predecessor – and now it is spreading into her daily routine and onto her coworkers. Are you adding to my last sentence? Because the thread to my comment took off in a direction I didn’t expect, if it was going to take off at all.

          1. jmkenrick*

            That was exactly my intention – I understand feeling bored in a role, and how that can snowball, so I was trying to build off of how she could combat the negative feelings. Sorry Zee, if I gave the impression I was trying to thread-hijack!

            1. Zee*

              No worries! I just thought maybe you hit the wrong reply button, but I get what you’re saying. She should definitely try to make this role her own instead of finding its flaws.

      4. Candice*

        I think this is great advice. I find in my repetitive role that if I challenge myself by creating new projects or trying to streamline operations I can get myself through the painfully slow week. Others in the company take notice, too.

      5. Lily*

        As a receptionist at a bank, I was asked to give callers basic information, so the loan officers could deal with the advanced questions. I took away too much of their work … but have you tried making such suggestions?

        Try reading what you are photocopying and asking questions about it. Maybe people will realize you can help them do other stuff!

  7. Jamie*

    Part of the deal with taking a position as a receptionist is that you are chained to the desk. I don’t know why you seem resentful of that. I mean sometimes I wish people would stop coming to me with all their computer problems, but then I remember I’m IT and it’s kinda my job.

    Another thing that will be an issue is that you don’t want to contribute other skills until you’re getting the position and paycheck to match. I’ve known plenty of people with that mindset and none of them ever got what they wanted. You have this backwards, you become more valuable by contributing at a higher level. Then they find someone else for the lower level tasks because you’re busy with your new role. I’ve never seen it work the other way.

    And as for the disrespect you feel from others…well, some people are jerks who aren’t respectful to support staff. And those people suck and deserve to have all their important calls accidentally disconnected (kidding!). But some of that may be internal. When you feel like you’re more than an “order taker” you may resent being treated as such, even though that may be your role right now.

    Everyone is entitled to professional courtesy – regardless of their position on the org chart. But there is a hierarchy and if you don’t like where you fall on it the only sure fire solution to that is working hard enough that you eventually move up.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I totally agree with Jamie’s statement about wishing people would stop coming to me with all their problems. Some days they just pile up & I wish they’d leave me alone so I could get stuff done. But, without all those pesky people, I wouldn’t have a job!

      1. Jamie*

        “But, without all those pesky people, I wouldn’t have a job!”

        And that’s the beautiful dichotomy of end users. Can’t live with them, can’t pay the bills without them.

        1. SW*

          “And that’s the beautiful dichotomy of end users. Can’t live with them, can’t pay the bills without them.”

          LOL. I am printing this and taping it to my monitor.

    2. Anon...*

      “Part of the deal with taking a position as a receptionist is that you are chained to the desk”

      She feels she is disturbing people from their work if she has to leave.. like, you know, to use the restroom.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, but this kind of set-up is common with a receptionist position. She needs to grab someone for coverage; it’s only a big deal if she makes it feel like a big deal.

        1. Anon...*

          That really depends on the office/coworkers. I’ve had receptionist postions where there was a schedule for breaks and a designated person to cover and positions where there was no one designated (just ‘call this one or that one and they’ll come..) and several where people acted surprised/annoyed or like I wanted their first born child or left arm – and that doesn’t include all the temp jobs (the temp gets to leave her desk? whaaat? Not. even. kidding.)

          Every office is different.

        2. V*

          Right. It’s not a situation where you have to ask permission, or even say where you’re going; “I’ll be right back” is enough.

  8. Dana*

    My first job out of college was a receptionist. My ego was destroyed because I thought all college grads were supposed to be handed a perfect job along with their diploma. Some of the partners at the firm treated me like garbage; others were very kind (imagine… much like the general population). For a little while I felt that I was “above” the work, but overall the job smacked the entitlement right out of me. I learned some very valuable things about dealing with people and “the way things work” in the working world. They gave me additional responsibilities and offered me a promotion which I turned down for grad school (I wonder what would have happened if I’d taken it) and I still talk to my old boss every so often (and she still gives me recommendations). All in all, it wasn’t very challenging work but I still consider it one of the more valuable jobs I’ve held.

    They’ve told you what to expect, so trust it. Believe me, it’s NOT easy to hire a good receptionist.

    1. Jamie*

      “For a little while I felt that I was “above” the work, but overall the job smacked the entitlement right out of me.”

      I bet you’re very respectful of your support staff now.

      It’s a thankless job, and done well is really an important function.

      1. some1*

        “I bet you’re very respectful of your support staff now.”

        I know I am, but the other side of that sword is that I have higher expectations of receptionists and admin staff than people who may not have done the job before.

      2. A Bug!*

        Working a job like that doesn’t always have that effect on people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been snarked at by people who say things like “I did your job, missy, and I know you’re lying to me.”

        Well, la-de-dah, when you did “my” job, how did you like it when people talked to you like you’re talking to me? Oh, right, people would never talk to you like that, because you were much better at this job than I am and you got the respect you deserved. My bad!

        1. Dana*

          Yeah, I’ve seen that attitude too- but usually from people who aren’t that much higher on the food chain. The woman I was hired to replace was promoted and she was a pretty big offender of that, but I always got the impression that it was because she *finally* had someone lower on the totem pole to pick on.

          1. A Bug!*

            Yes, yes! Again and again it comes down to perspective.

            A bullied person can look at it as “If only I had the power of the bully, I could dominate people instead of being dominated.” Then they can continue the cycle.

            Or, they could look at it as “If only I had the power of the bully, I could help weaker people instead of terrorizing them.”

      3. NicoleW*

        “It’s a thankless job, and done well is really an important function.” (Jamie)
        Completely agree!
        I am absolutely not cut out for exec assistant/receptionist work. I hate making files for someone else, answering phones, waiting on hold with the airline because my boss wasn’t upgraded to first class on a personal trip, etc. But that’s beside the point. We had a fantastic temporary assistant in my department last year and she was amazing. She was organized, a quick learner, anticipated our needs, kept us updated, and was a cheery person (but not in an annoying way) to boot. Having her take all of the assistant level work off my plate so I could focus on my project management increased my job satisfaction a lot.

        1. Rachel*

          I want to switch careers from exec assistant to a project manager for the reasons you describe, NicoleW. I’ve been doing the assistant thing for 10 years and I’m just done. I applaud people who love this line of work!

  9. Sandrine*

    I have “mad skillz” . People keep telling me that. They applaud my English, they think I should “get to do more” …

    Yeah, I’m a CSR monkey and yeah, I absolutely hate it (but a customer restored my faith in humanity today) . But guess what ? The economy being what it is, I’m happy to be in any kind of job at all. I decided to “commit myself” to staying one year, then I’ll have my first vacation (already approved and all) , and after December I’ll go look for something “better”.

    I do get the respect I deserve… most of the time. But the work force isn’t all sunshine and rainbows where you get what you want automatically and must think something is wrong when you don’t.

    That’s called being an adult and seeing things for what they are, not for what you wish they were.

    1. Admin Advocate*


      First, congratulations on securing vacation time. I can imagine how relieved to know that you’ll have sometime after December to get away from work and unwind.

      Secondly, I completely concur that the job market “isn’t all sunshine and rainbows where you get what you want automatically and must think something is wrong when you don’t.” People are accepting positions well below their skill levels to make ends meet and build up their resumes. However, I must disagree with your choice of words about enduring a bad situation.

      Your situation is just that, yours. The OP’s situation is different in many ways, including that s/he is likely a native English speaker and is not a “CSR monkey,” as you choose to describe yourself.

      The OP also did not disclose any firm timeline for when she/he plans to leave the position, so it’s entirely unclear if the OP plans to “commit [herself] to staying one year,” which is only about four months away from now. Please notice that the letter writer simply asked Alison a range of questions about when/if leaving now would be professionally appropriate, which Senior Blogger Green quickly broke down in a lengthy answer specific to the OP’s questions.

      I enjoyed your comment and truly hope that you make the most of your well-earned vacation, but I wanted to respond as someone who is at least a bit sympathetic to the OP.

      1. Jamie*

        “Your situation is just that, yours. The OP’s situation is different in many ways, including that s/he is likely a native English speaker and is not a “CSR monkey,” as you choose to describe yourself”

        Just because I’m a stickler for details, it seems like you’re misinterpreting Sandrine’s comment about how good her English is. She’s not in the US where speaking English is required, she’s in France so her English skills bring another language to table – and from the way she writes they are pretty phenomenol.

        Years of high school French and all I’ve got is ‘Michele, Anne vous travailez? Non, nous regarding la television, pour quois?’ and ‘ou est le salle de baines?’. So if I ever need to ask two kids named Michael and Anne if they are working when they are watching tv, or ask where I can take a bath I’m all set. So the fact that she can do business in both languages so seamlessly is really impressive.

      2. Kelly O*

        Admin Advocate, I truly take issue with the way you’re coming at this entire post.

        The OP accepted a position as a receptionist. It sounds like she is being asked to do duties common to an entry level reception position. She has been there eight months, and is worried already about advancing and why she’s not being promoted.

        All the while, she’s going to HR whenever she feels someone is not treating her “with the high regard” she feels she deserves. I do not understand how you can begin to advocate that as a positive way to deal with the situation.

        And quite frankly your tone is growing old. By referencing a previous post’s inside joke about “Senior Blogger Green” you’re not lightening the tone, you’re adding to the perception that someone thinks they’re above the receptionist. No one is saying that.

        What is clear is that the reception desk is sometimes the entry level position for a company. And being that entry level position, you have to learn to deal with people at all other levels of your organization. Not by demanding respect, but by EARNING it. Not by running to HR when you feel like you’re not being treated properly, but by EARNING it. Not by withholding your “talent” because you don’t think you’re going to last, but by EARNING the opportunity to share more of your talent, if you truly want to move up.

        I’m a bit sympathetic to the OP because I’ve been there, and I’ve made poor decisions about my career because I bought into the lie that I am awesome and that my presence alone demands a level of respect that I do not get unless I have earned it. And I’m sorry, but for most people, eight months is barely long enough to begin to get to know someone, much less make decisions about how quickly you’re going to move up.

        If you treat your coworkers with respect, fulfill your job duties and go beyond when you can, and show that you’re willing to do the work, get to know people, pitch in and make things happen… THEN you start getting respect.

        Sure, you’ll get some hollow gongs. Sure there will be people who promise you unicorns and soft kitties and corner offices… some people will promise you anything to appease you and stop the complaining or the attitude issues. Sometimes you’ll get fired. (Many states are at-will, and that “at-will” goes both ways.)

        People are being realistic. I do not understand for the life of me why providing realistic advice to someone new to the working world is a bad thing, particularly when a dose of common sense is vital to that person moving forward.

        So please, if you want to advocate, go ahead. But realize that you’re speaking for yourself, not for those of us who’ve chosen this field. I can advocate for myself, thank you.

        1. A Person*

          “People are being realistic. I do not understand for the life of me why providing realistic advice to someone new to the working world is a bad thing, particularly when a dose of common sense is vital to that person moving forward.”
          I agree in some cases. In others people are just being unnecessarily sharp and unkind. And yeah, it is possible to be “realistic” and still be respectful and tactful. In fact that can be a pretty valuable professional skill.
          Also the OP cleared up in the response letter that she isn’t running to HR for every little thing. These have been a few isolated incidents. She has also felt she’s been subjected to sexual harassment. New to the workforce or not, that isn’t something you just shut up about.
          I’m actually impressed at how gracious the OP was in her response. I might not have been with some of this “advice”.

    2. Diane*

      Hi Sandrine, I’m a longtime lurker on this blog but I wanted to say that I enjoy your comments and that your English really is phenomenal. If that’s actually you on the YouTube channel you link to, it’s ridiculous how great your accent is in English. So congrats there. I’m an American expat living in France and my French will never bee that fluid….just wanted to say hi.

  10. Anonymous*

    I had a job as an assistant for years and the first week the person I was replacing could not stop talking about everything she hated about the job. Take what that person says with a grain of salt. Yes, you both have goals beyond being a receptionist. But as AAM said, you’re a receptionist now. The best thing you can do is do your job. Also, think about why you took the job to begin with. Was it to make money to pay bills? Was it
    To “start at the bottom and work your way up”? Your company does show there is room for growth. One thing you should take note of was how long the previous receptionists were at their position before being promoted.

    Also, my boss would prefer to only hire first or second year students for the assistant role. He felt they were more interested in just having a job and a (possibly first) paycheck to pay for extras rather than move up on he company or leave.

    1. twentymilehike*

      I had a job as an assistant for years and the first week the person I was replacing could not stop talking about everything she hated about the job.

      This made me think about an old coworker of mine …

      I am an office manager for a small company–basically I do everything that a receptionist, office manager and an administrative assistant would do and then some. Over the years when we’ve been really busy, the company will hire my an assistant, who was more or less a receptionist. One young man that was my assistant for a few months would get so upset with customers that he would slam the phone down after talking to them and yell and make angry proclomations. Sometimes when the phone would ring he’d scoff and exclaim that he wasn’t going to answer it! He would always whine about how he thought the boss didn’t like him (he loved him, btw). Eventually he started showing up to our casual office wearing sweatpants, then he took a vacation, later calling to say he wasn’t coming back. He admited to me later on that he never planned on coming back after his vacation in the first place.

      It is REALLY hard to find good receptionist help! One girl we had called in and said she couldn’t come to work because she couldn’t remember where she parked her car ….

      1. Anonymous*

        I wish that phone slamming/take a permanent vacation guy would write into AAM. Ah the headlines…”why won’t my manager give me a reference after I never came back from my vacation?” “my coworkers complain that I yell all the time and don’t do my job… Is this legal??”

        1. Twentymilehike*

          Ah the headlines…”why won’t my manager give me a reference after I never came back from my vacation?” “my coworkers complain that I yell all the time and don’t do my job… Is this legal??”

          Lmao. I just snorted my lunch reading that …

          I’m glad I wasn’t put in the position as a “reference.” Last I heard he was touring with his band full time and I guess that doesn’t require references … One situation when burnt bridges don’t matter?

          1. Heather P.*

            Hi there,
            Was this a real letter posted on AAM? If so, I’d greatly appreciate a link to it.

      2. Noelle*

        This was supposed to be under twentymilehike’s comment, but somehow ended up posting at the end of the thread.

        Reminds me of an intern I had who showed up in a sweatshirt every day and was constantly blowing off work. One day he emailed in the morning to say he was sick, but forgot he’d already made an excuse and called back that afternoon to say he was on vacation!

      3. Sara*

        So now that you mentioned it….what are the difference between a receptionist, office manager, administrative assistant and secretary?

        1. Jamie*

          In the offices I’ve worked in, it’s varied – but typically Receptionists are front desk/phones and other duties…phones and desk as primary duty.

          Office Managers can be reception also in a smaller office, but they generally also handle ordering of supplies, some AP/AR (if heavier in accounting generally they aren’t on phones 100% of the time), scheduling, travel arrangements, all the way up to light tech support (and dealing with vendors and contracts for office services). There is a broad range for responsibilities with this title. There is also usually budgetary responsibilities involved – and if there are admin assistants or a receptionist they often report to the Office Manager.

          Admin assistants from what I’ve seen is a broad category. I’ve worked with admin assistants who had a great deal of responsibility and power and some who did filing and light clerical work.

          Again, this is just my experience – the parameters for these positions are very flexible between companies and, I would imagine, between industries. In manufacturing any or all can have customer service responsibilities as well.

