I can’t get out of low-level admin work

A reader writes:

I have a bachelor’s degree relevant to my field and seven years of work experience, about six years of which is in the same job function that I have now. I’m 29 and in my third job out of college.

I am in an entry level marketing job (as I also was before) and I am unsure of how, and when I should expect to, move forward in my career. Part of the challenge is just what jobs are available — relevant openings seem to be either entry level or require 10+ years of specialized experience, and not a lot in between.

That said, I’ve certainly never been afraid of doing the admin office work that comes with an entry-level job — managing people’s calendars, cleaning the office, ordering supplies, etc. — as long as I have the hope of eventually someday not being an admin-assistant-with-a-hint-of-marketing. Nothing against being an admin or executive assistant; it’s just not what I want to do in the long run. I eventually want to be a valued, seasoned marketing professional, and I thought I was on the right track for this. My managers know this. The classic problem is that the admin tasks will always need to be done by someone, so I end up getting stuck because that’s what the team needs and there’s no opportunities to move beyond my tasks. I understand that, truly, but I’ve been in my current job a year and I’m trending in the wrong direction. More and more admin tasks are getting added to my role rather than me growing into strategic tasks or learning new things. (Same thing at my last job as well.)

One of my managers has all but said that I am young and inexperienced and that’s why she thinks I’m great for admin work. (Probably worth noting that a previous manager hired me.) She often calls me her assistant and other people’s assistant, though that’s not my title or what I was hired for, so creating that assumption creates more admin tasks for me. One thing she said to me recently: “You’re young so you might not understand this yet, but something you need to get used to as a junior employee is taking lip sometimes from people above you.” (That told me a lot about her management philosophy…)

Again, this general experience is very similar to my last job. I’m disappointed, especially since both companies made a point to tell me during the interviews that they love nurturing younger employees and helping people find ways to tailor parts of the job to their specific skillsets. I understand that there’s only so much companies can do to nurture employees when the mundane tasks still have to be done, but I’ve had great managers before who “would if they could” and at least I knew they were in my corner. Right now, I don’t get the sense that my manager would recommend me for a relevant higher role if one was available because in her mind I am solidly “just an admin” with no experience.

I know you will tell it to me straight — am I trying to be “too big for my britches” in wanting more advanced work? I have great respect for my colleagues who have decades of experience, and I am aware that I don’t and that I’m young — though I admit I’m getting tired of having age thrown in my face at work. I can’t change my age anymore than my boss can change hers, but I do know that I am more skilled and knowledgeable than I was at 22 (thankfully, ha!) and I strive to do my best work. Is doing admin work because I’m young my only option right now? Do I need to temper expectations of climbing the ladder?

You’re not “too big for your britches.”

If you were 22 or 23 and in your first job right out of college, I’d say that yes, you need to temper your expectations — that this can be normal for a first job right out of school in this type of field.

But you’ve been out of school for seven years and are in your third job since graduating. You shouldn’t be in an entry-level position at all at this point … so I suspect the problem is the job itself, and maybe the jobs you’ve been applying for.

If I’m right and you’ve been aiming too low in the jobs you target, then it doesn’t really matter that companies tell you during interviews that they like to nurture younger employees or tailor people’s jobs to their skill sets. That may be the case, but if the job you’re hired into is one with a heavy component of admin work, then that’s the job.

That doesn’t necessarily explain why your manager has given you the sense that she wouldn’t recommend promoting you … but it’s really common for people to get pigeonholed into admin work once they’re doing a lot of it, and it can be hard to get out of that without changing companies.

I advise two things:

1. Have a very direct conversation with your boss where you ask exactly what you’d need to do to get promoted. Tell her your goal is for that to happen within the next year and you’d like to put together a plan that will position you well for that. Her reaction will tell you a lot — and her actions will tell you even more. Even if she gives lip service to the idea of helping you get promoted, pay attention to what she actually does. If she doesn’t take real action to help, assume it’s not happening at this company.

And regardless of the outcome of that discussion…

2. Job search, and this time target different positions. You shouldn’t be applying for entry-level positions at all, because you’re not entry-level. Aim for a level or two up. And to the extent you can, leave the admin work off your resume — focus as much as possible on the marketing work you’ve done, even though it’s not the largest part of your job currently. If you can’t avoid talking about the admin stuff because it’s so much of what you do, be sure you’re talking about it in terms that emphasize the marketing pieces of it (which you can often do by focusing on the outcomes your work achieved, not just the activities you engaged in).

I suspect the fact that you’ve ended up in three entry-level jobs means that you’re prone to underselling yourself — maybe in interviews, but definitely in the jobs you select to apply for in the first place. So try out applying for some jobs you don’t think you’re fully qualified for — not outrageous stretches, but jobs that feel a little beyond what you think you could get. People are often surprised when they do this; it’s not uncommon to end up getting interviews and even offers for jobs you otherwise would have assumed were out of reach.

The idea isn’t to take a job that you don’t feel you can handle; you don’t want to set yourself up to fail, of course. Instead, the idea is to test the theory that you’re qualified for higher-level jobs than the ones you’ve been targeting —  and to see if employers agree rather than screening yourself out before you’ve even applied.

Also, if you had particularly good rapport with any managers or more senior colleagues at previous jobs, now would be a good time to reach out to them. Explain what you’re trying to do and the obstacles you’re running into and ask if they have advice for you. A lot of people love to advise younger colleagues and, as people who know you and your work, they might have useful insights about moving up (or actual job leads that they’d be willing to recommend you for).

Since you wrote to ask if you’re aiming too high, I know it might be weird to hear that you’re aiming too low … but I think in fact you are.

Read an update to this letter

{ 268 comments… read them below }

  1. Alex*

    If you have seven years of experience at this point, you can totally apply for jobs that say 10 years of experience. Do it!

