interviewing for a job with pieces that I won’t be good at

A reader writes:

How can I stop myself from focusing on the aspects of a job I know I won’t be good at?

The organization has contacted me for an interview, which means they think I’m qualified. But I’m scared they’re going to smell my fear – fear that they’re interviewing someone for an administrative assistant position who really would prefer hiding in a back room and being behind the scenes.

There are many detail-oriented parts of the job that I know I’d be good at, like proofreading documents, doing social media, data entry, typing, filing, and putting together promotional materials like flyers and newsletters. It’s just the reception and customer service part that I’m scared of. I wouldn’t really say I’m a people person. I’m pretty introverted, and though no one would say I’m unfriendly or sour, I’m afraid I’m just not a front desk personality. I also become short-circuited if too many things are going on at once – I prefer to work at my own pace.

I keep trying to tell myself that I would probably be OK with these aspects of the job once I’m trained and I’ve gotten used to those duties, but then I tell myself, “No! You’d suck at it!”

Does it sound like I really shouldn’t be trying to do this type of work considering my temperament? But there is no perfect job – and this has a good salary range and is in a library, and I have a library background. I feel like I can’t afford to sabotage myself.

I can’t give you a definitive answer from here, but here are some thoughts on how to figure it out for yourself.

First, much of this comes down to being brutally honest with yourself about what it would be like to be in that job. Plenty of people who aren’t “people persons” (“people people”?) do perfectly well in front-desk positions, while  other people would find it torture. If it’s something that wouldn’t be your first choice but that you could handle just fine, that’s one thing; if you’re going to be miserable and frazzled, that’s another. You’ve got to be brutally, brutally honest with yourself about where you’re likely to fall on that spectrum.

Second, receptionists do get interrupted all the time, throughout the day, and they don’t always get to work at their own pace (calls need to be answered now, Apollo from Accounting needs that invoice immediately, and a vendor just walked in and needs to be dealt with). If you know that you don’t do well in those situations, this might not be the right fit for you.

Third, and most important: It’s okay to conclude a job isn’t right for you. It’s far better to figure that out now than to end up in a job you hate or struggle in. Don’t pressure yourself into wanting a job that you’d ultimately be ill-suited for just because it meets some of the items on your list (like being in your field or having a good salary). I’m not saying that this job isn’t right for you — just that you shouldn’t talk yourself out of that possibility if there are core pieces that don’t feel right to you. (Obviously that advice changes if you’re in a situation where you don’t have the luxury of turning down work or waiting longer to find a job — but even in those cases, you’d want to go into it with your eyes open about possible outcomes.)

All this said, though, since you’re not yet sure where you stand on this, realize that you don’t have to make a decision right now. Do the phone interview and learn more about the job and what they’re looking for. If they invite you to an in-person interview after that, go to that too and use it partly as a fact-finding mission about whether this job is likely to be right for you. That’s how you should be treating all interviews anyway, even ones that you’re sure are the right fit (because often when you pay attention, you’ll discover that what looked like the right fit in the job ad isn’t actually the right fit in reality).

In other words, explore whether this job is right for you just like the employer is exploring whether you’re right for the job. They’re not making up their mind about you yet, and you don’t need to make up your mind about them yet either.

{ 49 comments… read them below }

  1. ChristineSW*

    I think this OP is my long-lost twin. LOL!

    Seriously, I wish I’d had this advice when I took my last job. I was hesitant about it, even as I was offered the job, but I still dove right in. Even moreso for the job I referenced in the previous post (about when it’s time to leave a job). Hated the idea, but felt pressured to take it. Biiiiiiiiiig mistake!

    Alison is spot on, as usual.

  2. Just a Reader*

    Non people-people can absolutely be successful in this type of job. I’m an introvert at home and an extrovert at work. It becomes very easy to make extroversion part of your work personality but it does mean that you may need to recharge more than you’re used to when you get home.

    However, if you’re having a particularly misanthropic day, you can’t put your earbuds in and ignore everyone while you’re at the front desk. Consider whether not having control of your environment is going to be a deal breaker for you.