        2. twentymilehike*

          So now that you mentioned it….what are the difference between a receptionist, office manager, administrative assistant and secretary?

          Well, it really varies according to the environment, but based on my experience …

          A receptionist’s primary role is to answer phones and greet people, take messages and other assorted basic office duties.

          Administrative Assitant I see as more of an extension of another position–like AA to the VP, so basically you would just do whatever the VP asked you to do to help them do their job.

          Office manager is more like making sure the office runs smoothy–either doing stuff yourself or making sure others are getting it done and have the tools required to do their jobs. My official title is “office manager” but my internal subtitle is “person who gets shit done.” LOL

          I do a lot of problem solving and trouble shooting, and I feel like that’s a pretty general thing for admins and office manager, but like I metioned, it really depends on the environment. These are just my experience, and I’m sure others will have varying definitions.

  11. Monica*

    I could be wrong, but this person sounds like a Gen Y or younger. My parents would stay in a job for a lifetime, I stayed in mine for almost 20 years, but the younger generation seems to expect bigger and better things almost instantaneously. Pay your dues and in time, and a bit of luck, you will move up in the world.

    1. -X-*

      Are their places where people in the “younger generation” can go with job security for almost 20 years or even a lifetime if they do a good job? Please let us know.

      1. Monica*

        There are no guarantees anywhere, but large corporations, or better yet, government, or government funded places like educational institutions, are less likely to up and fold and leave a lot of people without jobs.

        1. Heather*

          I have to disagree. Government jobs, yes (provided that funding doesn’t get cut), but looking to a large corporation to provide lifetime job security is asking for trouble. Its business may be thriving, but that has nothing to do with whether or not employees get laid off through no fault of their own. In the constant push to improve the stock price, labor is seen as a line item expense to be minimized, not an asset.

          1. some1*

            I have to disagree with you about government, based on my experience of working in it for 6 years. My benefits were outstanding, and I got increases based on years of service, but it can be hard to move up. I was also Union, and the good news is that it’s veeeery hard to get fired from a Union job (yay job security), the bad news is that it’s very hard to get fired from a Union job, so while most of my co-workers were talented individuals who cared about their community, I worked with a handful of incompetent slackers who would get fired in the private sector for the stuff they pulled.

            1. Heather*

              Right, that’s what I was saying – that government jobs are more likely than corporate jobs to provide lifelong job security (even if they may not provide much in the way of career advancement).

              And if it makes you feel any better, I work in the private sector, in an entire non-unionized department full of slackers who would probably have to leave a flaming bag of dog poo on the department head’s doorstep to get fired…and maybe not even then, if he thought it was funny.

              1. Emma*

                If you can get a government job, that is. In the public health field, it’s very difficult to get even an entry-level job in a local jurisdiction without at least an MPH, due to funding cuts, folks not retiring OR folks retiring but their jobs aren’t being filled.

                That’s not to say that you’re guaranteed to be paid out of general funding, either – many folks in health departments are funded by grants. Grant doesn’t get renewed? Goodbye, job.

        2. K.*

          Large corporations can indeed fold, and even if they don’t, they certainly aren’t shy about layoffs, as the news teaches us. And educational institutions are seeing their budgets cut – I know laid-off teachers. It’s increasingly rare to have the opportunity to spend thirty years working for the same place.

      2. Kimberly*

        Yes, I work at a utility company and that is a lifetime job for anyone who wants it. All public utility companies are in a place where 50% of their work force is eligible and will take retirement in less than 10 years so there is plenty of room for advancement. The disclaimer is that you can get stuck with employees who are from a different generation (the rest of my whole department including the boss) and are not very flexible so they do not take kindly to young people coming in with their new ideas and technology. If I hear “Kimberly can change that after I retire.” one more time, I may scream!

      3. Nodumbunny*

        I agree – the days when an employee could count on staying in a job for a lifetime as long as they did a good job are over, for the most part. I could give you the names of three very large corporations that have laid off my husband or myself for no greater purpose than to satisfy shareholders they were cutting costs or declared bankruptcy on a division that they’d put a firewall around to separate it from the larger corporation, so they could renege on hundreds of thousands of dollars they owed to creditors, including consultants who’d already done the work. And I’m sure I’m not alone in these experiences.

      4. AnotherAlison*

        I didn’t interpret Monica’s comment as implying job security existed, but rather illustrating the idea that some Gen X/Boomers were happy to stay in a good job they enjoyed without advancing, more so than Gen Y.

        I fall between X and Y so have no loyalties, but see the same thing. My parents stayed put for 10-20+ years at a time, in one position. I’m no job hopper, but I can’t imagine being in one position for 20 years. People now seem to get bored after 2-5 yrs of even something they like and want new internal positions. I think the necessity of having to move due to instability causes it, though. We are told we have to keep progressing, or we’ll never be marketable for a new job. We all believe we will have to find another job someday, so if we are in a position for more than a few years, we think we’re falling behind.

        1. fposte*

          I actually think the shift away from lifetime commitments on both sides happened earlier, towards the end of the boomers. It was already a noted change when I started working, and I’m right on the cusp between boomers and X. It was later in hitting places like industry and utilities, but it was a real difference between our college class and our parents.

          I don’t think it’s representative of any particular generation’s approach to work, though–I think it was just an economy moving to value greater mobility on all sides, with its attendant advantages and disadvantages.

          1. Blinx*

            Sara, it varies — you’ll have to google it. One page had me as being a Boomer II, another said I was a Gen X! And the age groups span 20 years (1 generation). Plus, I was surprised – they’re all older than I thought. I think we’re ready for a few more generation designations!

      5. Monica*

        Sorry I wasn’t trying to start any heated discussions, nor paint all Gen Y’ers with the same brush.

        I was speaking in generalizations about the government/education having more stability, but it obviously depends on the country, education system, etc.

        AnotherAlison raises very good points about people getting bored after a few years on a job. So in a way, job security is dependent on whether the employee wants to stay in the same job for years on end.

    2. Anonymous*

      Job security is a rarity nowadays, so please don’t kid yourself and brush Gen Y under the same brush.

      I do agree that Gen Y do expect better, but what about Gen X? Baby Boomers? What did they expect? Less than what their parents had? Please tell me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Gen X? Yeah, we expected less than what our parents had, actually. Economies change! That’s life. All of us here in the U.S. still won the lottery anyway, regardless of when we came of age.

        But can we not have a big generational debate here, please? They hurt my head. Thank you.

            1. Karyn*

              Now I have an image of you with a cane on your front porch going, “HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN!” ;)

            2. Kelly O*

              I never know if I’m Gen X or Gen Y anyway. Apparently it depends on who you ask. I tend to just pick the more flattering one and pretend I’m not a 63 year old woman named Mildred with twelve cats on the inside.

              1. Jamie*

                “I tend to just pick the more flattering one and pretend I’m not a 63 year old woman named Mildred with twelve cats on the inside.”

                I don’t know how I missed this yesterday – but reading it this morning I started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop. Unfortunately the genius of this line hit me as I was taking a sip of coffee…let’s just say it was worth the time I just spent cleaning up.

                Thank God for Tide to Go in my desk drawer (and a spare keyboard), otherwise it would be home to change.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          All of here in the U.S. still won the lottery anyway, regardless of when we came of age.

          Thanks for mentioning that. Everyone in the US is actually part of the 1% when compared on a world scale (that included the guy living under the bridge). In many parts of the world people are willing to work at a job – ANY job – if only they could get hired.

          Regardless of generation, we all have opportunities that others can’t even imagine.

          1. Lexy*

            Okay… so not to thread jack but you’re not quite correct. And I’m an obnoxious auditor so I just can’t stand letting someone be wrong on the internet.

            It’s true that people in the U.S. are vastly more privileged than most of the world, and the median U.S. income makes us one of the wealthiest people in the world. However the median US income (almost 50,000 in 2010) for a family of 4 puts you in the top 10% worldwide. The lowest 20% of incomes in the US is $20,000 and less per year. This puts you in the top 20% worldwide. Which is still huge… make no bones about it. I just wanted to be accurate. Because I have a compulsion. Thank you for indulging me.

            1. EngineerGirl*

              Are you including countries where people work for pennies a day? Your numbers appear to be for industrialized nations.

              I know that the homeless person under the bridge is wealthy compared to those in Kibera or other poor places. I challenge your statements.

                1. Kelly O*

                  I hate to split hairs here, but Engineering Girl, do you get a water bill every month?

                  That clean water is not free. It’s not horribly expensive mind you, but it’s not free.

                  And do you pay taxes? I do. Public schools are not free. Ask any parent who just finished taking out a second mortgage to buy school supplies.

                2. Jamie*

                  Kelly is right – I pay over $200 a month for water (sewer and garbage is in there, but still) and it was almost $400 to register my son for public school this year, because even “free” schools have fees.

                  This always confuses me when I hear about free public schools…in my experience that’s apocryphal.

        2. Blinx*

          This issue may not be about generations, but a naiveté brought about by one’s upbringing (the blue collar vs. professional thread). One guy I know of had a blue collar job for 20 years, retired from that, and in his 40s took a menial job at a Fortune 500 company, looking to move up through the system. He approached his boss after 1 WEEK on the job as to what was the best way to use the internal job application system and start applying for other jobs. 1 WEEK!!! His boss patiently explained about “paying one’s dues”.

    3. Candice*

      To the OP’s credit, I am a Gen Y’er, and it’s easy to have this attitude when it’s what we are and have been told since conception. It’s a harsh realization that our “dream jobs” are not really out there, or will take years upon years of work, when we were originally told that if we got the right degree we’d have a great starting salary in the job we really wanted.

      Granted, there are different maturity levels in Gen Y and many of us know we can’t expect the perfect job straight out of college, but it’s easy to feel slighted when you’re new to the working world and it’s not what you thought it would be.

      1. H*


        I also however see the same issues in some older people who have changed career choices and expect a little more to happen to them quickly too..

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t mean to reopen this, but I was thinking about this earlier: I get that many recent grads were sold a bill of goods re: what their degree would do for them, but … at the same time, you guys must have been seeing the news everywhere for the past few years about the awful economy and unemployment. Surely that must have been balanced into your thinking too —? (This is a genuine question, not a snarky one.)

        1. Candice*

          I think for the realistic ones, yeah, it balanced things out. It’s still frustrating to people who are driven, who have spent their parents’ (or their own) life savings on an education, and who are up to their ears in student loans and debt to be working an entry level job (if they are lucky enough to find work). Yeah, it’s reality, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

          As an aside, our folks and people who have had steady jobs with decent incomes don’t understand why we “won’t” find something with higher pay that uses our education. We’re pegged as being lazy and we get nagged constantly by people who are much more out of touch with reality than we are.

          I see this argument from both sides of the spectrum. Is our generation entitled? Yeah, sure. We expect a lot. We were told to expect a lot and we’re having to realign our expectations. Those of us who don’t will be the ones who live beyond our means and live in debt chasing a lifestyle we think we “deserve.”

          I agree, at some point, we HAVE to grow up and face the facts. The economy isn’t going to sustain us all working 60-80K+ jobs.

          1. Katie*

            So, this is something that concerns me greatly, and I’ve mentioned it in other threads. Young workers know that we have to realign our career expectations. But how do we effectively realign them without selling ourselves short?

            This is something that I’d truly love to hear addressed in another post (particularly now that I’ve accepted a job that pays less than the one I took straight out of college, in the hopes that the skill set it entails might advance my career [AND got a call back for an interview shortly thereafter for a higher paying job(UGH)]).

          2. Kelly*

            Even for young people who watch the news, it might not hit them just how different the reality is than what their parents told them when they are eighteen. A lot of my friends started to regret their liberal arts majors around junior/senior year, when it was really financially too late to turn back.

            I taught high school students last year, and almost had a heart attack when they all started saying it “doesn’t matter what you major in, just that you get a college degree” this past year. All I could do was shake my head and tell them that I don’t know any recent grads who would concur with that advice.

            And the bitterness is not so much a characteristic of my friends who got professional jobs, even ones that pay 24k rather than 60k. It’s the friends who got degrees in psychology and international relations who are working as flight attendants and pizza deliverers after months of no interviews. Not even because of the work (sometimes because of the work), but more so because they would be in a financially better situation at present doing their non-degree-requiring job if they weren’t paying off loans.

            1. AmyRenee*

              I think the “it doesn’t matter what you major in as long as you get a degree” has been around for a while, and its total BS, but I’m still hearing it.
              I think another part of the problem is that when you discuss job descriptions with someone, you generally discuss what someone mid-career or higher, not entry level, has as job responsibilities. For instance, I’m a chemist, which would be described as someone who conducts experiments and uses scientific knowledge to predict the results, but in reality that is what a senior chemist does. An entry level chemist does a little bit of experiment planning and a lot of lab grunt work to support the senior chemist’s experiments.
              And one last thing on the expectations front: a lot of people my age (mid-thirties) that I grew up with did not have jobs in high school or college or even required to do many chores around the house – we were supposed to study hard, get good grades and go to college to get good jobs where we would use our brains (note, not me – I worked multiple menial jobs in high school and college). And recently, high school and college kids haven’t been ABLE to get menial summer jobs, as they’ve been taken by college graduates who can’t find “real” jobs. Because of this, many people are graduating from college never having been in the workforce AT ALL, which really skews their idea of what an entry level job requires. Just my 2 cents.

        2. Lexy*

          Also, I think the “bill of goods” has been sold to more than just the newest batch of grads. I certainly know many people who felt that way trying to find a meaningful job with their BA in Philosophy when I was 18-20 (more than 10 years ago).

          So in my opinion there’s been plenty of time (and also the explosion of information via the internet) for people who are entering school in the last 5 years or so to have a pretty realistic picture if they were to look for it.

          Not to say that the pressures aren’t still there or that parents understand any more than they ever have. Just that it doesn’t need to be a TOTAL surprise.

        3. TheSnarkyB*

          1. I like that you’re reopening this- I actually think “The Promise” as I like to call it, would warrant a whole post or open thread, etc. (Funny & Related:
          2. I’m going to “out” myself here and reveal that I graduated in May (and from high school in ’08). Basically, I was sitting through my first semester of college when the econ professors were all chucking and going, “sorry guys.” So I started college with this notion about what I was going to get out of it and what I’d be starting at, I accepted loans under those premises, etc. and then those ideas got smashed that October. (And for those who want to point out that I could have seen warning signs in the news, I listened to NPR and read the NYT a little bit in high school, but not enough to pick up on things like that/ I’m not financially minded enough to have noticed the warning signs about the SEC, etc. Before the crash, that kind of reporting was all in the financial section, or was written as opinion/smart people warning us what *might* happen, so it was over my head or i took it as opinion). So I think that people older than I am were also taken a bit by surprise. We knew the economy wasn’t great, but also- I don’t remember the early ’90s so didn’t have a concept of what “great” economy looked like. Having friends who graduate with an econ major and start out making 75k-85k made me think, “Ok that’s econ, but the gap can’t be too big, right? I can maybe graduate and make 4ok…
          The reason I’m being so specific is that I think it can be hard, once you have a lot of info, to know what it’s like to not have that much info/put yourself in the shoes of the “younguns” we love to talk about on here (myself included). So just thought I’d give some concrete perspective here.
          Main point: by the time I knew enough to think that my expectations should shift, I was already in college and it was very hard to make that message sink in in the bubble of a positive and “you can do it” environment. Especially with parents for whom the message wasn’t sinking in either (high job security and salaries- think lawyers pre-crash, still on upward trajectories).
          And my mother put herself through law school in the 90’s so her rough times took place in some of the country’s best.
          Wow that’s a lot of info about me :) hello world!