    1. KayDeeAye*

      Absolutely! I think, OP, that you are giving more weight than you should to those who keep telling you that “you’re so young.” You are not “so” young. You are way beyond entry level. The people who are telling you that are lying either to themselves or you – or they are trying to manipulate you. They do not have your best interests at heart, and they are not, in fact, completely connected to the real world! Start applying for those jobs that say “10 years experience” and “some experience required,” and start doing it now.

      1. A Penguin!*

        I agree with you and the comment section consensus that the OP is past the entry level stage, but I think “way beyond” is an overstatement. I’m admittedly not familiar with marketing roles and so there’s a possibility that I’m off-base, but in my experience seven years of experience qualifies for mid-level roles, but does not qualify for senior or director level positions (which I would class in the ‘way beyond’ entry level bracket).

        1. Loulou*

          Agreed, also with caveats. 7 years isn’t entry level (though in my field it wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to stay in an “entry level” job for much longer than that) but it’s also not senior. I think title inflation can sometimes lead to wacky perception of these things. A 29 year old could easily be workout for 40 more years!

        2. KayDeeAye*

          I think we’re just disagreeing on the definition of “way.” To me, mid-level is well beyond entry level, but if you want to say that mid-level is “significantly” or “definitely” beyond entry level, while senior level is “way” beyond, that’s OK by me. :-)

        3. Decorative Rocks*

          But also, unfortunately, 7 years of mostly admin work might not even be mid-level. The path OP’s manager has OP on, with more and more admin work being part of their role, is going to seriously impact their ability to get higher level work even at a different company. I hope OP can reverse that trend.

          1. Blueberryhill Thriller*

            A coworker told me that putting admin work on your resume was the worst thing you could do, as most managers would read that as a lifetime appointment. Which is stupid, as admins may know everything the managers do, they just aren’t responsible for making dept. decisions. I would like to say he was wrong, but I keep seeing admins be undervalued and left out of succession planning and stretch assignments.

        4. Kara*

          I didn’t see anything in the comments you’re responding to that said “Director Level” positions, but I would absolutely expect someone with 7 solid years of experience and a degree to be in a Senior Manager position if that’s what they wanted.

          My company’s career path levels start with Associate at the entry level. From there they go to Specialist, Senior Specialist, Professional, Senior, Principal. (Above that would be Assc Director, Director, and then the various VP levels.)

          I’d expect someone with 7 years experience to be in the “Senior Specialist” range, heading strongly toward Professional and a decision as to whether they wanted to move into a people management role or remain as a principal individual contributor.

          In fact I would be concerned if someone with 7 years experience and a degree hadn’t reached the Senior Specialist role by now and wonder why.

        5. Fatiguedwednesday*

          “ I’ve certainly never been afraid of doing the admin office work that comes with an entry-level job — managing people’s calendars, cleaning the office, ordering supplies”.

          Question: Are you the only entry level person in your office? Do others share the same admin tasks? What happened to the person who previously had your role? Can you ask them how their job trajectory went?

          If you find yourselves being regulated to the admin tasks at every job, maybe you should be “afraid to do admin office work.” Because those that do get more of the same. Do the work you were hired to do, chase the projects that help you, and because admin work is not seen as growth or leadership, it is seen as support work & you will not be lauded as a teamplayer. You will be Andy covering the reception desk when Erin is gone.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I’m wondering if LW is very petite or soft spoken or something else that people read as “young”, because 29 is really not so young that you’d expect people to be quite so patronising!

        LW, if you think that is the case, it sucks and it’s not fair! But you might want to try dressing a little more conservatively or briskly, or taking a bit mod care of your posture, or done other tricks that can help people read you as older. It might be worth asking a good friend who is doing well professionally if they have any tips for you.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          Or possibly just baby-faced. I used to get “you’re so young!” all the time in my late 20s and early 30s. Now that I’m 40 and people think I look 33-34, I get treated like a whole adult.

          1. Been There*

            I’m 35 and got asked whether I’m a student just yesterday. It can be nice to look younger than you are, but can also really hinder you professionally.

            1. J*

              Can also hinder you in random other life situations! Whenever I’m in a situation to buy something relatively expensive, be it a house or furniture or a dog trainer or a contractor, I’ve been taken less than seriously by professionals who assume I must be like 22 and not able to afford it and not serious about the purchase. When I’m in my 30s and make over $250k and can definitely afford it. But if you look young, are dressed too casually, aren’t talking about a spouse or kids, etc. people can assume you’re way younger than you are which can get annoying!

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          And / or very helpful and willing to pitch in, which gets her stuck with the work others don’t want.

          I would not be surprised if it’s some combination of these — LW is already coded as the “youngster,” AND THEN LW says yes to admin tasks (that she doesn’t want to do), which gets more of them piled on her plate, which makes people assume she handles the admin tasks.

          LW, in your next job, don’t be afraid to have some backbone and avoid doing things that aren’t your job. If something isn’t your job, **even if you COULD do it,** politely redirect to the right person; don’t just smile and do it yourself because it’s faster or easier or you don’t want to say no or you want to be of help. Draw your boundaries and stick to them. You are allowed to say, “Actually, Jonathan handles that. Can you run it over to him and see whether he has time to help you with that today?” and turn back to your task.

          Also, if there’s a task that any of several people can do, don’t just jump in to volunteer to do it because it needs to get done. You can let the request go around the room.

          1. Galadriel's Garden*

            Yes, agreed wholeheartedly on the passively denying admin tasks in the current role. I’m one of the unicorns who managed to transition from an admin assistant role to a managerial one over the course of 6+ years at the same company, and that was a large part of it – crafting my day-to-day tasks less and less around admin work, which was done in large part by no longer jumping at the tasks that *were* admin work, but instead reaching for, and ASKING for, work that I was interested in and aligned to my career goals. It’s hard when you’ve been the go to person for basically all the things to feel like you’re not contributing as much as you were before, but if you truly want those tasks to no longer be on your plate, you have to be comfortable with letting them be distributed elsewhere – sometimes by you!

            1. Favoritesoninlaw*

              “I am young and inexperienced and that’s why she thinks I’m great for admin work.”