    1. Ethyl*

      Definitely — I know plenty of introverts who are very personable and friendly and even do great customer service. Introverted doesn’t mean “has social phobia” or “hates humanity” or anything, it just means that being outgoing and around people tires you out more and that you recharge your batteries by being alone. So I wouldn’t necessarily say you “can’t” do this job because you’re an introvert, OP, just be aware that it may mean you need to take REALLY good care of yourself when you get home.

      Having said that, if you’re legitimately scared of these aspects, or you have anxiety or social phobia that makes these kinds of situations really upsetting, then that is ok too. I once called my temp placement person on the second day I had a “call people to solicit donations for Worth Cause Inc.” job completely panicked and in tears because I just could not do it — not only was I AWFUL at it, but I basically had a day-long panic attack from doing it, couldn’t sleep the entire night, and cried the whole way to the place because talking to people I don’t know on the phone, asking people for things, and bothering people triggered my anxiety very, VERY badly. So it’s possible this job isn’t for you — only you know that for sure, and I probably should have listened to myself a little better rather than focusing on “need money” so much!

        1. KJR*

          I feel your pain Ethyl! I used to have spend one day a week making “cold calls” to set appointments up for my boss, who owned a consulting firm. I really hated it. The good part was that I got to do it from home where it was quiet & there were no interruptions. I also had a more traditional telemarketing gig that sold magazine subscriptions to senior citizens (this was back in the late 80s) in high school, and I lasted a day and a half. First and only job I’ve ever left without notice. Just got up and walked out. I really don’t know how people do it.

    2. Mints*

      Yeah, I’m not a people-person I’m the sense that I love crowds and chatting up strangers, but I really liked my old job that included working with hundreds of people all day.
      Things that made it work: I’m generally cheerful and if people struck up conversation I can smile and nod and be genuinely interested. I value being nice and polite to everyone, even if I don’t hold conversations with each one.
      Also, like fposte said, get more details about the type of pubic you’ll be facing. It’s alot easier for me to say “Mrs. Jones is down the hall to the left. Have a nice day” over and over, rather than having to entertain someone while they wait. Or if you’d need to deal with complaints, which is more intensive than people who are going to fly by doing their own thing

      1. Anon for this*

        I know it’s a typo but I can’t stop laughing at “…the type of pubic you’ll be facing.” I myself just almost sent an email about funding that definitely had another word that started with fu… by mistake – it’s been a rough day!

        1. KJR*

          This must be the day for it…my sister just accidentally sent her new boss a text message that was meant for me…discussing the merits of sports bras!!

      2. Fiona*

        It’s a lot easier for me to say “Mrs. Jones is down the hall to the left. Have a nice day” over and over, rather than having to entertain someone while they wait.

        Here, too. I am also much better at being friendly from behind a desk than in passing in the hallway. It’s not “acting”, per se, but I’m much more comfortable when the only real question I need to have ready is “what can I do for you” rather than debating between bringing up the weather or asking about their weekend or remembering whether it was a puppy or a cat they adopted last week.

        1. Felicia*

          me too! I’m great at being friendly and talking to people in a work setting and work purposes, not so much at an unstructured lunch, partially because being “on” all day, I like my actual break to be alone and quiet. That’ll probably hurt me in any job, so I try, but I actually would be great at a job like this:) It wouldn’t be my favourite thing to do, but i’m good at appearing like a people person when I must

    3. Ella*

      Same here! at home I am a grumpy bear, at work a social butterfly.

      OP’s main challenge would lay in the multifaceted and tricky situations which may well take place while taking care of customers.
      I am sure that with some practice she could work those out nicely.

  3. fposte*

    I can’t tell, OP, what kind of job experience you’ve had before this–if you haven’t had much, it can be hard to tell whether you react to a job responsibility the way you think you would. I’ll also note that reception can vary hugely both in nature and percentage, and one thing you might consider during the interview is getting a better handle on how much customer service there is and whether it’s off-the-street type or more in-industry stuff where you’re mostly traffic-directing people who know where they’re going.

  4. Anonymous*

    Keep in mind that there are very few jobs where you can work at your own pace – more often than not, it’s that your pace matches the job. So take some time to think on how your pace fits in your current/past jobs.