        4. Katie*

          I think I’m the rare young worker in that I wasn’t sold a bill of goods, or at least, I didn’t buy it. Both my parents were college educated, but both of them struggled greatly to obtain the careers that matched their skill level. The “worthlessness” of a college degree was a typical bitter refrain in our household, I think for reasons that are very clearly articulated in the “parent achievement” thread (ie, that a working class background can profoundly affect your career mobility).

          Subsequently, I was taught to manage my expectations from a very young age – choose a practical major, go to a state school, and always, ALWAYS work, at any job. This thread actually reminded me of a time I made a little girl cry by saying that she should get a job bagging groceries instead of trying to become a veterinarian (I was a little girl too, but still…it was one of those messed up moments that reveals what you don’t even realize you’re learning). The message was always to get ready to settle for less.

          I ended up not listening to this advice (young, naive dreamer that I was), and my life/career turned out well, much better than I think anyone expected. I’m still trying to determine if I just got a lucky break, or if taking risks on behalf of what inspires you can really pay off. I don’t have an answer. But I’m very ambivalent about making career compromises for this reason. I worry I might unfairly hold myself back and foolishly limit my potential.

    4. NicoleW*

      I wanted to briefly comment on Monica’s post that mentioned previous generations staying in jobs for a lifetime. While I agree that currently we may desire more career mobility, even if we wanted to stay with the same job, it’s not usually a reality.

      As worker-bees we can’t afford to be loyal to our company anymore. Any benefits to long-term employment with the same organization have about vanished. My dad worked his way up to VP of a very large private company, working there over 20 years, and he was laid off in a restructuring 2 years before hitting the pension requirement (I can’t believe they still had one!). For myself, how can I commit to staying at a company where I haven’t had a raise in 3 years, but my work hours and responsibilities keep increasing? I’m here and will do a good job, but loyalty? No.

      1. Kelly O*

        Amen to this.

        I watched my Dad work for the same for 27 years, and although he was literally the last one out the door, it left him with a very specialized set of skills in an industry that was dying. (Coal mining in Alabama.)

        From the time he was 45 until he died at 48, he worked at two different companies. The first was also mining related and he stayed there until they shut down. By the time he found another good job that required similar skills, he only stayed about six months before his cancer diagnosis.

        All those years of working 12-16 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week, believing that one day something good would come out of it and he could retire, and then having the whole thing yanked out from under him… it was heartbreaking for him. And then he stayed loyal. He was the last warehouse guy. And it didn’t do any good.

        I guess I just got jaded on staying with someone forever when I saw how more than one of those companies treated guys who had literally worked their whole lives there.

        I’ll work for you. I’ll do the best job I can. But I have to be loyal to myself and to my family.

  12. some1*

    As a former receptionist, I totally sympathize with the OP. Some people really do treat you like you’re invisible, and it can be very lonely feeling stuck up front by yourself. & asking a co-worker to come out so you can go to the bathroom, or have lunch, or whatever, really does almost feel like you are actually asking permission after awhile, which feels infantilizing. I also worked in an office where employees would set items on my desk while they were in the reception area (coffee mugs, gym bags), which had me fuming inside because I felt like they were invading my personal space, when in reality it was a personal space AND a common space.

    All that being said, I have to agree with Allison’s advice. The work may not be as stimulating as you want right now, but that could change when you get promoted. Also, I would go ahead and take on those copying projects, and once you show people you can do that well (and not everyone can use the copier), they will give you more to do.

    A lot of people aren’t always stimulated by their jobs. A lot of people work as a mean’s to an end. If the job isn’t giving you the kind of satisfaction you want, try something more stimulating on your evenings and weekends. Take a class, join a book club or a sport’s team.

    1. Fort500CO*

      I started in the warehouse when all the other employees up and quit due to “unreasonable work load and expectations and this is a dead end job…” I displayed a positive attitude, recognized the value of what I was doing and did it well. No slacking off, no short custs, do a job you are proud to sign your name to. Result? Promoted after two years, over 30 years in the industry – over 20 years with this one company. Worked up to within 3 spots of the CEO from warehouse – not bad. Would not have happened if I acted like my co-workers and treated it like “just a job” and did the minimum to get by. I’ve worked hard enough that I have had two twenty year managers (shared job) give me the highest performance review they had ever given anyone. When the layoffs happened, I was one of five people kept (out of a hundred people). Hard work DOES pay off

    2. Admin Advocate*


      Yours is by far my favorite comment on this posting! You really brought attention and genuine empathy to what the OP wrote of in her letter to Alison.

      Also, your suggestions to gain more trust and respect at work– complete the copying assignments well–and alleviate her dissatisfaction through stimulating outside activities are spot-on, at least from my perspective.

      Again, great comment!

    3. Happy Career Receptionist*

      Amen. We can’t take it personally. Some people are just rude to anyone. They’d even disrespect the Lord himself if he came to their door! I think much of the problem today is too many people over identify with job titles and think what they do is who they are. That’s why it’s important to have a life outside of the 9-5: family, friends, hobbies, church (if you’re religious), that sort of thing. Balance is the name of the game. It took me awhile to figure that out but when it did, it was definitely freeing.

  13. KarmaKicks*

    I’ve worked for the same company for 15 years. I started out as a receptionist then worked up to an admin assistant after about two years. This was a contract position, but when it was about to end they offered to move me to the corporate office (much more stable). I’ve since moved through several departments, made it to admin coordinator, and survived three layoffs mainly because I’ve kept my attitude a cheerful one and done my job. This job isn’t one I ever envisioned myself in, and it’s not for everyone, but I’ve grown to love it. With time comes more responsibility. Keep yourself visible and always come in with the right attitude. If your company is worth their salt, they will move you up when something comes open. If you’ve other skills they can use new avenues may open for you. Two of my duties now are recruiting and processing travel!

  14. some1*

    Also: I would take the former receptionist’s claim that the company refused to promote her with a grain of salt. I worked with a receptionist once who couldn’t understand why she didn’t get promoted to an admin asst in one of the depts, because, like in your company, the receptionists who proved themselves got promoted. The reason she wasn’t promoted was because she was notoriously unreliable. Her mgr never disciplined her for it, but no other mgr in the company would go near her.

    1. A Bug!*

      Yup. “I’m going to give this job exactly what I think it’s worth. They’d better promote me or give me a raise if they expect me to be reliable or to work any harder than I am now.” Good luck with that!

  15. Mary*

    I would love this job as I have been ‘between jobs’ for YEARS now. I would be able to support myself and work on my other interests after work. Some people see not being promoted (and probably no overtime) gas a plus!

    I would also add that I worked for years as a receptionist and it can be humiliating if you let it. But if you show interest in what others’ are doing your supervisors will notice and want to take of advantage of your skills in other areas. That also happened to me.

    1. fposte*

      I also think people will often treat the employee differently if that person is clearly new, eager, and interested in learning all about the workplace–then they’ve become a person worth interacting with. I suspect that some of those people the OP complained to her boss about are people she could have learned a lot from–but isn’t likely to get that chance now.

  16. Ariancita*

    I want to reiterate Alison’s response about not withholding your skills and capabilities. This is exactly how you get ahead. Yes, those skills will be incorporated while you’re in the position, but they will prove your added value and you will move up. That’s how it works. I have a very large range of seemingly disparate skills and areas of expertise. When I take on a role, I automatically contribute my additional skills and this has always resulted in me being highly valued, promoted, given raises, given praise, and huge tears and being told over and over that I was irreplaceable when I eventually moved on. Withholding your capabilities and skills will only hold you back. Plus, wouldn’t the job you have now be more interesting and fulfilling if you were engaging as many of your capacities as you could?

  17. Anon*

    OP – I just want you to know that there are others exactly like you and you should NOT feel bad for feeling the way you do now. I’m kind of… disappointed in everyone for jumping down your throat.

    As a young person, I was told by every adult out there that a college degree would be gold. I could easily expect a 60k job right away and to be respected for my skills and knowledge. I was told this by older more experienced people. I didn’t assume that this would be the case because I was ungrateful or expected things to be handed to me. Gosh I grew up on welfare are foodstamps. I thought those adults were crazy – but it’s what they kept telling me.

    The 60k jobs happened for a few of my friends but the majority of us are stuck in “dead-end” jobs. It’s tough being a receptionist or whatever and having a lot of coworkers treat you very disrespectfully when you know 3x as much about technology as anyone in the office and could do all their technology driven work better. It’s tough when you have to hold going to the bathroom when you are DYING to go because you can’t get coverage.

    It’s tough when people make you feel guilty and like crap for feeling unhappy about where you are in life because all those people gave you false expectations.

    I empathize with you and understand.

    If you’re unhappy with your position you have two choices:
    -Keep doing your job well. Everyone here is correct in that in takes time to move up in a company. Show them your awesome skills and be patient.
    -If you have awesome skills and some good education and you just ended up in the job because you needed the money – go find another job that will let you use your skills better. You may get payed less – a lot of technical jobs start out as low paid internship positions. But go find a better job for you. It sounds like you were probably overqualified when you took this job and were hoping for something better right away.

    1. Jamie*

      “It’s tough being a receptionist or whatever and having a lot of coworkers treat you very disrespectfully when you know 3x as much about technology as anyone in the office and could do all their technology driven work better.”

      I find it ironic that where you’re complaining about disrespect you go on to express an incredible disrespect for others.

      The dismissive attitude toward your coworkers would be a problem in any workplace.

      1. Anon*

        It’s not disrespectful when it’s a fact. Can anyone in IT make a spreadsheet faster and nicer? YES of course.

        It’s disrespectful if IT goes around saying: “wow you suck, let me do that for you.”

        Did I say the OP could do all their work better? Of course not. I said technology driven work.

        1. Jamie*

          And that’s factually not true. Knowing how to make a spreadsheet faster and nicer (which is not an IT function, fwiw) has nothing to do with being able to do the technology driven portion of their work better.

          Being able to process POs faster in an ERP doesn’t make you better than the Buyer if you don’t understand what goes into the work. Same for putting a capacity plan in excel. Excel skills are nice, but they don’t make a capacity plan without knowing what the formulas/data is/are and what they mean.

          Ability to navigate programs means nothing without context. If I leave my iPad on my bed my cat can and has typed in a blank email. It doesn’t mean he has any friends on Facebook.

          Whether it was your intent or not, the comment about being able to do their technology driven work 3x faster is a demeaning statement.

          1. Anon*

            And right there you are being demeaning in return. You are assuming that the receptionist or “lowly office worker” doesn’t have these skills. You compare the receptionist to your cat. In the economy we’re in, there are a lot of very skilled workers in entry level jobs.

            I made a statement and I stand by it.

            “It’s tough being a receptionist or whatever and having a lot of coworkers treat you very disrespectfully when you know 3x as much about technology as anyone in the office and could do all their technology driven work better.”

            You are assuming that this is a false statement and therefore a disrespectful one because? It’s not likely that a receptionist has the skills to back this statement up?

            Now it so happens I was referring to a less technology oriented business – I’m not talking about Microsoft. I should have made that clearer. Of course it would be pretty presumptuous to think that you can do the technology aspects of everyone’s or most people jobs better if you work in a highly technical office.

            But I stick by the original statement:
            People show disrespect to other people = fact
            These same people are often less skilled in certain areas than the people they show disrespect to = fact
            When you are the person who is getting disrespected, it is frustrating = fact

            And when you are being disrespected in an office environment, of course you don’t give off those vibes and you don’t say disrespectful things out loud. You smile and kill them with kindness and then you go home and comment on a blog and get jumped on for being disrespectful.

          2. khilde*

            If I leave my iPad on my bed my cat can and has typed in a blank email. It doesn’t mean he has any friends on Facebook.

            I’m not sure this comment is going to get the respect it deserves.

            If I told this to my cat, he’d probably throw me a look of feline contempt conmplete with his ears cocked back, eyes half slitty until I walked away.

              1. Kelly O*

                That would imply my cat caring enough to do it. She would probably roll her eyes and think “god do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?”

            1. cf*

              I set up facebook pages for my cats. Actually, it was catbook. But they had some friends.

              Still, I agree with Jamie.

          3. Kelly O*

            I don’t think she is being unreasonable.

            I do think it’s a little unreasonable to be disappointed that the majority of comments are honest and realistic. Let’s be reasonable here –

            – In most organizations, eight months is barely long enough to qualify for vacation, much less move up.

            – In order to develop positive, lasting relationships upon which promotions and raises are built, you have to be willing to adapt yourself to the environment. That also means not assuming you know more than others just because you recently graduated.

            1. Anon*

              Sigh wasting too much time with this today. I didn’t say I knew more than others because I recently graduated (I never said I was a recent grad in fact). I said I had more technology skills. Which is a fact. There is no assumption happening here as I have done parts of these jobs before.

              A lot of the comments imo seem to be almost bordering on name calling – not honesty and realism. Others here share this opinion. Maybe we’re just too soft skinned.

              1. Heather P.*

                ha! I can definitely vouch for being too soft-skinned at times. I wouldn’t say name-calling but a bit Holier Than Thou in tone in some cases.

              2. Anon*

                Yes Hesther – that’s it. And perhaps why I’ve gotten so defensive. I like what another commented said – it’s very much like saying “Eat your dinner because children are starving in Africa.” As I assume we’re all on even ground here – it’s much like saying this to your friends (I’d probably get a look and a sharp word for saying such at lunch to a friend.)

            2. Aja*

              It’s possible to be honest and realistic without being mean and nasty. I am surprised at the piling that happened here. I’m old as hell and I can still have empathy for someone who is young and naive. That is not saying the OP shouldn’t be told the truth but I found AAM’s response to be unduly nasty and a lot of the commenters follow suit. I believe in being honest and direct with people (and that can come at a price) so I’m not suggesting sugar-coating things. but this OP got a ration of shit unloaded on her when she was looking for help and I think it was not AAM’s finest hour, or many of the commenters.

            3. Admin Advocate*


              Just curious, does the OP actually allude to knowing more than her colleagues? I noted his/her displeasure at feeling disrespected and limited with tasks and office mobility, but nowhere in the letter did I actually see the phrase “I know so much more than these people.”

              Could you explain where you drew that conclusion? If that statement is indeed in the OP’s letter, I am more than willing to admit carelessness in reading. However, at the moment, I’m mystified by your conclusion.


    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Anon, it sucks that you were misled about what a college degree would do for you. But I think you’re projecting your own experience on to the OP, and that’s allowing you to overlook some really troubling attitudes expressed in her letter. She’s not writing in to say she has a tough job; she’s writing in to complain that her company (which sounds like it treats employees unusually well) isn’t giving her something she hasn’t earned yet. And she’s showing no appreciation for having well-paid job with good benefits in a really horrible economy, with what I’m guessing is very little work experience. Yes, many new grads were mislead about what their degrees would do for them — but anyone who reads a newspaper knows what kind of economy we’re in.

      (I also agree with Jamie about the technology comment. Often when I’ve seen new-ish grads make comments like that, they often have no ideas of what their colleagues’ work actually involves. It’s often not just about knowing the mechanics of technology — it’s about having additional expertise as well, expertise that the people I’ve heard make those complaints haven’t had. Their inexperience, in fact, was what allowed them to mis-read the situation.)

      1. Anon*

        I understand that it could have come off as disrespectful.

        However, I am not a new grad and have done some of the work I see coworkers do all the time. I know for a fact that I could do it faster and better because I have. This is primarily because of my technology skills that many in the older generation are lacking.