              This is a chilling statement, as you will stay in this role until you are OLD and inexperienced and only trained in admin work.

              You must break out – find a mentor, find an external coach, ask for a stretch assignment, heck insist that you be given junior marketing work, otherwise you will be cleaning the office and order in supplies for the next 40 years. Do not continue to go along – if you don’t ask you don’t get. If you can’t advocate for yourself, then you will always be at the mercy of others -and other people are not going to put you first.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            I remember at one job I was a mid-level manager, the only female one in the department. I was also shorter than most co-workers, looked young for my age, and was very easy going and willing to help others when needed (I was recovering from a bad case of Good-Girl-itis) The only admin-y work that was part of my actual job was my own – ie making my own copies, completing my own expense reports, etc.

            When the group moved to an open office plan with half wall cubicles, I tried to push back on the director’s plan to have my cube right next to his. I gave a couple of good reasons related to the nature of the work I did, my work preferences, etc. But a big reason, which turned out to be THE biggest issue when he overrode my push back? Anyone walking into our department assumed I was his admin and was there to help them with whatever they needed. Copier malfunctions, sorting mail, getting team meetings on the director’s calendar, questions about expense reports my peers had submitted, coordinating team activities, gift collections, etc etc etc. It was really disruptive to my own work just to be interrupted and asked about that stuff multiple times a day, even if I didn’t jump up to help. It also annoyed the person who sat on the other side of him who was the ACTUAL department admin.

            Even worse, it forced me to constantly be putting boundaries around my responsibilities and whatever the random person happened to be asking. Multiple times a day, I was having to weigh HOW I was pushing back, which took emotional energy and some of my capital to try to walk the right line. It was the classic conundrum for working women – can’t be too b-tchy or unhelpful or not a team player (which just by saying NO ie “oh, sorry, no I’m on deadline, but Admin probably can help when she’s back at her desk” I was automatically seen as such) but also can’t be too gentle and nice and cordial (like simply smiling when I said the above). There is almost no way those interactions didn’t undermine how other people perceived me, no matter how I walked the line. In my official role, I had legitimate authority over only a handful of people in my department, but being really successful at my actual job required me to influence others, drive change management efforts, develop strategies for and build support for and run cross functional projects, all by leveraging my expertise, connections, reputation and perceived status. Basically, to do my job well, I had to be seen as strong subject matter expert, strategist, and a peer or trusted advisor of the (mostly male) VPs and Directors and their teams, and someone who could get big stuff done by the C-suite. Every time someone approached me about admin work, assumed it was what I was there for, chipped away at that, no matter how I responded. The open office plan made it worse, because maybe 40 people were within earshot at their desks or could be walking by at any moment. Even with people who knew and respected me , because they were reacting to how other people might perceive me.

            None of my male peers had to deal with any of that. No one ever approached them to ask for help. And if they stepped up to help someone with something admin-y, they got bonus points for doing it, not pinned with an “admin girl” ribbon.

            The only way that dynamic changed was me changing jobs, so that I was no longer “admin-adjacent” And being consistently clear about my role and responsibilities.

            1. Lefty2233*

              Hannah Lee – I have been there! Having to constantly assert that one’s job is not to be tactical support for others is exhausting. And it does chip away at confidence. I had this experience at every new job in my 20s. There is misogyny imbedded in this issue that really upsets me.

          3. Zweisatz*

            Yes the last paragraph is essential. If you’re ever in a room and somebody asks for a volunteer and there is no good reason for you to do the task, be sure to sit there silently as long as it takes. “Well *somebody* has to do it.” will not serve you well. That’s for the manager to figure out.

        3. Sybil Writes*

          I was wondering the same. Hair style can also be a way to signal “polished professional” and add a bit of maturity to your look. You won’t have to do it forever, but investing 6 months to a year into projecting an ‘older look’ might be worth it. Take a good look at other 30-40 year olds around you who seem ahead on their career paths and see if you can see some cues.
          Rather than stopping at wondering why you are perceived as young and inexperienced, start honoring your reality. It can take time for our own heads to catch up as we move through life’s stages. As you ‘recognize’ your own development and skills (even to yourself), you may grow in confidence. That has a way of shining through to others. In a way, make marketing yourself and your abilities your personal marketing campaign.
          Best of luck! Looking forward to your update!

      3. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, this OP is almost 30, it’s really strange that her bosses are acting like she’s 19. Our society has changed what we expect from people at different ages but throughout history lots of people held very high ranking roles at 30. I wonder if there’s some easy ways OP can brush up their overall presentation to emphasize their age? Sometimes silly superficial things like a haircut, adding glasses or switching to contacts, wearing more “mature” coded clothes or jewelry, as well as more significant things like speaking clearly with confidence, can make a big difference.

        1. incognotter*

          Years ago when I was about OP’s age I was so baby-faced that I actually talked to a hairdresser about adding grey to my hair. What I ended up with was more like the typical “frosted” look but I think it did help because it implied I was older and trying to hide the grey. I gave it up after a couple of years but I think it made a difference. Behavioral changes can make a big difference, too. Try to be all-business and speak in professional language. My voice can get very high-pitched when I am excited and it definitely is coded as “young and silly.” I had to work on that.

    2. new year, new name*

      And even if you did want to be a career administrative professional, when you have 7 years of experience your next job shouldn’t be entry level anyway! Culturally there’s this conflation of “entry level” and “administrative” that doesn’t serve anyone well (and is rooted in misogyny anyway). Aim high and find a role that reflects your skill and experience!

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I work in a large company so we have official admin roles. And they have their own career progression levels just like every other type of job. There’s a big difference between an entry level admin and a senior level admin.

      2. LilPinkSock*

        Thank you for saying this. Admins really tend to take a beating when people assume we’re all “menial laborers” and “office girls” (which says a lot about they view laborers, young women, and support staff).

        I am a senior administrative professional and I’m tired of the assumption that the work I do is entry-level and not valuable.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Absolutely — OOP should consider whether the administrative tasks themselves have become more complex. In some companies, admin career path options include formal project management.