    Best of luck!

  5. AdminAnon*

    Are you me?

    Seriously, though, everything you said is what went through my mind when interviewing for my current position. To be completely honest, the first 3-4 months after I started were absolute torture (I went home and cried every day).

    BUT–don’t get too discouraged–I love my job now!

    It has been a huge growing experience for me. I’ve developed a ton of new skills and have (somewhat shockingly) become…well, not a people person, per se, but something close to that. As Just A Reader mentioned above, it is possible to be a people person at work, as long as you are able to go home and recharge. I don’t know what your living situation is, but I live alone with my dog, so it’s really easy for me to have nights when I come home from work and don’t talk to a single person.

    Definitely make sure you ask the right questions throughout the process–especially what a typical day will look like. That will help to give you an idea of the number/type of interruptions to expect and the types of interactions you’ll be having.

    My guess is that, since this position is in a library, most of the people will be your kind of people–they won’t want to talk to you any more than you want to talk to them (I used to work in a bookstore, and that was always my experience).

    Good luck :)

  6. Joey*

    What you might also do is go to that library and watch what happens at the reception and customer service areas. This doesn’t work for all jobs, but usually at a library no one will think twice of you chilling out doing some reconnaissance

  7. LizNYC*

    OP — a few things to think about:
    1) I’m a total introvert, but I worked in retail during college and had to work registers, greet customers, talk to complete strangers. Was that fun? No. Could I do it if my job depended on it? Yes.
    2) Would you be the only admin assistant or one of several who may rotate front desk duties?
    3) How often would this location get visitors? At my old office, we had people dropping by constantly. At my new office, there are some days where the admin can listen to music and do other office work uninterrupted because it’s that quiet.
    4) No office will let you “work at your own place,” especially when you’re proofreading (speaking from experience!). I’m a proofreader and I get interrupted 1,000 times a day and half of those are to ask me to read a job faster.
    5) I personally think most jobs require some sort of juggling of duties and the ability to handle multiple things (if not “multitask,” but to be able to prioritize which is the first thing to handle, like: deal with person in front of me first, answer ringing phone next, get these copies to Bob in Accounting after) is something that will be invaluable in your career.

  8. Elysian*

    I’m definitely an introvert, and for me that means I just don’t like expending my energy on other people. I can do it – but its like acting. I’m acting like I’m happy to talk to you, but I would totally rather be at home on my couch with my cat.

    HOWEVER, as much as I hate these things, I have still successfully held jobs in solicitation (making cold calls! ick!), waitressing, and other people-serving professions. I’ve found that the key for me is to recognize that I have anxiety about dealing with people, but know that it will pass as you get more experience in these things. It’s possible that the OP will never love the parts of the job that involve answering the phone, for example. But it doesn’t mean you can’t become skilled at them.

    Haven’t we all had times in our lives where we really thought we couldn’t do something, but with practice it got easier? If the OP’s anxiety is paralyzing, that’s one thing. But if you’re worried and uncomfortable, that’s normal for someone who doesn’t love dealing with others. If the job seems like a good fit otherwise, remember that those parts that cause you some anxiety now may get easier/tolerable with time, and just because you don’t like (or you find them exhausting, etc) doesn’t mean you won’t be good at them.

    1. The Clerk*

      It really is acting–the woman who wrote Introvert Power said many introverts are great on the stage because the only way they can get around their anxiety is to pretend they’re playing a part and that way it isn’t really “them” if they mess up.

      Strange you bring up telemarketing; I did that for two months when there was literally nothing else I could get, and hated it so much…yet I was almost always the top salesperson for the day??

      1. AdminAnon*

        I totally agree with your first paragraph! As for the telemarketing, though….yikes. I am great with customer service, because I love helping people and making their lives easier/more pleasant. However, the worst thing I have ever had to do (professionally, anyway) was make cold calls asking for sponsors for our annual conference. Good grief! I actually broke out in a cold sweat and threw up at the thought of asking strangers to give me money/goods. Luckily, my co-workers took over after that.