        However, it’s very difficult being disrespected by these people and being looked down upon. I see it happen constantly in the working world. Someone in a “higher” position looks down on someone in a lower position – assuming the lower position person knows nothing and is somehow less of a person because of their lower position.

        How easy is it to walk into a restaurant or the an office reception area and assume the person behind the counter doesn’t have a lot of education and probably isn’t that smart because they aren’t in a 60k a year job?

        1. Anon*

          I’m not trying to be argumentative or disrespectful.

          I just know how it is to have to deal with office bullies who tend to pick on the small fish.

          With the companies history of losing receptionists – and having met a very disgruntled one, I wouldn’t be surprised if the OP has an office bully or two making it harder to accept being in the position for long.

          1. fposte*

            But the OP hasn’t mentioned being bullied. That’s you again. People not holding you “in high regard” isn’t bullying. People treating you as just being there to do your job isn’t bullying.

            I would also say, as intimated above, receptionist tends to be a job with high turnover, because people early in their career want to move up from it, and no company has a limitless supply of spots to move up to. What the OP describes doesn’t sound atypical–some people got promoted, and those that couldn’t get promotions there left.

            1. A Bug!*

              “People treating you as just being there to do your job isn’t bullying.”

              Thank you so much for this. I’ve been having trouble putting that exact sentiment into something less than an essay.

              From the letter: “There are some people who treat me like nothing more than an order taker and in effect signal that they feel superior to me.”

              To me, this could read as people being disrespectful, sure. But it could very easily be someone interpreting perfectly benign delegation of work as disrespect, especially if it is a person who is working in a position for which the person herself has no respect.

              (“I am superior to reception>a receptionist’s tasks are beneath me>someone asking me to perform a receptionist’s task is implying I am inferior.”)

            2. H*

              “People treating you as just being there to do your job isn’t bullying.”

              THIS. I was trying to find a way to post about checking your emotions at the door at work and not taking stuff so personally and you have summed to essentially what I was trying to say!

              I see it as you can’t stand tall and shine if you are carrying around a big bag of “resentment” about the job you currently do. Its a waste of energy that could be spent elsewhere.

          2. Michelle*

            I am currently a receptionist (a rather humble and conscientious one, if I may say so) and I’ve been enjoying this whole discussion. When I started, I felt I was being disrespected or even bullied by one particular higher-up supervisor. I found that the way to get on her good side was to consistently demonstrate my willingness to embrace each task I was given, no matter how big or small. Over time she realized how useful I was to the company, and to her in particular. Now we get along beautifully.

            I also echo the comment above about finding/creating little projects for yourself when there’s not much to do. You can show your supervisor you are useful in ways she may not have even considered if you’re willing to take the initiative and self-motivate.

            1. LMW*

              There’s a certain type of negative behavior/attitude that reponds beautifully to this type of positive response or reaction. Took me years to learn that!

      2. Admin Advocate*


        Silly comment, but please don’t expect anyone under 30 to really read a newspaper. Newspapers are of a bygone era, as many of your former journalist posters can attest.

        Now, young people are so much more likely to consume infotainment in the forms of “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “Jimmy Kimmel,” “MTV,” and an assortment of blogs. These newsy young people may also be conservatives who watch FoxNews and religiously read its website, but I seriously doubt that even they read The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Times.

        1. Kelly O*

          I’d like to submit my own name as an under-35 (for a few months at least) who does not read purely one source of news. I know many others my age and younger who can tell the difference between satire and news, and who understand the spin they’re getting from all sides.

          For the record, I have the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, BBC World News, and CNN among my bookmarks. I listen to NPR. I consider myself moderate.

          I know lots of others like me.

        2. Xay*

          Just because we dont carry newspapers, doesn’t mean we don’t consume news. I just have the luxury of reading news sources from all over the world without piling up a stack of newsprint to do it.

        3. Pauline*

          Wow, that is incredibly insulting and ignorant of the under-30 set. And here I thought our national ills were caused by Uneducated Olds who harp too much social causes and are overly hung up on Reaganomics, which they were spoon-fed on TV by a president who served his first term before I was born, instead of having an adequate grasp of Keynesian economics.

        4. Laura L*

          A. The Washington Times isn’t the paper of record in DC, it’s the Washington Post (Maybe you were thinking of the New York Times?)

          B. Do you know anyone under 30? We read newspapers. We just do it online.

          C. My parents think it’s funny that I get the Sunday paper. They don’t understand why I don’t just read it digitally (I want the coupons).

    3. Anonymouse*

      No one can promise their life, values, or goals will never change.

      I remember that my post-college life was nothing like what I had expected, and it threw my whole concept of the “adult” world into chaos.

      She’s experiencing the hard knocks for the first time. Remember the young lady who wrote in that her parents! encouraged her to hold an unrealistic view of how much she could make?

      That is what I am seeing here. Trial by fire. I’m not seeing a self-entitled twit.

      1. Ornery PR*

        I agree with this. It’s amazing how another perspective can discolor your own rosy view of a situation so quickly. I got a really decent job after college where I was making over $40K and the job allowed me to use all the skills I learned in college. I got great benefits, had awesome coworkers and generally loved the job. But then, my boyfriend started telling me how crappy the PTO was and that I should be getting paid way more for what I was doing (he makes 3xs what I do with no degree for a govt agency he’s been at for 12 years – his perspective of how the corporate world works these days is pretty far off from reality, imo) and I started thinking he might be right, and that I was entitled to more money and more time off. I started getting disgruntled with a job that used to be a perfect fit.

        Luckily, I realized that though his intentions were good ones (telling me I was valuable), ultimately the attitude of entitlement was not going to do me any favors in my career. Perhaps this is what is going on with the OP. It’s hard not to listen to advice given to you by a person you love and respect, even when the advice is bad.

  18. COT*

    I don’t work in a reception role at the moment, but I wasn’t too excited about my job duties when I was hired at my current organization, either, and I was always thinking of it as a short-term gig until I could do what I really wanted. It’s part of learning how to enter the workforce as a young grad, especially in a tough economy.

    I knew my predecessor (we were colleagues when I worked elsewhere) and so I had heard her vent about the challenges of the job. That was part of what made me hesitant to take it.

    Now that I’m approaching 3 years, I’m content, and while I’m excited for whatever is next, I’m not in a hurry to leave. I am lucky to have an incredible work environment and I get some amazing opportunities to grow my skills. Yes, I see the challenges my predecessor did, but I don’t let myself be bothered by them. I don’t let her gripes poison my outlook. Limited budget? That’s an opportunity to be creative. Boring, routine tasks? I learned how to do them more efficiently so I could free up time for projects I enjoy. Lack of respect for the role? I found (for me) that I looked down on myself much more than anyone else ever did.

    Because I improved my role and willingly shared other talents, my job has gone from PT to FT and my supervisors see me as invaluable. They know what my skills are and they assign me work that puts them to use, even when they’re outside of my traditional duties. I still have do some stuff I don’t like (everyone does), but that’s life. It’s true that there aren’t any direct promotional opportunities here for someone in my role (and that is sometimes frustrating), but when I do decide to leave I’ll have an excellent, diverse portfolio of skills to take with me.

    Eight months in I would have felt somewhat like you did. I’m so glad I stuck it out. Now I’m happier in my own role and much better equipped for great opportunities elsewhere when it’s time to leave.

    This economy is a tough learning curve, especially for those of us newer to the working world. Let yourself learn and grow all you can. Choose an attitude of contentment and curiosity… see where that will take you.

    1. Anonymous*

      Very well said! I also try to make the most out of every job as I feel that each has something to teach you.

    2. jmkenrick*

      “Lack of respect for the role? I found (for me) that I looked down on myself much more than anyone else ever did.”

      I love this. I think feeling disrespected in a role sometimes stems from a place where people have this idea that being a ‘receptionist’ (or ‘bakery employee’) from a previous thread is somehow menial, or anyone could do it. Then, when you’re not accepted for a job (or you have a job) that you think of as safety, of fallback, it can be harder to take it seriously.

      Evil HR Lady has a great post about what it means to be “overqualified” that plays into this.

  19. Wilton Businessman*


    I am expecting you to be in the job I hired you for at least 2 years. Prove to me you are good and you will get promoted in a couple of years when the opportunity comes available. Prove to me you “hold back your talents” and you will be a receptionist forever.

  20. Editor*

    The OP sounds a little entitled and unfamiliar with the work world, but at the same time, she may have thought she could move up after a year, so being told to wait 11 months may have felt like a blow.

    I would go crazy if I had to ask someone to cover every time I needed to use the bathroom or go to lunch. While it isn’t easy to predict some needs, if she wants to go to lunch at a regular time, why can’t someone be assigned to show up at her desk so she can leave without pleading for a break?

    Because I’ve pretty much lived in rural areas while my husband had a career that moved him around and paid well, I’ve never had a job where I was paid over market value. As long as the job market continues on its present path of basing salary on previous earnings, the OP will have a lifetime benefit from starting with a higher salary.

    I worked with someone who was very negative, and it is a problem when an employee tells everyone around them that every aspect of work is soul-sucking corporate idiocy. Even though our employer indulged in a lot of soul-sucking corporate idiocy. You’ve made your point about being treated with respect — drop it for the rest of this year, at least.

    Please find something fulfilling to do in the evenings or on the weekends so your job just seems like an amazing way to learn more about all aspects of the company and a good economic foundation. Sock as much in your 401(k) as you can or pay down your bills so you’re debt free, and feel good about yourself.

    1. some1*

      “why can’t someone be assigned to show up at her desk so she can leave without pleading for a break?”

      That’s what was done when I was a receptionist. Unfortunately, a more people than not would lose track of time and I’d have to go track them down.

    2. twentymilehike*

      While it isn’t easy to predict some needs, if she wants to go to lunch at a regular time, why can’t someone be assigned to show up at her desk so she can leave without pleading for a break?

      I was that person for a while. It wasn’t a bad arrangement at all! The receptionist had three scheduled breaks throughout the day, and if she needed to “go” anytime inbetween, either myself (a low level admin) or the office manager would relieve her, and it was a nice break from my routine work.

      OP, with regard to this aspect of things, become friendly with someone who enjoys small breaks from their work and let them be the first person you ask to relieve you if you need to step away between breaks. Also, talk to your boss about having a regular person show up at your desk at the same time every day to give you a break–whether it’s your scheduled 15s or just a couple of five minute breaks here and there. If someone else knows that relieving you is part of their job description, then they shouldn’t have an attitude about it. It will help you feel more comfortable and supported until you earn your next move up the ladder!

    3. Kelly*

      At different places I’ve worked, different teams/departments would be assigned a day/week to cover the reception desk. So If I work on the XYZ team, the third week of the month is our week and we’re expected to cover breaks/lunches amongst ourselves (and also days when the receptionist is absent). But that’s non-profit, where everyone is expected to do anything all the time, might not fly in the corporate world ….

      1. fposte*

        Actually, one thing the OP might try to do is enact such a schedule. That’s both using initiative and making life simpler for everybody.

      2. Kelly O*

        We have a schedule for covering phones; everyone understands it, and although we have people who complain, and loudly, the phone is answered.

        Having been the receptionist before, I don’t mind picking it up. I know what she’s dealing with.

    4. COT*

      Also, if you have only a desk phone, ask for a headset or cordless phone so that you can answer calls without being chained to your desk. This won’t solve the problem of needing personal breaks, and it won’t help if you have to greet in-person visitors, but it might help. Present it as a simple way to make you more efficient without having to pull others away from their work.

      But yes, sometimes certain co-workers may welcome a break from their duties to cover for you. I know some days I enjoy the “excuse” to get away from my desk because someone else needs help.

      1. Karyn*

        I LOVED the little portable phone that my first receptionist job had – it was a Cisco phone and it had a little handheld that looked like a cell phone that I could walk around the office with. It made getting things done in the stock room SO much easier!

    5. Natalie*

      It’s a fairly minor thing, but when I was on the reception desk I found it helped a lot to simply ask Jane/Joe if they could “cover the phone” rather than saying “Hey, I need to step out to the bathroom.” For whatever reason, that felt less demeaning.

    6. Monica*

      Well said. As I’m getting older, I realize that the job I have doesn’t define me, it’s what I do during my off hours that make me who I am. I agree with the comment about becoming debt free because that’s why we go to work isn’t it, so we don’t have to do it til our dying day?

  21. Kelly*

    OP, this stuck out to me:

    “The truth is, I don’t want to be a receptionist for the rest of my life. For me, this is more of a means to an end, and now I’m more than ready to move on.”

    Your letter sounds like you never wanted to be a receptionist at all, and that you took this job because it was a job and you needed a job. Nobody can blame you for this, in the current job market, there are lots of people with specialized skills and talents looking for and taking jobs outside of their chosen field. Unfortunately, the bad job market that may have forced you into this position doesn’t stop affecting your career advancement once you’re finally working somewhere. This place may have promoted from within in the past, and might again in the future, but there might not be anything for you because they’re stuck in a hiring freeze, or because two job descriptions were just combined into one position, somebody quit and their departments is just going to try and get by without replacing, them, et cetera et cetera.

    I agree with AAM that you’re not being offered an opportunity for promotion because you’ve only worked there eight months and it’s not reasonable to expect that at this point. But a lot of the tone of your letter was similar to the “But I’m GREAT and totally QUALIFIED and they thought I was AWESOME so WHHHHY didn’t I get the job?” letters that are a regular AAM feature. It’s worth remembering, if you’re not offered a promotion now or 11 months from now, that you might be great and skilled and talented and their lack of ability to provide you with career advancement has … absolutely nothing to do with you.

    In general, I agree with everyone above: the best way to stand out at your job is by doing your job.

  22. Esra*

    My mom worked as a corporate receptionist for a couple years and was on the way to being promoted when she married a man with cash money and retired. I’m not saying you should follow her lead re: wealthy spouse and early retirement, but here are a few things that helped get her noticed:

    1. She streamlined the way they dealt with FedEx/Purolator/couriers and the savings really added up. She integrated her streamlining into the receptionist role and then presented a plan to her manager to expand the savings.
    2. She noticed the little things and was very detail oriented. The supplies ordered became more timely and organized, partners and shareholders were happier coming into meetings after dealing with someone pleasant and attentive, etc.
    3. She volunteered for extras whenever they came up. Working customer appreciation nights, covering vacation and taking on extra tasks, really making herself valuable beyond her role.

    Also, don’t be afraid to ask people to come out to cover washroom breaks. It’s part of their job too!

  23. Alison*

    I was a receptionist for 3 years while I finished my degree. I liked that I didn’t have a ton of responsibilities because I also had school to worry about, so I wasn’t champing at the bit to leave, but I knew that my performance while I was there was still important to my future. I took pride in being the best damn receptionist I could be, and I did my best to have fun on the job (I love meeting new people so that part was easy). I did my work thoroughly and cheerfully, took on any projects that came up, and developed very strong relationships with everyone I worked with/for.
    When it was time for me to move on to a more “serious” job, I had an office of 50 people who all offered to bend over backwards to help me get to where I was going. I decided not to stay at that organization but my network and their contacts helped my find my current job, which I love and where I’m challenged every day.

    1. COT*

      So true–one advantage of being the receptionist is that you know SO many people in your workplace, more so than folks in some other roles. That could be such an advantage when it’s time to move ahead, either in your workplace or outside of it. Make yourself invaluable and you’ll have co-workers begging to hire you into their departments.