    3. goddessoftransitory*


      You are 29, LW. It’s never appropriate for your boss to pat you on the head, metaphorically, and tell you you “need to expect some lip,” but it’s extra inappropriate for a grown woman who’s been a team member for X amount of time.

      It’s the ugly open secret of a lot of offices that Admin=Maid to a lot of people, and they don’t say a word because they don’t want to take any of that stuff on, so they search out a Cinderella and make sure she (and yeah, it’s SHE most of the time) never feels like they’ve “earned” the right to actually grow or change in their career.

      1. OP*

        Thank you! I so agree. I think these truths are hitting me more lately because my current manager has quite the severe philosophies, very much a upper management vs. the lower-levels, respect your elders and keep your mouth shut kind of attitude. At first I thought I was just misinterpreting it or it was a one-time bad day, but nope, I have now come to terms that this just who she is. For example, her comment about taking lip was her response to me having a serious conversation about how a colleague had been consistently mistreating me. So yeah, I certainly no longer trust her judgement. (Thankfully, I do have another manager and they are reasonable – otherwise I would have left a long time ago!)

        1. cardigarden*

          Yuck. OP, your manager is awful. Someone at work is mistreating you and she wants you to just get over it? Absolutely not.

        2. Pinacolada*

          Hi OP!

          This hasn’t been mentioned, which surprises me. But have you considered if there’s a gap either in your marketing skills or leadership/communication skills? Have you gotten feedback on the marketing work you do? Is it glowing, or is it lukewarm? If the results you’re producing cause your company to say “Uhhh give her more admin responsibilities” versus “Give her more marketing responsibilities” it’s wiorth asking yourself if you need to up your game. Similarly, part of taking on new projects is showing initiative and being proactive about signing up for things or even proposing them. If you’re not doing that, you have a skills-deficit in that aspect.

          The great news is, both of these can be improved! And should be, even if you go to another job. You’ll want to be able to better advocate for yourself at your next role. And if you’ve been in marketing for 7 years but you’re primarily doing admin work—you are not a competitive candidate with other professionals who have 7 years of straight marketing work, with promotions to match. (I say this as a recruiter). If your company won’t give you meaningful projects, it would be worthwhile to take some additional training (or better get freelance work) so you can set yourself up for a better role in your next company.

          Best luck! You got this.

        3. Scatterling*

          Hey OP, I just wanted to say that I inherited someone pretty much exactly like you via an acquisition. She had 5+ years of experience but had been tasked with a load of admin work. Well, I didn’t need an admin, I needed a marketer. And while she needed some guidance at first, she flourished. After two years she left for a management position. You can too. But you need to find a job with a manager that supports you.

        4. Annabelle Wee*

          Ask your good manager for a review of your job responsibilities. Go over your actual job description and contrast that with your actual job duties. Note how much time you are spending on ‘housekeeping’ tasks and ask for those hours to be replaced with project work. If co workers try to push more admin tasks onto you —-MAKE them run it past your supervisor. NO-ONE should be changing your job description with your supervisor’s ok, or assigning you tasks that do no appear on your yearly review. And you should be able to discuss any new responsibilities/tasks with your supervisor and make a case to TURN THEM DOWN if they are outside your job grade.

    4. sara*

      Yes, absolutely!! I think this is true in all fields, but especially ones like marketing, software, etc, where the field has changed a lot recently.

      Job postings are wish lists not absolute requirements… And are often written with not a lot of specific domain knowledge – like asking for 10+ years of experience in something that’s only been around for 5ish years

      1. Katie N.*

        I literally saw a job posting last week for someone who is an “expert” at ChatGPT … which only became widely available in November 2022.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s an famous tweet by a software developer named Sebastián Ramírez who found a job listing requiring 4 years of experience in FastAPI. Which is a problem, because Sebastián had only invented it 1.5 years ago.

          In general, I suggest applying for jobs where you meet 2/3 of the requirements or 2/3 of the longevity. If you have 7 years of experience, apply for jobs that require 10.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            Sebastián‘s post is the most famous, but I’ve seen more than one similar posts. It’s crazy. Managers have no idea what they’re doing when they write job descriptions.

      2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        This is so true. Tech is ridiculous in this regard, more than one person has posted jokingly about how they can’t apply for jobs in languages or frameworks they *invented*. Jobs will ask for 10 years with x, and the inventor will be like, “Well I developed it five years ago, so that’s interesting”.

    5. irene adler*


      You have the skills. You can do the job.
      If the employer balks at 10 year’s vs. 7 year’s experience, view that as an employer you don’t want to waste time applying to (or working for!).

      In biotech there are job ads with descriptions consisting of 35 bullet points (no exaggeration). I passed them by as I don’t meet all 35.
      One day I did apply to one of these jobs. Right off, the interviewer told me they don’t expect any candidate to come close to meeting all 35. They like to see what’s out there by hoping a wide variety of candidates will apply (hence the 35 bullet points). Then they make a selection on who interests them the most. By the time they hire, what they want doesn’t match the job description much.

  2. Chick (on laptop)*

    Here to offer support as an (actual) admin, 31yo woman. The pink ghetto is real, and it sucks.

    1. pope suburban*

      It is, and it does. I’m nearly a decade out from LW’s situation, and now I’m faced with the trap of having being doing this stuff for so long, I legitimately can’t afford to change careers. I hate it, but man, I sure do love being able to buy food! I’ve been trying to get out for years, but it never worked out and I hope it does for the LW.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      I agree. I started in administrative work right out of high school and I HATE IT. I have a Bachelor’s degree and just cannot seem to break out of these type of roles, no matter what I do. I have internships and limited experience outside of administrative work but I’m just stuck in these types of roles. It sucks.

        1. Chick (on laptop)*

          I’m still trying to find out if I’m one of those people. I bring a lot of good to my team! I’m a great project manager! But I’ll never be able to convince my company that people in my role are capable of performing at Associate Director/Director level and that they should be paid accordingly.