  9. Admin Assist*

    OP – unless the job description actually states it, the administrative assistant position might not actually do reception desk tasks. I can’t tell from your letter whether those duties are listed in the job description or if you are simply assuming they are part of the role. Worth confirming.

      1. Anon*

        Same here. It may be common in smaller companies for an AA to do reception tasks as well on a regular basis, but in my larger company the AA’s are not expected to do main reception work. Perhaps they will fill in once in a while during vacation or sick days, but not anything regular. I see an AA being expected to do internal “reception” phone & visitor screening in a role that supports higher-level execs, but that is not nearly as public as the main receptionist.

  10. Ruthan*

    I’m not super outgoing and have had some experiences that correspond to descriptions of social anxiety, but I actually enjoyed a front desk position for quite a while. So, let me offer some words of encouragement:

    Eighty percent of the customers I interacted with wanted one of about five different things. It didn’t take long to get those under my belt, which meant eighty percent of my customer interactions became low-stress very quickly.

    I did sometimes have to call people with bad news (often, cancelling a class or equipment reservation). I was pleased to discover most of them were perfectly civil! Occasionally someone would be upset, but it helped to remember that I was calling on behalf of the business and it wasn’t really me they were mad at.

    There was always someone else in the building who could help with questions I couldn’t answer, and (while I don’t remember whether I was told this was okay or not) I had no misgivings passing really difficult clients off on my manager. (He never complained, anyway.)

    I had a few regular time-sensitive tasks, but I did my best to break them down into small, manageable chunks. After a while, we were able to have one of my coworkers come in and cover the desk for a couple of hours so I could plow through them.

    So, maybe some things to find out about (via classy questions about what their training is like, what you’d be doing on a daily basis, whether there’ll any kind of backup support for things you haven’t been trained how to handle.)

    Good luck!

  11. KLH*

    If you’re going to be doing concentration work but also being a front -facing person, ask up front about the possibility of what we call in my library “off the desk time.” That’s when you are not attempting to greet people, answer the phone, make copies, juggle cats AND proofread or do other brain heavy work. I can’t switch easily between the two myself. You can develop your own style of customer service and being a pleasant person to work with–heavens know the library world is full of slightly stiff, quiet people working with others.

    1. KC*

      Learning about “imposter syndrome” really helped me put all of my insecurities into perspective. It’s nice that when I start feeling like where I’m at now has more to do with dumb luck than hard work, smarts, or skill, I remind myself about imposter syndrome and that I need to stop being so self-critical.

  12. Liz*

    The comment about short circuiting made me wonder about possible ADHD. I see so much of myself in OP letter. Furthermore, it is always easier to express doubt about one’s abilities when a major life change is involved.

  13. IronMaiden*

    OP, I’m concerned about you critical inner voice that seems to be sabotaging your ability to reach your potential. Have you considered techniques that might shut it up, such as NLP, EFT or hypnosis?

  14. Liane*

    I’d like to echo other posters who have pointed out that being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you will be bad at a customer service/reception job. Here’s my story of the Happy Introverted Customer Service Person.
    First of all, “introvert” doesn’t always = “shy” or “not a people-person.” Oftener than not introverts are people who need alone time to recharge their batteries, so to speak, versus extroverts who get energized around crowds. I consider myself an introvert of this type, although I can also be obviously uncomfortable around large numbers of strangers, unless I’m familiar with the area or the event, e.g. Science fiction conventions ;) .
    However, about 2 years ago I started doing break/lunch coverage for customer service reps at MyJob. I wasn’t sure about it, mainly because I’d always heard horror stories about unhappy customers taking it out on the CSRs. But I tried it out and quickly discovered I liked it and was good at it and even preferred it to my previous (also customer-facing) position. A year & a half ago, it became my primary job and I’m still loving it. I won’t lie, I have dealt with some who are less than pleasant but relatively few; the vast majority are a pleasure to help.
    So do as AAM suggests and ask a lot of questions so you can make an informed decision about the fit, rather than just a guess.
    Good luck, whatever you decide is right for you!