  24. Tiff*

    Sounds like a job I had a while ago, except I was the new admin assistant and part of the gig was manning the reception desk. But I was determined to shine. I became the person that answered questions and helped resolve problems. I created fabulous powerpoints and began ghost writing for the Senior VP. The great thing about my old job was their willingness to let me handle just about anything. The sucky thing about it? I realized they’d never pay me for it or acknowledge my work with a promotion.

    Of course that is discouraging. But here’s the thing. You do your best no matter what. Either the powers that be will see your stellar performance and promote you, or you take those newfound skills elsewhere. For me, I put in 2 brutal years and knew I would never get promoted. So I took my skills to another organization for a significant (15K) raise. Skills that I would not have had if I’d stuck to just my job description. Instead of looking back on my horrible “dead-end job” I just see it as more of paid schooling type of thing.

  25. Jubilance*

    I was in a similar situation – I took a job & about 6 months in realized that I didn’t want to do that type of work anymore. But I had to suck it up & do the job I was hired to do. I had a great boss who was willing to give me some stretch assignments, but it was very clear that I was expected to do the job that I currently had, and I had specific duties that had to be completed. There was just no way around that.

    I think the OP will be happier if she puts her focus on doing the best job she can, and enjoying her life outside of work. Sure it’s not your dream job, but you still have to give it your best.

  26. Karyn*

    OP, my career progression has gone as follows:

    Post-graduation, I got a job as a receptionist at an accounting firm which I did during the day and then went to law school at night. Admittedly, their bar was not high when they hired me – the last girl they’d hired showed up hungover almost every day. But, after a year and a half, they promoted me to Project Coordinator and renamed my former role to “Administrative Assistant,” because I’d grown it so much during my time in it.

    When I moved back home, I was able to take my awesome administrative skills and transition myself into a Legal Assistant role, which I also did for two years. Once again, I expanded the role well beyond what it was when it was given to me.

    Now, post-law school, I am waiting a year to take the bar exam because I want more time to prep for it, and in the meantime? Because, again, of my stellar administrative, organizational, and people skills, I was offered the position of Chief Operating Officer of a small boutique law firm. I work in a corner office on the highest floor of the tallest building in my city. I do a variety of tasks, including personal assistant type stuff for the partners, but also legal research and writing, as well as the office administration and accounting.

    My point is not to blow my own horn here. My point is that while you may think your job doesn’t have meaning, that it’s beneath you, and that people aren’t treating you with “high regard” that you think you deserve… why are you so convinced that nothing you’re doing now will help you in future roles? The way to get promoted is not by “holding back” your skills for a future role – it’s by proving that you deserve that future role by excelling at the role you’re currently in. I speak from experience. Throw yourself 110% into your job – and I know that it’s not easy EVERY day, but at least try for 6 out of 7 days of the week – and the rewards will come thereafter… not the other way around.

  27. Katie*

    I too am surprised at the reprobation in this thread. Our OP outlined the many benefits of her position, and I’m sure she knows how lucky she is to have said benefits in the current economy. Do we really have to feed her the career equivalent of “eat your dinner because there are starving children in India”? She’s not satisfied with the job, she’s frustrated with the perceived slow pace of the company, and she feels disrespected in her position. Even if you disagree with her view of that situation, I think there’s better advice to offer her beyond “stop your whining” and “stick it out.” Such as:

    1) Reflect. It sounds like the OP has done some reflecting already, but I am firm believer in calm, regular, brutally honest looks at one’s career. Questions to consider: what about this job is making you feel so disrespected and inferior? What are you *specifically* looking for from this job that you aren’t getting? You might not get it here, or anywhere, but you can always…

    2) Start looking. Look for jobs that might better serve the career goals you reflected upon (you might want to consider startups, which tend to be more fast paced and open to giving people lots of different responsibilities). Check open listings, research companies you like, and figure out what kind of skills these positions and companies require. After this, you can…

    3) Build these skills at your current job. Taking on new projects and responsibilities will be much easier if you have a clear sense of how they could benefit your career. You still have to perform all of your other duties, but even if you never get that promotion, you can use the job as a platform to securely train your way out of this career path (within reason, of course).

    I’m not a hiring manager myself, so I certainly open my comments up for scrutiny. But I truly believe that these steps would give the OP a sense of control over her situation, which might significantly affect her perspective. No job is perfect, and while it may seem like a good deal to many who posted above, it might not be the best deal for her. Why must we insist that she should feel otherwise?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re overlooking the tone of the letter, which is what is producing this response to it (mine and other people’s). It would have been very different if the letter had said: “I took a receptionist position thinking that it would be a foot in the door. It’s only been eight months, but I’m finding that I just really hate the work. I realize that I signed up for this, but I don’t think I really understood what the job would be like. I respect people who do this work, but it’s not for me because of XYZ. If I stick around, I can eventually get promoted, but I’m not sure about waiting as long as that would take.”

      That would be a very different letter, and it would have produced a much different reaction. But it’s not the one she wrote.

      1. Katie*

        Fair enough. I suppose I’m sympathetic, as I imagine I would feel similarly in this situation. I still think looking into other opportunities is a good idea. Getting a sense of what’s out there might give the OP an opportunity to either a) find a position that’s a better fit for her (and therefore better for all parties), or b) realize that this job actually has a lot going for it that she didn’t see before. To say nothing of the fact that it would alleviate that horrible sinking feeling you get in a job that might go nowhere (which might not be the case here, but it’s an unpleasant feeling, nonetheless).

        1. fposte*

          Well, and you got me thinking, and the fact is that it’s still tough to read scores of posts pointing out your weakness no matter how kindly it’s meant. So I’m all in favor of your encouraging us to remember to be compassionate.

    2. jmkenrick*

      Actually, I think there’s a lot of thoughtful advice in this thread. I just think commentators are pointing out that a) 8 months is not that long to be in a role and b) it sounds like the company was honest and open about what the role entailed, so her complaints seem a little unjust.

      It just seems that most people are emphasizing part 3 of your approach. Which, honestly, I think would be best, since assuming this is a fairly recent grad – pretty much any role she’s going to find is going to have a lot of boring aspects. Since the company she’s with is good, and they are talking to her about promotion…it seems reasonable for her to stay, work on her skills, and work on learning how to make the most out of what’s not her ideal situation. (And let’s be honest – finding your ideal situation is really hard.)

    3. fposte*

      Katie, nobody said “stop your whining” or “stick it out,” and I think that’s not an accurate summary of a comment response that’s included some thoughtful advice on how to make more of the position and some understanding from people who have been in similar positions.

      But the OP asked for advice. There may be places where that’s the same as validation, but they’re not really useful places. I think one of the most helpful services that people can provide to an advice-seeker is to bring perspective that that person seems to be lacking. That’s not condescension–most of us are blind to at least a few of the reasons why we struggle in any given situation. And I think it’s actually doing no favor to avoid mentioning such a perspective when it’s likely to be a salient part of why somebody’s having difficulty.

      1. Katie*

        Hmmm. So, I agree with you that many posters are encouraging the OP to take a different perspective and take advantage of a position that may have more value than she originally thought – this is valuable advice. I think this advice is most purposeful (ie, likely to be heeded) in the instances where posters made the case for the unseen value of the position (ie, how it allows you to understand the company in its entirety, connect with many high ranking people, be an important gatekeeper, etc.), rather than express distaste at her current lack of satisfaction of the work. AAM pointed out that the major problem with this letter was not the OP’s feelings on the matter, but the tone in which those feelings are presented. I think my post intended to suggest the same thing about some of the responses.

        I will disagree with you on one point though: I think validation is a valuable first step when offering advice. That is, if the ultimate goal of your advice is to have it be followed. You are right: most of us are blind as to why we might struggle in a particular situation – it’s human nature, really, and we do, as you said, a disservice when we don’t offer our insights into a struggle. But when you offer empathy, you create a bridge of understanding to your perspective that someone is more likely to cross. For many, it seems like the OPs tone was so off base as to not merit an empathetic response, or that they didn’t feel obliged to give one in this particular forum. Nevertheless, in the end, it works better – and what is management about but getting stuff done?

  28. AP*

    I also started out as a receptionist out of college (at my current company – I have a much higher role here now but still oversee the office environment and receptionist even though I’m in a different department. Small company!)

    I had an epiphany about 6 months into it that if I wanted a career at this company, I needed to stop acting like it was a job. I started taking ownership over everything I covered, and the area got bigger and bigger until eventually it was a whole new job, and then I replaced my old duties with a new person. I moved up into the department I wanted to be in because I told the director I was interested in what he did and wanted to learn from him – he gave me one thing to do one week, and I had time (because I had streamlined other things!) and did it well, so he gave me two more the next week. And on and on – now this is what I do full-time.

    Now when we’re thinking about promoting people, we look for people who take full ownership over what they’re doing NOW and are constantly thinking of ways to make it better for everyone – those are the people who succeed. People who withhold or are flaky or seem unmotivated end up crashing out and leaving.

    Oh one more thing that the poster above me reminded me of just now – the best part about reception is that everything in the company has to pass through you, in one way or another! You have the schedules, you see who’s calling, you interact with everyone, you seriously get a a good understanding of how everything works and breaks down. Use that! (Not in a creepy way.) But many people who have different jobs in the company would love to have that full picture understanding, and it’s something that I miss regularly now that I’m not near the front desk.

      1. Eggs and bacon*

        Yes, this.

        That’s how I’ve moved up but that’s also what I look for when thinking of promoting someone. I find that people often think they will start doing more after they get promoted when the truth is that it is the people who show interest, think big and I really like how AP put it, “take ownership” of their jobs that get noticed and promoted.

  29. LMW*

    I’ve been a receptionist a few times. The second time, it was a little disappointing. I just out of college, but only landed the job after months of looking (I also had the lovely experience of graduating in a down economy). The pay was terrible and it was totally out of sync with what I wanted from my career. But I found ways to make it more interesting. I always volunteered to help my colleagues, and I did it as well as I could and with a smile. I told people what I was interested in long term, and asked if they had something I could help with in that area. I wanted to be an editor, so I got to sit at my front desk proofreading correspondence and reports. That was HUGE in letting me win my next job.

    When I left I had a long talk with my manager and they actually ended up turning the position into a different role entirely (plus the person answered phones). And they made sure to hire someone who was excited about that job and wasn’t just looking for a job. From what I heard, she’s still with the organization.

  30. AFormerReceptionist*

    I was in the letter writer’s shoes at one point but you know what I did? I was patient! I helped out each department I could, I voiced my concerns, I let my manager know I was taking night courses in human resources and I made sure that my work was impeccable. I was lucky enough to be in my position for just over a year when they promoted me to HR. She just has to be patient and take your advice. 8 months?? Are you kidding me? That just reeks of entitlement. And if they put her in another position, how long will it be before she complains about that role? 8 months is not a long time at all and she needs to get her head out of the sand and be grateful that she even has a job.

  31. Lanya*

    Just to throw in my two cents here…I worked in a small non-profit company where the executive admin was denied opportunities for upward advancement simply because the CEO liked working with her too much and “didn’t want to lose her”.

    She had brought all kinds of additional talents to the table to show her worth, and they were all absorbed into her job description one by one until she was doing the work of about 8 different people on top of the executive admin responsibilities. She was subsequently denied for each of the three internal job openings she applied for (she would have qualified for all of them). It took her 5 years to realize her job would never go upward at that company, but once she came to her senses, she got out of there.

    I realize this is not the OP’s situation, but I thought it would be worth mentioning on this post because sometimes upward motion truly is impeded by the fact that a boss really doesn’t want to lose a particular employee.

  32. Kelly O*

    As a long time administrative assistant (although not the actual Long Time Admin) I have to add a couple of things:

    First, administrative support can be a great place to learn about how a company truly works, and the best place to start learning that is the reception desk. You learn the people who call, what they do and who they’re talking to, and as time goes by you’ll find yourself taking more messages and being privy to information that not everyone else has. You’re the gatekeeper, and it’s an important role with tons of discretion and responsibility involved. Translation – a fabulous way to meet all sorts of people and think about where you’d like to go, if you want to move up the ladder.

    Second, you haven’t said anything that I have not personally witnessed in my own career. And honestly there was a time when I would have bailed at six months for a higher salary and the advice to “follow your passion” and “don’t settle for less than you deserve.” I have a very difficult period of time on my resume right now because of that. You may be awesome, but trust me. You are not that awesome. Yes, there are some companies where you can move up quickly, but those are perfect storm things. Normally it takes time to prove yourself, to develop trusting relationships with decision makers to put yourself in a position to be on their mind when something opens up.

    Lastly, consider this a time for a meaningful learning experience. I wish I had done this, so please, please, learn from my mistakes. Think about the things you truly do dislike, and try to find a positive way to change them. Do you not like how some people talk to you? Why is that – is it a tone, an attitude, a body language issue? How do you think you can respond to that in a way that alleviates the issue? Meaning – take responsibility yourself for the way you are perceived. Taking the overall tone of your email into account, I’m thinking there may be a disconnect between the way you think you’re coming across, and the impression you’re actually making.

    By taking responsibility for attempting to improve those communications yourself, you’re not only doing a positive, overall life-lesson thing, but you’re taking another step in proving your value as an employee and your growth in the position. And sometimes being proactive in the soft skills area is more important than getting a promotion and title. These are the things you’re going to take with you the rest of your career, and the things upon which your reputation will be built.

    You never know… your staunchest supporter a year from now may be that person who you feel is talking down to you today. It may not be, but wouldn’t you rather know a year from now you did what you could to improve things, rather than complaining or giving up?

    I know what I wish I would have done.

  33. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    I took a part-time receptionist job while I tried to finish my thesis. It turned into a full-time job when the other part-timer quit. It was a very low-key job– they mostly cared that I was there to answer the phone, and whatever else I did was up to me. I read a lot, and even knitted at my desk. But when they did have a project for me, I dropped everything, did it quickly, and did it well. After a year the business closed, but my manager from that job is still one of my references, and they loved me.

    My next job was also as a receptionist, but with more responsibilities than my first one (it was a shared position with front desk and HR). And gosh darn it, I was the best receptionist I could be. When they asked me to do something that wasn’t really in my job description, I did it, I did it well, I did it quickly, and I didn’t complain. And I found myself getting more and more responsibilities, until, 9 months into the job, I got promoted (no raise because of a raise freeze, but it was a promotion) to a training position in HR. When my boss offered me the job, she told me that she knew I could be more than a receptionist, and that she wanted and was willing to give me the chance to develop my skills. Sadly, I got laid off 3 months later, but it was against my boss’s wishes, and she is my strongest reference. She’s said repeatedly that she’d hire me back in a second if her bosses would let her.

    I’m now making 75% more an hour than I did in that first receptionist job, have ever-increasing responsibilities, and continue to wow my supervisors and coworkers by taking on additional, harder, responsibilities, but also being willing to make the coffee or make copies or do whatever it takes. Do I want to be an admin assistant for the rest of my life? Probably not. But I have a job (and after 3 lay-offs, I AM grateful to have a job), I’m appreciated, and every single thing I’m asked to do adds to my store of skills, knowledge, and experience. And it started with a part-time receptionist gig.

    Do your job, do it very well, do whatever is asked of you with a happy, can-do attitude. That line in your job description that says “other duties as assigned”? Make that line your highest priority until you’re so awesome, any manager in the company would love to have you on their team. Make everything else you do so valuable that they’d rather pay someone else to do the mundane receptionist stuff, because your time is precious. It should work– and if it doesn’t, when you go looking for a new job, you’ll have an awesome skill set to sell. Good luck.