        2. pope suburban*

          How on earth is that helpful or relevant to people who cannot stand these jobs and want to escape them? What was the goal here?

            1. pope suburban*

              It felt sort of shame-y, and it’s like…look, I don’t think anyone here is disparaging the whole field of admin, we just don’t like doing it ourselves. That’s perfectly fine, okay, I would not want to do a lot of jobs and a lot of people would not want mine. Learning about what work we do and don’t enjoy/thrive in is part of learning who we are as people. No one is behaving in a bad way when they say, “I do not enjoy these tasks.” Frankly, part of why I hate these roles is the heaping of undeserved sexism and dismissiveness; I am careful not to propagate that when I say that I do not like these roles for myself. So yeah, just…can we maybe not with the scolding or the implication that we must be eternally grateful to spend our working lives doing stuff that is not good for us?

          1. Bunny Girl*

            Exactly. Administrative work is a great career path if you enjoy it and excel at it. But I don’t like it. I took an office job because it paid more than retail/fast food and I was fresh out of high school without a lot of options. But now I’m stuck in it and can’t get anything else. That’s what sucks.

          2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

            I’m wondering if AngelS’ reply was a nesting fail. I don’t think anyone is trying to shame anyone else.

        3. Seahorse*

          This comes up any time someone mentions admin work here. Yes, administration is vitally important, and it deserves far more respect and pay than it usually gets. It’s okay for people to have talents and interests that lie elsewhere though, and it’s okay for them to say so.

          For people entering the workforce, admin jobs are often presented as stepping stones to other types of office jobs, and it’s frustrating to realize you were duped, and there is no next stone for you. As someone else who accidentally got stuck doing admin work I neither loved nor excelled in, I get it. Now that I’m in a field where my actual skills lie, I’m a much better worker. At least one of my former employers is doing better too, now that they have someone in my former job who is actually good at that work.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Part of the issue is how employers themselves view those roles. I’ve rarely worked somewhere where people doing admin work, even highly skilled and experienced people who have been at it for decades are compensated anywhere near where people with that same amount of experience, skill in other roles. Things like base salary grades, bonuses, stock options, perks, severance, job security don’t often track with those of other job classes. The exceptions have been individual executive assistants whose senior level direct managers recognize their key contribution and value and will push for them to be compensated accordingly.

            So even someone who really loved and was good at that kind of work and has done it for years could recognize that they would like a role with better compensation.

            At the job level too, some people realize they’d rather be an individual contributor who works on their own work product, or on a team project with set schedules, instead of having a role that depends as heavily on other people’s inputs and outputs and schedules as a lot of admin roles do.

            It’s like teaching … it’s not an easy job, requires an incredible level of skill, knowledge and a particular mindset to do really well, and it’s an vital job in our society. That doesn’t mean that someone wants to live on the meager pay that most school teachers are offered, or work according to school calendars and the M-F change classes at every bell ring schedule, and to say it’s not the career path you want isn’t an insult. Well, unless you say it in an insulting way.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          That’s fine, but Bunny Girl does not like them, and being stuck in something you don’t like sucks. It doesn’t mean that whatever it is inherently sucks.

        5. Avril Ludgateaux*

          Nobody is denying that. Bunny Girl was sharing her experience as somebody who does not love them, without disparaging those jobs either.

        6. Zap R.*

          Good for them?

          I hate them and am stuck in them because of various structural inequities facing disabled women but go off.

        7. Admins Aren't Garbage*

          We sure do, and we get trash-talked constantly for it. Last year some chucklehead on this very site told me admins don’t offer high value to our companies.

          1. Pennyworth*

            How could anyone not understand that admins are a vital cog that keeps the wheels of business turning?

          2. nnn*

            you’re always going to find some anonymous stranger saying stupid crap on the internet but that’s not the general vibe on this site

        8. rayray*

          This is the type of job I could excel at, but I was so badly mistreated in my last role that it scarred me from even considering ever doing this type of job again. I’m still in a not-bad-but-not-great job but it’s so much better than where I was before.

          Just do google search for “I hate being an executive/administrative assistant” and you will find endless horror stories, and vents from people at their wits end with these terrible jobs.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I cannot get out of customer service admin no matter what I do and I’ve been trapped for over a decade. People insist on only seeing me through service goggles.

    3. Unwilling Secretary*

      Getting a degree and learning tons of new skills only made people see me as a slightly more clever admin assistant, a position I loathe with every aspect of my being because I 1000% don’t have the personality for it. I’m legit quitting my $2-over-minimum-wage admin job this summer, and turning my self-employment side hustle into my main source of income. After decades of changing companies trying to break free of the admin and reception desks, it’s the only way I’ve found to escape the pink trap of the “unwilling career secretary.” Unfortunately, running your own business isn’t for everyone, so the solution that works for me isn’t the magic universal one. :/

      ($2 over min wage! With over twenty years of experience! Even if I wanted to be a career admin assistant, I should be making a whole lot more than THAT at my experience level!)

      1. Unwilling Secretary*

        Additionally: turning my side hustle into my main hustle means I’m going to want another side gig ’cause I never trust having all my eggs in one basket (huh, there’s a timely saying for the upcoming weekend…)

        For now, I want to learn new skills and make connections that might turn into other lucrative gigs down the road, so I plan to get into volunteering. I’ve always wanted to be part of people doing great work like Habitat for Humanity, Girl Scouts, horticultural organizations, non-PETA animal charities, and the like. (Though not all at once! I’m not 20 anymore.)

      2. Zap R.*

        “Getting a degree and learning tons of new skills only made people see me as a slightly more clever admin assistant”

        Oh lord, this hits way too close to home. Everything I do to pull myself out of the mire just gets me stuck in further.

      3. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        I worked at one company where the Admins (who actually liked and wanted to be Admins) felt terribly put out because now even to be an Admin requires a bachelors degree. They said it would be hard for them to leave the company because they only had a business certificate and/or associates degree.