  15. Moosic*

    I’ve been in a similar situation. I always thought of myself as an introvert and behind the scenes person, but had begun to realize I wanted more interaction with the public. Then I applied and interviewed to be a part time reference librarian, which I never in a million years thought I would do. I thought I bombed the interview. Surely they realized I was a terrible people person with no small talk skills! But I must have done okay, because I was offered the job. I don’t dislike people, it just doesn’t seem to come naturally. My mother gave me some very good advice: don’t underestimate yourself. I did end up taking the job, and have enjoyed it a lot. I too get interrupted, but found that I function well that way as long as I’m not working on something that requires deep thought (I enjoy the times when I have to jump up and take care of something and get to walk around). My people skills have really improved, and it’s made me rethink what I want in a job. Smiling and being polite go a long way. Do realize that you will make a social mistake once in a while, especially when beginning, it’s normal. Occasionally I do suffer from impostor syndrome. However, there is a difference between challenging yourself with something outside your comfort zone, and completely throwing yourself off a cliff into something you aren’t ready for and that would clash with your personality. I’m currently in this dilemma (I’m now considering a full time job with requirements I’m not sure I’m ready for). Unfortunately, there is a big grey area in making these decisions. I would say that during the interview, you try and establish how much contact with the public you will have. Are we talking a few people per hour, or a few every 15 minutes with potentially several people in a line at the desk? Consider the jobs you have had in the past. Do you wish you had had more interaction with people? Do you generally get a long with most people? I used to think I was boring because I wasn’t a social butterfly and didn’t have a strong personality, although no one seemed to dislike me. That has worked in my favor, because I can deal with most people and not get frazzled. It doesn’t bother me if a few people are rude or upset, and I don’t clash with people that have strong opinions. If you haven’t read Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain, I recommend it, even if you don’t consider yourself an introvert. Good luck!

  16. BW*

    “Non-people people” can absolutely be good at front-facing jobs! Before I had my first job, I was actually terrified of making phone calls. I even hated calling to order takeout and always made my boyfriend do it. Of course I knew how well that was going go over, interviewing for an attorney position–all we do is talk on the phone: clients, opposing counsel, the court… So of course I gave no sign of this particular manifestation of my shyness.

    Long story short, I was hired and did great in my job. My supervisor told me that I “worked out better than anyone could have hoped for.” Of course my job is juuuuuuust as phone-intensive as I thought it would be. Just had to grit my teeth and get over it. Turns out, you don’t have to like it to be good at it, and once you’re good at it, well you like what you’re good at!

    Except my boyfriend still does the calling when we order take-out.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I used to be terrified of making phone calls too. I still don’t have a phone-intensive job, but I can at least order takeout or make a reservation without my hands shaking!

  17. Toast*

    This is totally dependent on experience and your level of comfort will increase the more you challenge yourself to interact with others. I suggest practicing responses to say to multiple patrons coming at you at once, things like saying “I’ll be with you in a moment” while making direct eye contact with the next patron. It really helps to have prepared responses so that you don’t get frazzled in the moment. You should also know that it’s okay to tell patrons that they will need to wait or be put on hold (phone) so that you can work at YOUR pace. I am an introvert who has been told by extraverts that I did great at a job dealing with customers on a regular basis.

  18. JustMe*

    As some others have already said, you and I have a lot in common: introverted, meticulous, and slightly anxious when the pressure’s on. I haven’t done a ton of customer facing jobs, but I’ve had a decent variety (cold calling, customer calling, retail, library, and food industry). Here are my reception/customer service tips, for what they’re worth:

    In my experience, most library customer service revolved around 1-helping the customer find something or 2-helping the customer do something (setup an account or checkout). Your system will probably be set up so that with #1, finding an author/title shouldn’t be a big deal. You may want to spend a little extra time familiarizing yourself with their reference section, since content-based searching with customers can be murkier. For #2 (doing something), make sure you have notes about how to do everything in your library system. If you’re having a slow day, practice something in the system that you haven’t done in awhile to refresh your memory (something I should have done during my time). Again, though, those things are process-related, so that’s already in your wheelhouse.