  34. Anon for this*

    OP, I had a pretty similar experience with my first job out of college. Others have covered the idea of streamlining your job and reorganizing aspects of it as a challenge. I would like to address the negativity of the woman who trained you.

    I have worked in my office for 4+ years, 3 as the admin assistant (with reception duties). About four months ago, my small office experienced a lot of turn-over, including someone who was deeply, pathologically negative.

    I didn’t fully realize it until after I left, but this woman’s attitude inadvertently spilled over onto everyone else in the office, affecting how we approached our jobs as well as our emotional well-being. I was even deliberately trying to counter-act that, and she still affected me.

    I really urge you to set aside whatever feelings about the job this previous receptionist imparted to you. Even if things take a weird turn and everything works out exactly like she said, bitterness is not a great emotion to hold onto.

  35. Heather P.*

    I’m probably going to get flack for this and I do want to say that the intentions of many posts seem good and the critical feedback being given is definitely warranted as well as predominantly constructive and helpful. The OP’s tone did sound incredibly entitled etc. without a doubt. However a lot of the responses of people laying out how great they were and step by step details of how they progressed to where they are today are kind of coming off a little bit err– “Holier Than Thou”. Just saying….

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, I’m not reading it that way at all. I think there’s been some incredibly good advice here about how approaching your job in a certain way can really pay off.

      1. Heather P.*

        There has been a lot of incredibly good advice as I also mentioned. Just- if I was the OP (who I wish would comment) and I am reading through all of these stories of people’s lives and how because THEY approached their beginnings as a receptionist SO MUCH BETTER they wound up successful I think I might find it overwhelming to digest. That could also be a good thing but at the same time a few of the posts are a bit much. Depending of course on the OP’s particular circumstances of which we are not completely aware like age, education background etc. Just my opinion.

        1. Anon...*

          Alright, alright.. we GET IT. You think her tone was wrong… and so many others jumped right on the bandwagon and chastised her. Many of us DID NOT get the tone you seemed to hear. Because it wasn’t there. I do think that you, my beloved and revered AaM, started this thread of bash the OP – folks followed your lead – and many of the ‘regulars’ especially joined in the OP bashing. (and yes, I saw your Facebook remark.. I was surprised you did that). I love this blog so much, you and the commenters.. I HATE when I see OP bashing and have commented before when its gotten over the top. Today made me sad. Let’s knock it off, huh? And some of us… it’s just time to say goodnight Gracie. Turn the testiness off for now – tomorrow is another day.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There’s a difference between “bashing” and straightforwardly addressing some really problematic assumptions. Yes, there were some comments here that got inappropriately hostile and personal — but the majority didn’t, and I don’t believe mine did. The feedback here has been tough, absolutely. But “tough” isn’t inherently bad; in fact, sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed.

            (And my Facebook remark, for those who didn’t see it, was that I’d just answered a letter that made my blood boil. Because it did. I don’t have any problem with saying that; if you do, well, my style isn’t for you, apparently. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.)

            1. Anon...*

              Nope, your style if fine,my cup of tea. I’ve been reading and posting for well over a year now. I was surprised that this particular letter made your blood boil. That seems quite over the top (at least from what I’ve ‘known of you by your posts over the last year+) and certainly colored your response – and in turn, imo, encouraged many of todays commenters to run amuck in the OP bashing dept. That is my opinion. YMMV.

      1. Heather P.*

        It may well not be. People here are always incredibly helpful as a group so I don’t think anyone was meaning to necessarily come off that way. I just thought it might be worth noting that it can come off that way when people are telling their career progression and at the same time being critical (though rightly so) of someone who they currently feel will not attain that success if they continue in the same attitude.

        1. Heather P.*

          oh sorry Alison I didn’t see your comment when I responded last time. People have every right to be annoyed by the OP’s tone. I’m just picturing a young person (again I could be way off-base with that) reading through this with an already jaded mind thinking “You people just want to brag about your accomplishments” or something like that and missing the point because of the way some commenters are giving the advice and the tone it appears to be given in. That isn’t the majority but I do think it can come across that way.

        2. Jamie*

          I can understand that – but personally if I’m stuck I think the most helpful advice comes from people who’ve been in the situation and have gotten unstuck.

          When I’m in a bad place career wise and I want someone to tell me how awesome I am and that everything bad is someone else’s fault because I’m the most perfect employee ever…I’ll tell my husband or one of the pups…because they just listen and love me.

          Which is not to say that I think the OP wanted that – I don’t – just pointing out that sometimes when you’re stuck you need someone to snuggle you and tell you they love you no matter how stuck you are (dogs are especially good at that…I adore my cats but I think if I lost my job they’d be looking for better digs…make sure that kibble is bought on time).

          But as nice as that can be, and I think the whole world should be nothing but snuggling with critters, it’s not all that helpful at work. What is helpful is advice from people who have been similarly stuck and have gotten themselves unstuck. We learn from mistakes, it’s kind of awesome when you can learn from other people’s missteps so you don’t have to make them yourself.

          1. Kelly O*

            Disclaimer – none of the below comments are directed toward the OP or any comments other than my own.

            My best friends are the ones tell me when I’m being stupid. They’re not jerks about it, but we all love each other enough to just say it instead of beating around the bush with a bunch of “you’re awesome but…” business.

            “Kelly you are being stupid. Don’t worry about doing what you love. Love what you do outside work. Stay somewhere a year and then we’ll talk.”

            Nearly verbatim the conversation. Short, sweet, to the point and it made me think. Yes, I was pissed at her for an hour or so, but when I realized she was telling me the truth.

            Sometimes the truth is not unicorns, rainbows, and soft kitties. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with that. Like so many things, I learned THAT one the hard way too.

        1. Anon*

          I wish I had friends like this. Nearly all of my friends would say something along the lines of, “You’re a receptionist… you could be doing so much better.”

          It’s tough to be content when it feels like people (parents, friends, teachers) don’t think you’re doing well job wise – economy or not.

  36. Tater B.*

    VERY insightful comments. I actually feel like this should be one of the top posts for the year. There are quite a few nuggets of wisdom about career paths that would be beneficial to a lot of young people in the workplace. It’s even beneficial for me, as I am putting serious thought into changing careers.

  37. NB*

    I had an employee once who starting talking about looking within the organization for new position shortly after he started working for me. He damaged his reputation as the agreement was that he would stay in the position two years and other managers felt his behavior was unprofessional

    As receptionist the OP has the ability to interact with a wide range of company employees and should take the opportunity to talk to others in the organization about their positions and how they got there. I typically find people are happy to talk about their careers. I reach out to people I don’t know on Linked In every day and I am amazed at how generous they are with their time. I always tell them why I am contacting and give them an out if they are uncomfortable speaking to a person who has contacted them out of the blue. I only had one person tell me no and she actually told me why which I felt was very thoughtful.

    I am a senior mgr at a small company and all kinds of menial tasks end up on my plate. I would never consider telling the owner that these tasks are below me. Because of this I have a reputation as the go to person to solve problems and others know they can depend on me. Sure their are time it is frustrating but ar being a team player means rolling up your sleeves and doing things that aren’t in your job description and picking up additional responsibilities when others are need a hand.

    We organize meetings for high profile professionals and many of them treat me like I am their personal assistant. My personal goal is make sure their time with us is productive and the experience memorable. Thus I do my best to handle any small detail so their focus is on participating in the meeting.

    So my advice to the OP is stay in your position two years, quit complaining, and implement some of the suggestions that others have offered.

  38. Jojo*

    In the old company I worked for, there was this receptionist who was working there for 42 years (that was her first job and the only one, ever). She was ‘the boss’ in the Lobby/Reception area and didn’t hesitate to tell off people who didn’t follow ‘her rules’. But she was such a sweet lady that you didn’t mind being bossed around by her. On her retirement day, the CEO/President (we’re talking about 500 fortune company here, which I’m sure each of one you have heard the company name) made sure he had it on his calendar to attend and give a speech to honor this “Ms Company Name”.

    I am not saying that OP should stay in her current position for 42 years, just wanted to give her perspectives about ‘respect’. Yes, lots of time it comes with your (high) position, but on the other hand, just because you’re in the lower position doesn’t mean that you don’t get the respect. You just don’t get it from everybody, just like in any other job, or in life for that matter.

    Suck it up for a year and do your best. And if this not a position of choice of you, lay out a strategy to get a better job within, or outside of the company. If you are as good as you think you are, I’m sure you’ll find that job.

  39. nyxalinth*

    Hey OP, I’ve been out of work since December. You don’t want to work at all.

    I propose a trade. A year or two of unemployment should settle you.

    I had a receptionist job through a temp agency that lasted 3 months. come time to hire me or not, they hired some cute skinny young thing for the front desk, instead. I only found out when I came in that day to start and she was in the reception area.

    “Oh my, you’re the receptionist?” she says, and looked very uncomfortable.

    I have to admit I haven’t tried for another receptionist job, but hey if you don’t want yours…

    1. some1*

      Temp jobs are temporary. It’s crappy that the assignment didn’t tell your temp agency you were no longer needed, but what does the receptionist’s looks have to do with anything? None of that was her fault.

      1. Anonymous*

        For all we know (maybe you have more info), that “cute skinny young thing” was the regular receptionist, who was on leave for three months…

        1. Anonymous*

          Err… the “you” is directed at the top level commentor, not the post directly above mine.

      2. nyxalinth*

        True enough.

        at the time, I thought I’d been replaced because I wasn’t the ideal front desk person in terms of looks. I guess it still sticks with me and needs to be examined further.

        1. Moi*

          There are attractive and less attractive receptionists. The range in looks is huge. It must be horrible to feel like you’re being judged this way. The world does judge, yes, but it does sound like some issues here might be worth addressing on your side if for no ohter reason than that you deserve not to feel this way.

  40. KT*

    My company had two receptionists. One spent her down time reading magazines and gossiping with passersby. The other, who was in charge of paying company cellphone bills, used her spare time to create a spreadsheet of cellphone data usage and fees, and called a bunch of cellphone companies to see who could give us the best rate. She saved the company 1000s of dollars. Guess which receptionist was let go and which one is now a manager in marketing?
    My point is not that the OP is slacking, but that to be treated valuably you have to be valuable. If you want to be promoted, act like it. I think AAM went easy on you when calling you “whiny.” Much harsher words came to my mind. And I am someone who paid her dues, believe me! I’ve spent days photocopying, fetched coffee, and manned the phones. People who treat the receptionist poorly are asses (sorry AAM for swearing) but those people will likely treat you poorly after you get promoted. In fact, if you get promoted, you may notice people who treat you really well stop talking to you because you are no longer of “use” to them. Sucks, but it happens.

  41. Heather*

    ” I assure you that the work is meaningful to them; that’s why they’re paying someone to do it.”

    I LOVE this! Next time I don’t get my faxes because the receptionist hasn’t filled the fax machine with paper because it’s beneath her I’m going to trot this out.

  42. KayDay*

    I’m really happy that the OP wrote in about this, because it’s a hard place to be when you are fresh out of school or early in your career (which I am assuming from the discussion….) You certainly want to be ambitious and make the most of your career, and it’s hard to know when you are starting out what a normal rate of moving up is. People don’t get great fulfilling jobs by accepting an unchallenging job and staying there for life because “at least I have a job.” Seriously, there is nothing wrong with having ambition. I’ve noticed that sometimes people tend to attack administrative people for it, and that’s just wrong.

    That said, (to the OP) you aren’t normally going to get promoted in 8 months. Your company has said that they will review it again at your next review and that’s really great! This company has promoted people from receptionist, so that’s a really promising sign. Secondly, people often have to move out to move up. That’s maybe more common in industries different from yours, but it still happens all the time, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    You need to focus on doing a great job in your role now. As Alison said, you need to give your current job your all–taking on additional work, even crap work, in the same position at the same pay is how people move up. If your doing exceptional work, talk to your boss about where you see yourself in the future, and hopefully they will find a place for you. If after at least a year or year and a half, there still isn’t an opportunity for you to move up, yep, you might have to move on. People will be very understanding if you gave this job your all for a sufficient amount of time and there isn’t a place for you.

  43. JP*

    I think everyone’s done a great job of laying out some encouragement and ways to improve your overall outlook and work towards that promotion you’re hoping for! On the most practical side of your letter (taking breaks), it might be worthwhile to see if you’re able to direct calls to another phone while you’re away. I’ve worked several temp receptionist gigs (and am currently in an admin role that includes answering calls) – I always hated having to call someone to watch the desk so I could go to the bathroom/get water/whatever too. At one of my placements the phones had “loud mode” that would push the call to every phone in the office (small company); an assigned coworker would come cover the desk during lunches, but if I needed to run to the restroom or go get the mail, I could put the phones on loud and everyone would know that someone needed to answer the phone. At my current job, there’s a “send calls” mode that will direct incoming calls to the line of your choice that would also be useful for taking quick breaks and would probably feel less like inconveniencing someone since you aren’t asking them to leave their desk/their own work.

    1. some1*

      Most office phone systems have the capability to call in & dial the extension of the person you want, & this is a lot cheaper than paying salary and benefits for an employee. If a company has a receptionist, it’s because they need an actual gatekeeper at the front to greet clients, visitors, and keep out people who don’t belong.

      1. Natalie*

        Maybe, maybe not. When I was at the reception desk, we got almost no walk ins and didn’t have direct lines because our corporate office wouldn’t pay to upgrade the phone system. Now that we have a shiny new phone system with direct lines, our admin still sits at the front desk and answers a main line.

        1. Thomas*

          I work in an role that has me calling to business customers I have not previously worked with to speak to specific people in the organization. I am continuously amazed at the number of places that don’t have direct dial capability that could. I contact a lot of IT/technology outsourcing companies, and even they often have receptionists answering phones!

          1. Jamie*

            It’s very common in small-midsized business with a strong focus on customer relationships.

            I’m not opining one way or the other on whether this is achieves the end or not, but the mindset is that that having an actual person answer the phone is more personal.

            It does come in handy when the staff is small enough that they often cover for each other – so the customers don’t have to keep bouncing in and out of the routing menu to try to find someone in the office who can help them.

            So even those who have a full time receptionist on phones may still have the capabilities to put the phone on group pickup (or whatever your system calls it) so when the receptionist is away from the desk people can grab the phones without having to physically be at the front desk.

            Moot point though for those with a lot of external traffic at the front desk – but works well for some offices.

  44. Katrina*

    I getcha, OP – we’ve all been in an entry-level-or-less position. I started as a part-time assistant and I took pride in doing my work correctly, I self-started on projects that obviously needed to be done, I showed up every day ten minutes early, so on and so forth. After 15 months (yup, over a year) they asked me to get licensed, now I have a designation, and 6 years later (with no high school dimploma and no college degree) I’m in a much cooler and much more challenging position where I get to Really help people.

    Work ethic, in short, is what will help you get where you want to be. When that other department gives you a menial photocopying task, BOSS OUT ON IT. Don’t just copy it – try to get the staples back in neatly, break out the binder clips and organize it, put “Sign Here” tabbies on it, and when you hand it back say, “Anything else right now? Alright, well just let me know if you have anything come up.”

    Good luck, OP! My big advice would be stick it out, but if you do, be willing to work and take a little pride in what you’re doing. And don’t ever complain about how you’re being treated unless it’s like, serious. Some people are arrogant, and yes, you’re going to want to develop a thick skin ’cause sometimes you can’t avoid it.

    1. Anonymous*

      Just curious – what field is this? I always thought you needed a degree to get pretty much any professional designation.