    4. Bluebonnet*

      I like the term “plink ghetto.” I have noticed this issue, but wasn’t able to adequately describe it. I am also in an unwanted admin type job with 11 years professional experience and a Bachelor’s (as well as a Master’s in progress). Am trying to get out but am struggling to find options so far.

      1. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

        It’s fascinating, it can cross over to any profession if it becomes primarily female. Some countries that have mostly female doctors have shockingly low pay, for the amount of training a doctor has to do.

      2. There You Are*

        I started as an admin assistant, then executive assistant. And I hated 99% of it.

        My only way out was to get some IT certs, take an entry-level IT support job, learn a lot on my own about the intersection of IT and business, and then parlay that into a tech sales job (ERP software). Turns out, I hated that too. :-D

        So I went back to school, finished my Bachelor’s and got a Master’s and now I’m an internal auditor and I freaking love it. Wish I could have gotten here 30 years sooner, but I’ll take it.

    5. OP*

      oooh, I hadn’t heard the pink ghetto phrase before but yeah, I agree. Stay strong out there.

      1. Office Skeptic*

        When I was just starting out my career, I was advised by an older woman to never take an admin position for this very reason, unless you genuinely enjoy admin.

        I don’t think that advice is always practical (we gotta eat, and there are only so many entry level jobs out there), but it did make me aware of the trap admin can become.

        1. MassMatt*

          You are reminding me of a woman who was an experienced paralegal. She was also a VERY fast typist, back before just about every office job used keyboards.

          There were times where a legal brief had to be typed up ASAP for a very tight court deadline. She would do it, but 1) it was a HUGE favor, and she called in those favors 2)She swore the person to secrecy, and 3) She commandeered a separate office far from the people she normally worked with, pulled the blinds, and locked the door. She took all these steps to avoid getting pigeonholed into a role getting typing work throughout the day.

        2. I have RBF*

          When I first started out in the 80s I literally did not admit I knew how to type. I worked as a lab assistant in labs. I washed a lot of glassware, and used my college chemistry.

          Then one job ended, and I started getting temp admin with computers gigs. More money than a lab assistant, but no typewriters. Then I got an admin job that needed my chemistry skills, and I moved up from that. When I did a career change due to a medical issue, I used my computer skills to end up as a computer tech, then moved into sysadmin.

          I fought hard to stay out of the pink ghetto. I hated temp assignments where I had to do receptionist type work. I’m ADHD, and not an extrovert, so I am very unsuited to that kind of work.

          I still have a soft spot for admins, because I know how much of a thankless, limiting job it can be. They often have to take “lip” (and worse) from the folks they support, and their opinions or other skills are deprecated because people see them as “just” an admin. A person who is a skilled admin who enjoys the work is an asset to their company. A person who just is “stuck” into admin work because of supposed youth and “inexperience” and who doesn’t enjoy it is not, no matter how good they seem to be at it.

          If the OP has a degree in marketing, they need to emphasize those skills, and de-emphasize the admin skills. If their boss won’t support them getting out of the admin rut and into the area that they went to college for, they need to leave. If asked about all the admin work? Tell them the truth: It was a bait and switch. If the next job tries it, make a stink, especially if men with less experience are hired directly into marketing roles and don’t have to do all that admin stuff.

          Because I’m AFAB, I often get told that to “advance” in my career I need to go be a non-technical “project manager” before I can move into management. Don’t fall into this trap, either. Guys get promoted directly from individual contributor to manager all the time. It’s just another way that they try to push you into a non-technical pink ghetto. Yes, I’m still salty about that.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Interesting that you see project management that way. My temp-to-perm assignment started as temp admin, went to FT project management role, and was exactly what I needed to sidestep into my technical writing career.

    6. Zap R.*

      33yo woman here. It’s awful. Solidarity with all the other brilliant women stuck in jobs that treat them like crap.

    7. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I feel very fortunate that I’ve never once had an admin assistant job or been stuck in the pink ghetto. I suppose it was because I “came up” in marketing via more technical jobs in printing, typesetting, desktop publishing, and finally graphic design/art director. Those eventually turned into marketing specialist and marketing manager roles.

      I remember in the early 90’s going to the local community college to learn Quark, Pagemaker, and Photoshop, and I guess I’m glad I did that though it was difficult at the time because I worked night shift. I’ve also fallen back on those skills in hard times and still keep up with the software as much as possible.

    8. fluffy*

      I’ve worked at so many software companies where highly-skilled software engineers who happen to be women get treated as de-facto office admins. It’s maddening and awful.

  3. Lacey*

    You’re 29! That’s not SO young and you’re completely right to want to be doing the work you studied to do instead of a bunch of stuff that’s largely unrelated.

    1. Heidi*

      I’m wondering if the LW looks younger than her age. Not that this is a justification for not supporting her career advancement, but it sounds like people are under the impression that she’s still 23 despite working with her for 6 years (did they think she was 17 when she started?).

      Also, the manager who calls the LW her assistant sounds like a jerk. Do not rely on her for career help, LW!

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I also assumed LW is a young-looking woman. I’ve dealt with that SO OFTEN, including leaving a job because the director kept trying to put me in my place, as though I’m not an expert in my field with comfortably over a decades’ experience.

      2. OP*

        Yes! I have been told I look younger than I am so I think you absolutely hit the nail on the head. The original manager who hired me said she was impressed by my background, but she ended up leaving abruptly soon after I started, and then my current manager stepped in without any context. But she’s also a very dense person so I do think she genuinely believes I am 22, despite many clues to the contrary.

        1. Shoe lady*

          I had a similar manager once too – she hired me when I was 35. She actually told me a few years later that she thought I was 29 when she hired me and I had been one of those people who graduated college at 15. Yes, I do look 10 years younger than I am (not my fault! Since I’ve been 25, I’ve been dressing like a 60 year old cultured matron!). She was a total jerk and I was very happy when she was forced to “retire” (she was fired for her shenanigans). I actually wrote in about her once – I was the letter with the boss who was always asking us to do personal favors for her (like borrow my shoes and belt, pick her up at the garage, pick up her mail . . .)