    Far as the actual customer interaction goes, my recommendation would be not to view it as a, “I have to please this person” kind of thing. Think of it as helping someone find what they’re looking for; tap into your own passion for books and research. Remember the feeling you had when you checked out a new fun book to read. Or, when you had a paper due, and you were so relieved to have some great references! In my opinion, that’s the main function of this prospective job: connecting people to great material. And, by extension, making well-thought research papers and engrossing, mind-expanding reads possible. I realize I’ve gone off the track slightly and gotten all sentimental (I love to read), but my point is that you already have a passion for books. Aside from administrative technicalities, by simply sharing your knowledge and experience, the customer service battle is already pretty much won.

    You’re not a customer service agent; you’re a facilitator of expanded horizons.

    You can do it! Good luck! :)

  19. Jennifer*

    I second the “admin assistant” does not always mean “front counter person” thing above. I’ve done both.

    Here is my experience of being transferred into a Front Desk Job–I have to do three hours of front desk a week and then varying levels of being forced to run the phones, which I hate like poison. On the introvert/extrovert scale, I am pretty borderline/ambivert, so I figured it’d be fine. I work the front desk at my volunteer job one night a week and did it at a temp job earlier (every afternoon) and it was fine, but both of those jobs weren’t terribly complicated. This job is INCREDIBLY complicated. I figured I would be fine, but this is coming off of ten years of working in quiet corners and dear god, I miss my corner. I have a racket going on around me almost all of the time even when I am not “on” because everyone is constantly talking and asking me questions. I am interrupted a lot even during our non-public hours. I honestly feel like I am being pecked to death a lot. Or that I work in an emotional dunk tank and every customer is trying to sink me. This job has made me realize I am more introverted than I thought I was.

    But mostly the main problem with it is that everything here is incredibly complicated and every single day, I am being asked things that I have literally never heard of in my life and I HAVE TO be an immediate expert on them, now. After over a year on the job I know a lot more of the stuff so I am not utterly flummoxed for 40 hours a week. And the more you know, the less drained and bothered you will be. But the stuff I don’t know and suddenly HAVE to know everything about is what fries my soul.

    I think for you it will depend on the nature of the job. How easily can you know “everything” that people need to be waited on for? Is this an actual all day long receptionist job or is it part time public service? In the case of the part time jobs I mentioned, I only have/had a limited amount of things to deal with, so it doesn’t bother me to have to wait on people at that. I also don’t have to solve everyone’s problems and fix their life in the way that I do all day now.

    I wish you luck at this. I hope it turns out to be an introvert-friendly job. But if worst comes to worst, you may end up doing what I did and take the job and do the best you can at it because it beats being unemployed.

  20. NDB*

    “Do the phone interview and learn more about the job and what they’re looking for. If they invite you to an in-person interview after that, go to that too and use it partly as a fact-finding mission about whether this job is likely to be right for you. ”

    Can you talk more about the kinds of questions we should be asking in interviews to determine whether or not the company is right for us? I definitely didn’t ask enough question last time I went through interviews, and, well, it didn’t turn out great for me. The problem was is that I really didn’t know which questions I should have been asking until I discovered that I didn’t like the job. Do you think you could write a post on this?

    1. Ashley the NonProfit Exec*

      I think that you can highlight things that are important to you and ask if they are workable. For example:
      ” I really like to be busy all the time and have something productive to do – I’ve learned that I dislike jobs with downtime. Do you think this role would keep me occupied?”

      “I love interacting with people, and prefer to spend no more than half my time at a desk. Does that fit with this role?”.

      Figure out what you really care about, and just ask. The downside here is that you might eliminate yourself – so perhaps don’t ask these questions if you are desperate for a job. If you don’t want to show your hand, you could change these around into:

      “Tell me about the pace of the work an the office in general”
      “Tell me about the balance between time spend interacting with people vs. time spend working on the computer”

      Is there a specific area you’re wondering how to ask about?

      1. NDB*

        Thanks for the advice, I’ll make sure to take it into account next time!

        I’m not really looking at a specific area, it’s just that I really don’t think I asked the right questions last time. I asked, for example, what the worst part of the job was to some people I was hanging out with who would be on my level (this was after I’d already gotten the offers and had been invited to the office to check it out, since I’d interviewed on campus). They gave an answer and it seemed not too bad, but what I really should have asked was “what’s the best best part of your job?” It’s just not enough for a job to be “not bad,” it should be great.