  45. OP*

    Wow. I’m surprised by how much attention my question has received – I guess I ought to clarify a few things. Firstly, I am educated – I have completed both a bachelors and a masters program. While this is my first job out of university (the comments about my youth are correct) I am not completely inexperienced. I’ve held a number of support-staff positions in the past, but they were for the most part short stints during my time off school. Perhaps the above explains why I felt entitled – I thought my experience and education would get me places more quickly than the previous receptionist. I realize now that my education really has nothing to do with my job as a receptionist (I studied in a completely different field), and that I will need to pay my dues before I can move up. Accepting this job is not something that happened to me; I am aware that I played a very active role in that decision. I thought my promotion would require that same amount of agency.
    I wasn’t trying to insinuate that I wanted to quit tomorrow; since this is my first ‘real’ job, I wasn’t aware of how things worked. I wanted some clarification on what I should expect, and I found that here. Thanks to everyone for putting this into perspective. I have to say I can see where most commenters are coming from. I should be patient and shut up in the meantime. I now have every intention of doing so.
    It was far from my intention to seem rude or ungrateful. Perhaps, as a few comments suggested above, I didn’t choose my wording very carefully. I should have explained that while the company is great, I want to take on more responsibility, and I want to earn some respect and move on from the little annoyances of my current role. To defend myself, I don’t think I’m a whiny child, at least with regards to my comment that ‘every time’ someone treats me poorly I run and tell my manager. The incidents are few and isolated, but have definitely stung me, including a couple of instances of persistent sexual harassment. I hope you can agree that I shouldn’t have to put up with this.
    I also wasn’t trying to suggest that I will withhold my skills from my employer; I was taking what the previous receptionist had said to me about the company’s not wanting to promote good receptionists and (mistakenly) translated that to mean that I shouldn’t pull out all my tricks right away, in case they get eaten into my current role, and eventually get taken for granted. I take great pride in my work, I’ve streamlined a lot of my tasks, I’ve made many solid relationships with both clients and coworkers, and I am confident that I would have several great references if I were to leave. I’ll be the first to admit I became jaded in thinking that was enough to move me up.
    Anyway, hindsight is 20/20. I appreciate the advice. I’ll continue trekking on and learn to take more pride in what I do.

    1. jmkenrick*

      What a nice response! You sound like you’re doing pretty well, just struggling with being bored.

      I hope you’re able to move up. And until then, I think Katie’s advice about using this as a time to reflect and figure out what you’re looking for in the long term looks really helpful.

    2. Anon*

      Good god, are you female? From one gen Y woman to another (though I’ve worked for 8 years): if you are, it’s time to learn some charm. The world (and workplace) is WAY less forgiving of “entitled” women than it is of “entitled” men. Ever seen a reality tv show? You don’t want the B!tch Edit. Especially since the reputation you build is really the only currency that you have.

      Also, this is very harsh but it’s true so I’m going to say it. The truth is that the cream rises to the top, even in a recession. If you truly were exceptional amongst your cohort, you wouldn’t be a receptionist. You’d be in your dream job. Since you are not there, you have to check your ego at the door. This doesn’t mean you won’t be the next president or GE (or your industry equivalent). But you’ve earned nothing greater than what you are currently experiencing.

      1. Another Anon*

        Wow that was kind of harsh. This economy is really tough and I’m seeing a lot of smart capable people getting crappy jobs. Sometimes it’s just life’s circumstances and the inability to take an unpaid internship that takes that dream job away from an other wise outstanding person.

        I’m not even going to get into your woman comment.

      2. Aja*

        You’re extremely unpleasant and I hope the OP has the good sense to ignore you. Based on her follow-up post and the fact that she posted so nicely after some people here were so fast to trash her, makes me think she’s smart enough to spot a troll.

        1. Ellie H.*

          I feel like after starting with “Good god, are you female?” it’s all downhill from there!

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Okay, come on, that was unwarranted, particularly in response to a pretty gracious comment from the OP.

        Yes, the OP’s initial letter seemed like she needed a dose of reality, but she’s gotten it — and her comment here makes that clear. It’s one thing to constructively point out where someone’s thinking has gone astray; it’s another to pile after the person has indicated that they’ve received the message, and still another to personally attack. Please don’t do that here.

      4. ANB*

        Sorry Anon, no the cream does not always rise to the top in a recession. A lot of good people do not have their dream jobs through no harm or attitude problem of their own.

    3. ES*

      To touch on a few points you made:

      “I’ve held a number of support-staff positions in the past, but they were for the most part short stints during my time off school. Perhaps the above explains why I felt entitled – I thought my experience and education would get me places more quickly than the previous receptionist.”

      I think those are the kind of roles that probably got you this job in the first place and probably gave you an edge over other candidates. They might not be so helpful in getting you a promotion (past entry level most employers are looking at your full-time work history), but they were still valuable.

      “I thought my promotion would require that same amount of agency.”

      It does! It’s just a different kind of agency on your part. As has been mentioned over and over, shining at your job, honing your skills, making connections are building things you can put on a resume are all hugely helpful. Put your energy into that.

      Good luck! I know how frustrating it is to feel like you’re not really going anywhere.

    4. JM*

      What a gracious response! Good on you for handling the deluge of advice very well.

      It’s been said before, but I’d like to chime in as a fellow admin: you’re really lucky! Not just because of the benefits and above average wage (though that’s nice too…) but because as receptionist, you’re in contact with a lot of key people in the different departments of your office. Impress them by doing great work and showing ambition — offer to help with more specialized tasks in the deparment you’re most interested in working in. That will really pay off for you later down the road.

      I’m glad you asked the question, because there’s a lot of great advice here that I’ve learned from too, and lots of success stories that I find encouraging.

  46. two times*

    I just got a pedicure and gave the guy a really good tip
    I didn’t even get a “Thank you”. Guess he doesn’t realize there’s a nail shop on every corner.

    Interpret this as you like…

  47. Anonymous*

    This may be naive but what kind of job do you expect to be promoted to from receptionist?

    My experience has been internal promotions occur as you gain experience in your field and they bump you up to a job that requires more responsibility/technical expertise/managerial skills.

    Unless you have a Master’s degree in Admin and are trying to get an Admin/HR job I don’t see how you should expect to be promoted to some other position at all. Even then I would think there would be junior level positions doing this type of work that you would want to start in.

    As a receptionist you aren’t gaining any more marketable skills or experience that will make them want to pay you more unless your desired job is directly related to the type of work you do as a receptionist.

    1. Katrina Prock*

      You would be a little mistaken in this assumption. You can move into a lot roles from a position like this. And I’m really glad I don’t work for you.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree that you can use this as a springboard to other things.

        As others have said its a really great vantage point for learning the company and getting an invaluable global view.

        I personally know people who’ve moved from entry level admin positions into accounting, HR, operations, marketing, purchasing, and IT. That last one was me.

      2. KT*

        Yes, where I work it’s very common for receptionists who have proven themselves to move to entry- level positions. And it’s not fair to say receptionists are not gaining marketable skills or experience. That’s just not true!

    2. Natalie*

      I moved from being the receptionist to being the bookkeeper, and I could have moved into the property management side if I had been so inclined.

      With modern phone systems, there are very few offices where the phones are so busy they need someone answering them literally nonstop like the switchboard room in Mad Men. I’d venture that nearly all receptionists do a number of other duties as needed.

  48. Sdhr*

    I wonder how much of the OP’s concern is from the old receptionist. I didn’t read her letter quite as whiny as others did. I think she just doesn’t know and this other person planted this seed in her head. I say give her a break!

  49. Mishsmom*

    one of the lessons of this world, imho, is to learn to make the best of any situation and make choices that support what you want if you don’t like where you are (professionally and personally). while you are making other choices or working towards another goal, it doesn’t hurt to try and appreciate what you already have – it’s not about morality – it’s just easier to live that way. attitude goes a long way – and may make your job easier to handle until you do find something that is a better fit. good luck!

  50. Snow*

    It *is* possible to get promoted after 8 months – if you’re truly great at what you do, valuable and have proven yourself. It actually happened to me; I’d literally been on the job for that long and was promoted and received a significant (30 percent) raise. But I really worked my tail off, and made sure to go above and beyond for what was expected of me. I’m also very good at what I do, so it wasn’t hard to shine.

    1. A nony rodent*

      You also have to recognize that luck plays a big role in many of these situations. I received a promotion after well under a year once, but it was because someone got fired (and was asked to leave immediately) and they needed someone to fill in. Sure, I had been working hard, but being there at the right time/place probably had more to do with my promotion than my hard work.

      1. NicoleW*

        Exactly! I was promoted once after a month – a month! Yes, I was good at my job, but the insane turnover was really what sealed the deal.

  51. Cheska*

    I was an admin/receptionist for 3 years. To the OP: Here’s what I learned:
    * Be inquisitive. Ask questions. Ask relevant questions. For example, someone asked you to make copies of a meeting agenda. Read it and see what’s on there. I’ve learned quite a lot by asking questions. Also, it’s great since it shows that you are interested in learning more.
    * Do your job cheerfully. I didn’t like being an admin/receptionist 100% of the time but you have to do it anyway. Like what others have said, be creative and find ways of making things more efficient. Organize.
    * If you do not find the job challenging, that is perfectly fine. I’ve learned that sometimes, the challenge is not going to come from your job. You have to create the challenge outside, if it does not exist at work. Take a class, read a book, learn project management, or learn how to code. Doing this will not only increase your skills but will also let you have far more interesting conversations at work, which can lead to having people see you in a different light (like much more than a receptionist).
    * Like what everyone else suggested, use your skills. Not only will the company benefit, but you will get to practice your skills and maybe even learn something new. :) People will see and they will remember your work. Also, this can result in you getting more challenging projects! Win-win!

    Good luck and hang in there!

  52. Elizabeth*

    I have to disagree with most people here. I think two years is a pretty long time for someone with a master’s degree to stick it out as a receptionist. I think everyone involved would understand that this is a stepping-stone position and the OP is expecting to move up (although in my opinion and experience, this doesn’t happen anymore, unless you want to move up to office manager). Why would they hire someone with a master’s degree thinking she’d want to stay the receptionist for two years? And why wouldn’t they want to be putting her other skills and education to better use in furthering the needs of their company?

    As far as people treating her disrespectfully, I have been a receptionist, too, and I think it comes down to other staff thinking that their time is more important/valuable than the receptionist’s. But the receptionist has a scope of responsibilities and job duties and boundaries just like everyone else. I’ve gotten dumped on because someone doesn’t feel like doing something that is their responsibility but they feel like they don’t have time, so instead they’d use my time. The office manager (who was not my supervisor) was unreliable and often didn’t do parts of her job, so people would ask me to do them instead of confronting and dealing with the office manager. People would expect me to have answers to questions and solutions to problems that had nothing to do with me because I happened to be sitting there with “nothing to do” since I was “just the receptionist.” And forget about getting people to cover for me during lunch and bathroom breaks. Clearly whatever they were doing was much more important, eye roll.

    On the other hand, I’ve been support staff in environments where I was treated like a valued professional.

    So I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the OP is being entitled or whiny. Perhaps it’s really not a good environment. I have seen people be poisoned by their outgoing predecessors, though. But start trying to find things to do–don’t wait to be given things. See if your work and efforts are recognized, even just with praise or appreciation. You will get a sense of where this is going. Trust your gut.

    1. Anonymous*

      “other staff thinking that their time is more important/valuable than the receptionist’s”

      Umm… by definition, their time is more valuable to the company, because the company is likely paying them a higher salary. That’s why CEOs have assistants to answer their phones. If you’re not doing anything, exactly what’s wrong with getting other work during your downtime? The way I see it, the additional responsibilities actually make you more valuable to the organization.

    2. Katrina*

      I second Anon 8:33 – Our receptionist does a lot of the inputs to generate reports that we analyze… because his time to do data entry is cheaper than my time.

      Also, she’s been there a few days shy of 8 months and they’re asking her for another 11. If I had a company that paid me above market, was flexible and treated me like an adult – I’d stick out the 11.

      1. Anon*

        I think the OP understands that she’s paid less and it’s cheaper for her to do certain things. It’s why a lot of data entry can be assigned to receptionists. However, a receptionist has a lot of time sensitive, very important tasks that the company pays someone to have done. When most workers go on a vacation, they’re on vacation. When a receptionist goes on vacation, she needs coverage or the company pays a premium rate to hire a temp – because her work HAS to get done.

        She is busy and has things that need to get done and need to come first. Maybe there’s reconciling and paying a phone bill for the week before the AP deadline, helping a customer on the phone, ordering the office supplies before the next day delivery deadline, or shipping something that needs to be in the mail box in 10 minutes.

        It’s a real issue when someone expects her to do their work that they are payed to do. I’m not saying that she can’t help out when she can, but what she does for the company is important and it has to get done.

  53. FlyOnOver*

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this particular post. I am newer to the career job force, and while my situation isn’t exactly the same, I have had similar feelings as this receptionist.

    It’s nice to hear some solid advice from professionals with more experience than I!

  54. Kelly O*

    I would also like to thank the OP for commenting and letting us know more about what’s going on.

    The real downside of the recession for a lot of people is that sometimes you just have to take the job you can get, to get your foot in the door. I can imagine you’re frustrated having a Master’s and answering the phones all day, especially in your first “real” job.

    But still, think about the advice you’ve been given here. Learn your company. Get to know these people. Learn all you can about the industry. Take every project you’re given and see how far you can stretch it.

    And don’t let your predecessor and her negative attitude affect you too much. Seriously, it’s one of the hardest things to deal with in an office sometimes, but learning to tune out the Negative Nellies is a huge life skill you’ll benefit from learning early on. If that’s the one thing you learn from however long you’re up front, it’s been a valuable time.

    And, since it’s your first real job out of school, you can also learn the ‘real’ ins and outs of office life. The good thing about the receptionist is you’re normally sort of set-apart from the other worker bees, so you can observe without engaging. It’ll help you learn about the company, sure, but it will also help you learn about how people act, how other people respond to that, and the end result of those actions. The ultimate in people-watching, if you will.

    Just don’t take things too personally. Whether you feel like someone is talking down to you because you’re the receptionist, or you feel like the order-taker, or whatever. Learn to step back, evaluate the action and determine the long-run best result. Observing others in the office and how they interact with that person can be a huge clue as to how you might want to deal with it.

    Good luck though. Although I don’t have the advanced degree, I do remember my first office job.

  55. Anon*

    I guess another important question that springs off of this is:

    Is it normal to be in a receptionist role for 2 years when you have a Bachelors or Masters?

    Many of my young friends thought they would immediately be in medium level positions because of their education. (Heck I just found out a friend who graduated with her Bachelors in June is working for a very large tech company and has the word manager in her title.. I don’t know her exact role)

    But a large number of us are in professions that are generally looked at as the bottom of the rung – no education – positions. Receptionist, retail, food service…

    Is the OP’s circumstance normal. Should she stick in her receptionist role for 2 years when she’s earned her master’s (and I’m sure put a lot of money in to it)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, very common. Education doesn’t usually qualify you for medium-level positions; in most fields, it qualifies you for entry-level positions. And two years is a pretty normal period of time to stay in a first job (often it’s longer).

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      “Manager” in a title means nothing. “Account Manager” means you are a sales person. “Relationship Manager” means you are in customer service. “Database Manager” could mean you are in a data entry position.

      It depends.

      The roles and responsibilities you have will dictate your level to the rest of the world, not the title.

      1. Anonymouse*

        “Manager” means two things: Firstly, at some point during your day, you do something very similar to herding cats. Secondly,you are a manager if you are being paid *well* to do all the crap you don’t like.