        2. Yoyoyo*

          Solidarity from another person who looks younger than she is (although in the 2 years since I had my kid I have aged a lot). I am 34. I started a new job last year and introduced myself to one of the admins who said, “are you sure you’re old enough?” If I hadn’t been wearing a mask she would have seen my jaw drop. I’ve been in my field for 12 years and have a master’s degree and professional license. Yes, I am old enough.

            1. Queen Ruby*

              I started a job that was a nice bump up from my previous jobs when I was 28. On my first day, one person asked my manager if I was 12, and one of the VPs asked if I was old enough to do the job. Ridiculous.

              1. Nightengale*

                I have always looked young for my ages. Out of college I taught in a residential program for kids with behavioral needs. Parents day comes around and a parent said to me “I thought you were one of the kids.” In front of his 14 year old child who I needed to respect me in the dorm and biology class. People just don’t think before saying stuff like this

                1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

                  I also look and sound young for my age and boy do I have a story! This wasn’t at MY work but someone else’s. I was around 32. Both myself and my mother are legal guardians of my mentally disabled Aunt so we both have to sign off on certain paperwork. My Aunt had to temporarily be put in a nursing home after an injury and her care facility couldn’t handle the recovery.
                  There was a bunch of stuff the nursing home’s social worker needed us to sign but we weren’t able to get there before they had to leave for the day, so it was left with the nursing station. After watching me read and sign a bunch of documents stating that I agree for the nursing home to treat my aunt and bill her insurance Mom and I were chatting with the head nurse on duty. She turns to me and asks “How old are you? 12?”
                  Now I’m used to this, although I usually get late teens, not preteens. But I was stunned at the level of stupidity that this nurse had.
                  HELLO LADY YOU JUST SAW ME SIGN LEGAL DOCUMENTS ABOUT A VULNERABLE ADULT! What 12 year old is responsible for an adult?!?
                  It’s been over 3 years and I still don’t understand that nurse. I understand people have dumb moments but it was a different level.
                  *side note* It especially made me feel bad because just the night before was the first time I wasn’t carded for alcohol!

          1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

            I’m in my late 20s and last time I took a flight, one of the officials assumed I was an unaccompanied minor!

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I don’t look particularly young, but I live in a university town and a lot of people assume I’m a student, even though I got my graduate degree more than a decade ago. Fortunately that hasn’t impacted my professional life much.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          Even if you WERE 22, you would have the right to have your career aspirations taken seriously.

          Basically, you current manager is trying to keep you where you are because finding another person to trick into admin duties (which is what she’s doing) is a pain, and nobody else wants to take over any of those jobs. It simply isn’t worth it to her to promote you because she likes having you dusting and ordering supplies.

          1. Loulou*

            Agreed, boss should be straight with OP about the actual potential for growth in this role.

            1. Hazel*

              Not just that but boss sounds smug, patronising and awful. Lets not sugar coat: it does not matter how old you may look but that you were hired as a competent professional. Don’t let her warp your expectations of decent treatment.

          2. Happy Little Cog*

            OP has probably become “too good at admin” on top of everything else. Hiring someone else to do those jobs would be a pain, and the boss knows OP can get it done quickly and do it well, so those duties just keep getting dumped in her lap.
            Something like this happened to me, and I knew in that particular situation that they were always going to keep sticking me with those duties, so I left. So frustrating.

        4. Quite anon*

          I had a boss who kindly told me I was young and starting out so it didn’t matter that he hadn’t finished processing the paperwork to hire me on as an employee yet, since I wasn’t 30 yet. Sadly covid happened, but I was planning on bringing passive aggressive birthday cake in that year…

        5. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

          Next time she says you are SO young tell her that’s a strange thing to say since you’re going to be 3o in X months!

        6. Seeking Second Childhood*

          One thing I’ve mentioned before (OK maybe by now it’s often LOL) is that displaying college reunion memorabilia can help in unexpected ways. I used my 15year reunion button to pin up my safety glasses and I saw a visible change in a couple of engineeing managers after they asked about it. (The one drawback to getting a certificate– some assumed it was my ONLY post high school degree. That’s a whole other can of assumptions.)

      3. Dona Florinda*

        Ugh, I look ten years younger than I actually am, and often had my experience and expertise downplayed because I’m “so young” for things like promotions, apparently.

        OP, please take Alison’s advice to heart. And yeah, the manager does sound like a jerk.

      4. Some words*

        Do we see this same scenario with young men?

        What I’ve seen is young men nurtured and groomed for swift upward mobility. I’ve not seen women receive that same treatment.

        1. kicking-k*

          I know one man who was constantly taken for much younger by clients (and grew a beard to try to counteract it) but I think it’s rarer.

        2. JSPA*

          I’ve seen them grow facial hair to look older, or speak in a deeper-than-natural-for-them voice, for sure. And I’ve seen women add a little gray to their hair, and work with an actual trainer to change vocal habits that were, at the time, associated with being young (uptalk, vocal fry).

          Books were written on this topic (for young and young-seeming men) before women were even in the greater workforce.

      5. Zap R.*

        Yes. This has been a huge problem for me, especially when it comes to negotiating pay.

    2. Loulou*

      It’s interesting how much these things vary by field. I’m in libraries and I’d definitely consider 29 young and 7 years post-grad to be early career, though obviously I realize things are probably different in fields that don’t require masters degrees. Regardless, it sounds like OP’s boss has been really condescending to her and I agree with the advice for her situation.

        1. Loulou*

          Early-career, not entry level. But it also wouldn’t be uncommon for people to stay in their “entry level” role for years or decades. At some institutions that will come with increases in title (assistant to associate, etc.), but at others the pay increases while the title does not. It sounds like OP’s field works very differently but I just want to flag that the “you’re almost 30! You should be a senior something” is definitely not universal, even among professional/white collar jobs.

      1. kicking-k*

        yep. I’m an archivist. It took me till I was 41 to get a job without “assistant” in the title. It’s largely because there aren’t very many mid-range posts; either you’re junior or senior. I have jumped from being junior to everyone except pre-qualification trainees, to being the only archivist in an organisation and treated as managerial level (even though I have no direct reports).