        I plan to ask that next time around, and I think the questions Allison proposed about “what does an exceptional person in this role look like” and such will be very helpful as well.

        1. KC*

          I had a phone interview this week where I asked the “what makes the difference between a good person in this role and a rock star?” based on Alison’s advice. The interviewer thought it was a really good question. The answer I got was also really good; it let me know that what they’re looking for in a “rock star” is something I can totally achieve, which makes me even more excited about the role.

  21. Ashley the NonProfit Exec*

    OP, I think that you might be selling yourself short here. In my office the receptionist is also my assistant. I’ve had a few over the years, and the best two have been introverts. I appreciate the focused, quiet folks who say a quick hello, take care of the client’s needs, and get back to work. (I’m an extrovert – not knocking extroverts at all) Also, this was helpful because sound carries in our office and it’s ideal that the lobby not be the center of boisterous conversation as it makes it difficult for everyone to work. Some people who think they are good with constant interruption actually just have trouble focusing and completing things. Depending on the company’s culture, you may not have to be Miss Congeniality – a quieter, polite style might work very well. I think this is a fair thing to ask them about. It’s also fair to let them know (after you’re hired perhaps) that you’re interested in any professional development opportunities having to do with time management so that you can be the best employee possible. You can also google this and find advice on staying focused and calm despite interruption. It’s not easy to be a frequently-interrupted receptionist, but it’s a great way to develop skills that work in higher-level jobs. However, do realize that in this role you can’t bend the situation to your needs. Assistants often need to shape their work preferences to match their boss more than the other way around. I agree with AAM’s advice that it’s okay to be thoughtful about whether this is really the right thing – it might not be, and that’s okay. OR – you might be a great fit!

  22. MissDisplaced*

    I’m not a “people person” either and typically don’t have to do much of that type of work in my field. However, I have worked at small companies where you have to fill in and do everything, including answering phones, taking orders, and customer service.

    I wouldn’t care to do it all the time, but as it turns out I did perfectly fine at it, and a number of callers commended me for the help and customer service I provided.

    So go to the interview. Ask about the expectation of the duties and how much time they would expect in certain areas. It may turn out to be not as much as you think in the front desk area, and that you could deal with it just fine.

  23. Sarah*

    When I first started out my career I was painfully shy but of course had to be employed, so I suffered through many years of uncomfortable work situations every time I started a new job. My advice is to you is that you are already giving off a vibe that you won’t be good at part of this job. That attitude is going to carry over to the interview whether you mean to or not. No matter what job you take you will need to deal with people so I say suck it up, go into the interview confident that your people skills will develop over time and give it a chance. just be nice to everyone and you will find that people
    will be nice back and you will begin to feel more confident every day!

  24. Kerr*

    Late to the party, but I feel like I could have written the OP’s letter, and I’ve done lots of front desk work. It can be difficult and trigger anxiety, but it can also be very manageable, and even enjoyable. A lot depends on the setting, how busy it is, etc. Look up AAM’s post and the comment-fest about how to be an awesome receptionist for pointers.

    One great thing about front desk work for introverts: you get your own space (well, except for the phones and clients), and it’s usually much bigger and quieter than a cubicle! You do feel like you’re out in the open and on display, but I’ve felt more “on stage” in back office positions. In the back, they’re packing in desks and cubicles, but the front desk? Spacious and luxurious-looking for the sake of clients.

  25. Tara T.*

    I agree with AdminAnon (Feb. 12 at 2:47 pm): “My guess is that, since this position is in a library, most of the people will be your kind of people–they won’t want to talk to you any more than you want to talk to them (I used to work in a bookstore, and that was always my experience).” You will be ideal for this. You WANT this job! It is IDEAL for an introvert! This is not a job just “answering phones,” or talking on the phone, like in other kinds of workplaces. This will be a job where people will ask you about the LIBRARY, and about BOOKS! You, an introvert, love the library, and you love books! Just say in the interview that you want to help people in the library and with books and you would like the job.

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