  56. LuciaK*

    I think some new grads’ eagerness to move up quickly has a lot to do with pressure from their parents and older family members who are not knowledgeable about the current job market.

    Many entry-level jobs of today that require a degree were once jobs that only required a HS diploma. If your parents have invested money into your college education only to see you get a job straight out of college that in their day they could have gotten straight out of highschool, I can imagine the type of pressure they’d put on you to “do something with your degree.”

    This pressure is what leads many new grads to become antsy in these entry-level positions and not be too eager to stick around for years before a promotion. They are looking for a quick return on their (or their parents’) investment.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Hey, everybody wants to move up and be promoted. When you’re first starting out, the status of a promotion and title is more important than the actual work itself. Eventually maturation kicks in and the person understands that meaningful work is more important than a title or a raise.

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s not just maturation – a $10k raise is a lot more meaningful when you make $20k rather than $70k!

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          And a lot more unlikely at $20K too.

          The point is that young people are worried about moving up as they think title and money brings “props”. Some people never grow out of it, some people do.

          1. Anon*

            Not props so much as basic needs. I think we would all agree that 20k can be really tough to live on if you need a car for your job and you have debt to pay off from school – especially if you are not lucky enough to have supportive parents.

    2. Anon*

      I agree with this and would love to see more people talk about this. It’s really really tough to deal with pressure from parents and well-meaning friends (even if they didn’t pay for your college education).

      It sucks to feel like a failure for getting a job out of college that your parents could have gotten with a HS degree.

      1. LuciaK*

        A lot of new grads are dealing with this. When I graduated HS the job market was better, and the few people I knew who didn’t go to college now have 5-8 years of career development on my college buds. The crazy thing is that the jobs they walked right into after HS now require a degree. Some of them are now in supervisory roles over the college buds and on top of that, they are debt-free, homeowners, and have started families.

        However, I think the degree will pay off in the end, which is why many of them have decided just now to pursue their degrees–with tuition reimbursement and years of work experience of course!

  57. AV*

    I love AAM. I read every single post. She is truly awesome and has taught me so much about management. I love her honest and no-BS style.

    AND I was somewhat surprised at her response to this post. People with entitled attitudes write in all the time and she is seems fairly even-handed and neutral with them. So her reaction seemed uncharacteristic. I also personally didn’t get a super-entitled tone from this letter-writer, mostly an inquisitive/naive one. Her follow-up note seemed in line with the tone I perceived from the original letter, with some added graciousness.

    Which is interesting to me because it’s a reminder of how subjective these kinds of perceptions can be in dealing with others, *especially* in writing. Tone in email can be hard to perceive accurately, but we often forget that. I’ve made some glaring errors on this front. I’m glad for this reminder.

    OP – you sound like a professional and gracious person. Good luck. I won’t repeat all the great advice here, but every place I’ve ever worked has seen our team admin go places when he or she is committed to doing so. It absolutely happens all the time.

    AAM – love your stuff!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s fair.

      There were a couple of spots in the OP’s letter that I thought were really revealing of a problematic attitude (“I am not receiving the respect and high regard I feel I deserve,” for instance), and I read the letter through that lens. If a couple of those sentences were deleted, I would have read it more as naive/not really understanding how this stuff worked, but those few sentences really changed the overall tone of the letter for me.

      It’s useful to get the feedback though. And thanks for your nice words!

  58. Happy Career Receptionist*

    Well, I’ve been at my present position for over a decade and I think AAM is right on the mark. I do this job by choice and I’m more than a little sick of the way people look down their noses at receptionists. It may not be a prestigious job, but it is still an important one. We are there to make our bosses look good and to give the company a good image. I think one of the reasons why so many become easily frustrated at this job is because they don’t understand what the job truly entails. Plus some have a very ‘romantic’ notion of what meaningful work is. To them, meaningful work means they’re out there saving the world or getting lots of attention like a celebrity. However, most jobs aren’t like that except for in the movies. Finally, if a company is going through a lot of receptionists, they may want to view how they are treating the person and the position itself. Are there people looking down their nose and treating the person as though they are somehow “lower” or a loser for taking the job? No one wants to feel disrespected on the job. Show your appreciate for your receptionist and show it often, not just with decent pay but by actually saying it when appropriate. Makes all the difference in the world. Also to would be receptionists, get over yourselves. You are not the star. You are the supporting actors. That’s the nature of the job.

  59. Anonymouse*

    Believe it or not, some people actually understand that their employees might wish to advance in careers they’ve worked long and hard on, that they might wish to be able to put food on their table before they starve and after paying through the nose for their education, and that they might want to do this as soon as possible or as soon as there’s an available match between their real abilities and what the organization needs. Believe it or not, some employers actually want to promote qualified, talented people to be able to work to their full potential as soon as possible because, believe it or not, some employers actually think it’s good for their organization to utilize people’s full value. And believe it or not, it often doesn’t take an employer two full years to recognize where an employee’s talents may best be used. Frankly, if it takes that long, somebody isn’t too quick on the uptake and maybe shouldn’t be making hiring decisions in the first place.

    My advice to hiring managers: Don’t have arbitrary stupid butt-in-chair-for-x-number-of-years rules. It doesn’t make you look more valuable or indispensable by comparison, and it probably isn’t buying you more time, either. Don’t be seen as blocking the advancement of qualified people and thereby as blocking the development of your organization. Instead, find a way to make your position integral to that overall development. Make it a point of pride to be the one to recognize and promote top talent and exert some (benevolent) control over where it’s applied. Whatever it is they’re doing right, hitch your wagon to it because the better it looks, the better you look. The “upstarts” won’t mind if you take credit for giving them a chance if you do so with a kind spirit and without competitiveness, and they’ll be the ones to thank you most profusely. Everybody thrives, everybody wins.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think you read the post. They’ve told her they’re open to promoting her in the future. But it’s unrealistic to be angry that you haven’t been promoted after less than a year.

      1. Stick it out even if it sucks*

        AMA I think you are right but I think if they were not open to promoting her she would have a right to feel angry.

        Maybe more advice could be given on how to deal with these sort of situations? I know it sounds kind of silly but a lot of people have to endure positions they are overqualified for due to the economy or recent grads / young people with ridiculous entry level jobs. I’m not saying that it is always bad but sometimes we are in not so good situations to gain experience and skills to get to better. Should they suck it up and do it? OF COURSE! It does suck and I think maybe addressing how to deal with it could be a better approach and maybe readers could comment with how they dealt with a position they were unhappy in (for whatever reason).


        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I disagree that she’d have a right to feel angry if they weren’t open to promoting her. First, it’s too soon, but even if it weren’t, promotions aren’t a guarantee and there all kinds of reasons they might not be open to it, including her own performance, maturity, etc.

  60. Anonymous*

    I’ve been in that role, 8 years ago. I was very lucky I got promoted in 9 months due only to the fact that someone more senior walked out and left them in the lurch. I still look back on it as being one of the best roles I’ve ever had. The time to offer to help other departments and being on reception to meet everyone and see how the whole business operates. If I could go back I would have stayed in this role longer it’s the time to really learn what you’ve already established is a great company. Meet everyone, learn from everyone, read the photocopying, learn about every department, who does what, who likes what, where are there efficiencies to be made. When you move up you wont have time for that and getting this grounding right now will make moving up so much easier, not that first jump but the 2nd 3rd or 4th.

  61. Anonymous*

    Maybe she is just realizing she wants to be more than receptionist? AMA, if she is young maybe cut her some slack she needs to gain work experience to develop what she wants to do as a career. Maybe she is realizing she wants more of a challenge. I don’t see a problem with this.

  62. Bri*

    I know exactly how the writer feels, except I’ve been with my company for close to 3 years now and have been offered a promotion within the company, but when i ask about it they say they’re still working on it. I believe that the writer has a pretty gravy job from what it sounds like and it’s only been eight months. I myself and trying to move on but it seems very difficult if you don’t know someone who can put you on somewhere. Just be patient and believe that your boss will get back with you. And go to school part-time as well so that you don’t have to be stuck in an entry-level position forever.

  63. SyracuseNative*

    I understand where everyone is coming from. I give my all in every job that I work at but my last job in Syracuse, NY I was really looking to just stay and grow with the company. I was an administrative receptionist for an outpatient mental facility. I was in my position for almost 3 years. I was promoted to that position from the evening receptionist position I had within the same company after only working for 1 month.

    I went above and beyond. I was paid $4 less than someone in my position on top of paying almost $600 in medical coverage a month for my family but let it be because I loved my job. All of my reviews were stellar…according to my boss but when I would bring up raises or promotion it was always the same answer. “Just be patient”. Well my patience ran out and my family and I decided to move to Denver, CO.

    I put my 3 week notice in and started training a temp. We left for Denver in February 2012. I received calls, emails and text messages from the temp all year long…including the beginning of this year on how to do certain things. I would walk her through everything. I JUST helped her out again in January of this year (2013).

    I just found out from my Linkedin updates that the temp was promoted to one of the positions I wanted when I was there. Of course this was a slap in my face but it was also heart breaking.

    I have been with a company here in Colorado since August 2012 and I don’t do half of the things I did in Syracuse but I am paid way more and my benefits are FREE! But…I’m bored to tears. I keep asking for work and there is nothing. I just asked my boss earlier this week if I caught them off guard because I ask for work and he said yes. He told me “We thought we were just going to answer the phone and greet visitors when we have them.” The phone rings 10 times a week and visitors come only once every 2 weeks.

    I brought some new ideas about company morale to the company and people love it. My work is awesome and there are no complaints. I just like to work for my money and feel recognized. My boss also told me that he’s not sure if there is anything that I could get promoted to with this company. Again…slap in the face. When I asked in the interview if there was room to grow within the company I was told yes. I feel like this happens to me all of the time. I give my all to show not only my boss that I am great…but to show myself as well but I never get anywhere. I get tons of pats on the backs and “good jobs” but that’s it and that’s all.

    Obviously this is a pattern for me. How do I change it? What am I doing wrong?

  64. Anonymous*

    I am a receptionist who is not “young”. I have a long career with extensive experience and have work in much higher level careers, including Office Manager. After moving to a new area, I was not able to find a viable position as an Admin Asst, Executive Asst or Office Manager despite my years of experience and certifications. The only option was to take a position as a receptionist. Prior to accepting the position I was promised a promotion “within a year”. I have now been in this position for 2 years. I feel much like OP does in that people look down on me, because I am “just the receptionist” unless they need me to fix their computers. It is very discouraging that despite experience and education receptionists are treated like second class citizen. We are often told that the receptionist is the most important” position in the company because we are the first contact that customers have so we can make or break the company. In reality. we are often the lowest paid, most abused employee in the company who has the least amount of respect and freedom. Unless you have sat in this seat you truly do not understand the frustrations associated with it.

  65. Receptionist on Maternity leave*

    Ask a Manager,

    I understand where you are coming from and everyone is quick to accuse people of “acting entitled.” But I agree with the comment above, that if you haven’t been a receptionist, you cannot understand the challenges of the position, and they aren’t technical, skill-building challenges, they are moral challenges – ie how to eat humble pie.

    If there are some technical skill-building challenges that receptionists must meet, please let me know, and here I am truly, swear to God, not being ironic. Because they are hard to find and I desperately want to move into a position that challenges my brain more regularly.

    I sympathize with the OP because if you don’t get an opportunity to do more than “stay calm and answer the phone” and no one gives you any work to do even when you ask (I have been there) then there’s nothing left to do.

    On the other hand, OP, don’t be too discouraged. At least they waved the possibility of promotion – this should be enough to get you out of bed in the morning. I would leap up singing if my bosses suggested that. But they told me straight up at the interview that there was no chance of promotion, that they were afraid I would be overqualified and bored, and that the organization (a cultural foundation) was very “hierarchic.” All of which proved to be true, but I took the job anyway, because the economy is terrible and the organization is a big name.

    So I waited a year, because leaving in less than 1 year is princessy (take note, OP!) and then I got pregnant and went on maternity leave about a year an a half later, and I go back in September and I consider that over 2 years have passed and I am throwing myself back on the market. And this time I will try for a position that is higher than this one.

    And want to talk about discouraging things? imagine going back to work to this job and leaving your baby girl….

    If you can’t “get promoted”, then you have to plan a way to promote yourself.

    There are others in the same boat, and people have been in worse shape. Imagine a refugee from Nazi Germany, or my grandparents during the Great Depression – my great grandmother who raised 5 children all alone… Take heartà

  66. Jake*


    The OP was a bigger person than I could have been. Some of the comments about her were pretty brutal, and yet she kept her cool and THANKED them for the feedback.

    I think that is something that is missed by the regular commenters on this blog, most of these types of questions come from ignorance, not willful arrogance.

    Not that any of them will see this comment, but hey, why not.

    1. Jean*

      Jake, you never know. You posted 3.5 months after the original thread. Today, another 3 months down the line, I rediscovered this thread and read almost every comment. Somehow all of this good advice has both jolted me out of my current 2-day funk and reenergized me for yet another chapter in the saga of my professional life. People say that nothing ever dies once it gets onto the internet, but if that’s good advice (not foolish pictures), that’s a good thing.

  67. LobbyDiva*

    Now I must say I can somewhat related to the disgruntled OP, but I think she definitely needs to get some perspective. I blame some of that dissatisfaction on a relentless image driven glamour addicted society that is obsessed with “looking important” and who seems to value the Chiefs more than the Indians. Over the past 30 years since women have entered the workforce in larger numbers, we’ve become our job titles instead of being PEOPLE who happen to work at our jobs.

    Based on my years of experience in the reception services/admin field (over 25 years in a variety of workplaces), the receptionist is often seen as the “stay-at-home mom” or ‘office wife’ of the corporate world. Never mind that’s not even remotely close to true., but consider this: Everyone agrees what a receptionist does is important for a company (we’re the ‘face’ of the company, the director of first impressions etc) but all too often she (and it’s usually a she) who holds the title of Receptionist is taken for granted, and sometimes people do tend to go to stereotypes about that come straight out of the Mad Men era. The women who are in management level jobs sometimes do tend to look down their noses at the receptionist and I’ve actually read one website (by a male lawyer) who made some really bizarre judgements about what they think about receptionists. He depicted us receptionists as ‘sexy’ but ultimately uninteresting and ambitionless simply because we hold the jobs we have. Sexy? Yeah, right…not this 53 year old overweight grandmother! LOL. Basically, if there was an office cocktail party, the receptionist would be the one who people start looking around to see if there is someone else more “interesting” to talk to…and they don’t even try to give the person the chance to see if she may indeed by interesting. I say that attitude says more about the individual than it does about the receptionist herself. It takes a thick skin sometimes to be a successful receptionist and one has to sometimes check their ego at the door, and then develop the ability to pat your own back (when no one else will) and most importantly not worry so much what others think. Only the smallest of minds truly think the receptionist is the lowest of the low…and chances are the snobby one is hiding all of their insecurities and puffing themselves up because they feel intimidated. Truth of the matter is that a lot of folks out of work who would kill to have our jobs…and that includes some who are becoming disenchanted by the executive suite! We’re really very lucky indeed, we have jobs where we are also allowed to have LIVES…and this day and age when companies are starting to replace receptionists with voice mail and remove telephone answering services, we who still hold court in the lobbies are becoming quite rare birds indeed. My advice to Miss 8 months on the job and chomping at the bit: Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will your career be but you can sure end it in a day if you don’t gain some perspective…and yes, change the attitude. Yes one can move up from receptionist if they want to but there really is nothing wrong with being a receptionist as a career in itself.

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