    3. Double A*

      Right? I mean in a Jane Austen novel you’d be an unmarriageable crone nearly a decade past your prime.

        1. starsaphire*

          …and now my brain is directing a movie scene with two well-dressed young ladies taking a turn around the drawing room and whispering about “poor Cousin OP…”

          (But yes, polish up your resume, look at those stretch-goal jobs, and apply apply apply!)

      1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        As a 40yo never-married woman who doesn’t “woman” in socially acceptable ways, I feel this in my soul.

  4. DisneyChannelThis*

    I’d heavily lean to the job hunt a higher level role rather than stay in this role. Once you get designated the person to handle admin type tasks even if you get promoted people are still going to give admin tasks to you, some sort of mental hangup…

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Even if she got a promotion, she’d still be the de facto person everybody runs to to “explain how putting meetings on my calendar works?” “Where do we order pens?” “Could you clean out the fridge? Nobody else does it as well as you!”

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        “But you’re already good at it, and I never learned how!” Woof.

        Again, no one is disparaging admin tasks, but it requires a personality everyone does not have.

        Also, as noted upstream, Boss really has no interest in LW advancing. It simplifies Boss’ life to have LW right where she is, doing what she’s doing, for as long as possible. If LW wants new tasks, she needs a new job.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Hard agree.

      If your job hasn’t made room for you to move up yet, they’re unlikely to going forward because all that admin work will still be there and they’ll be reluctant to ask anyone else to take some of it off your plate. If they’re not talking about adding an actual admin, this isn’t going to go away.

    3. I don't do coffee*


      I’ve been in a specific specialized role for almost five years but I still get asked to explain or find things all the time.

      I’ve gotten good at laughing it off because gosh, I can’t be expected to remember any of that these days, but let me point you to X who knows absolutely everything.

  5. NothingIsLittle*

    As someone who pivoted from admin to marketing work, just apply to jobs even if you don’t feel qualified. Yes, I got very few bites on my resume, tailored as it was, but the interviews I got allowed me to explain how I could be counted on to learn the job quickly and had transferable skills.
    Just a note, something that helped me enormously was having experience and data from growing and marketing a college club (I was able to provide the percent by which I grew the social media and attendance). If you can, find a smaller non-profit that you can volunteer to do smaller marketing tasks for. You might not be able to directly take on their social media or marketing campaigns, but even producing that content for them can be a huge help to them while also giving you numbers to point to when applying for marketing positions.

    1. Specialist*

      I hired a young woman with a marketing degree as a contractor. She has a regular job. She does social media and looks at general advertising for me. I am a solo practice physician and really suck at these things. You can make your own business and market yourself to a few people like me. It would be easy to do in your off time and be a resume builder in your actual field. Just be sure it doesn’t conflict with your current job. Although I don’t see how it would, as you are doing admin tasks.

  6. WantonSeedStitch*

    When I was 26, I left my first permanent job after grad school. I’d been an admin at a company with no real upward mobility (it was tiny), and took an admin position at a university within a department where I felt I had a skill set that WOULD allow me to move up. A year later, having had opportunities to demonstrate that skill set, I’d been promoted into a non-admin role. So no, you’re not asking for too much. That is absolutely a normal way for things to work.

    1. Cdell*

      I’d say your experience/what you’re describing is a *healthy* way for things to work, but not necessarily normal. I’ve had several admin roles and tried hard to show I can do “more” and never got promoted. Unfortunately getting pigeonholed as admin is more common than it should be!

    2. Boat*

      I had a similar trajectory to start moving out of admin. I took a steady admin role at a large organisation with many departments, including some departments more relevant to my career aspirations. After some time, I applied for (and got) a short-term role in another department within the same organisation, as a secondment from my main role. This meant that I retained job security, and was also able to shore up some more relevant experience for my resume. The short-term role wasn’t advertised as a secondment opportunity, but I requested that it become one if my application were successful (I wasn’t going to take it otherwise). Most likely I was competing with relatively few applicants for that role, given that a short-term role is not attractive to many, so that probably helped me too. (On the plus side for the admin role, as I was so comfortable handling the requirements of that role, that I was able to manage part-time study in the evenings concurrently, which also helped to improve my resume.)

  7. Cdell*

    Oh man this advice depresses me as I’m literally 40 and still stuck in admin roles. Whenever I “reach” for more substantial work (also in marketing/comms), I lose out to people with just a few years of experience just because that experience is more focused/substantial than mine. Then I’m not even considered for manager-level titles or up because I don’t have enough experience.
    I guess what I’m saying is, GET OUT NOW while you still can. It truly will only get harder to do the older you get.

    1. Ann Nonymous*

      I think that in your case, like that of the OP, volunteer work to get experience in the role you want to have is key. Maybe also networking and setting up informational interviews will move you towards your goal.

      1. Dona Florinda*

        I second the suggestion to volunteer! It will give you a nice portfolio, good experience and maybe even strong connections.

    2. Decorative Rocks*

      I lose out to people with just a few years of experience just because that experience is more focused/substantial than mine

      Yep. Seven years of mostly admin and some marketing < 3 years of pure marketing. OP would benefit from looking for every path she can to get more marketing work and let the admin work slide.

    3. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Yes, at the Marketing Specialist level, the roles tend to be very much focused.
      Social Media Manager, Digital Marketing Specialist, Graphic Designer, SEO Specialist, etc., etc. You almost have to pick something that interest you, and then take some hard technical skill classes in that area.

      I STILL do this and have been working in marketing a long time. In the last few years I’ve taken SEO, Google Analytics, Marketing Strategy, and am currently studying for my PMP. I kind of sucks, but then again it’s a field in rapid change. If I hadn’t been willing to constantly be learning, I’d still be stuck typesetting.

  8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    My family member is in marketing. First full time position went from entry to mid level in three years. Shake ups in department, time to look outside. My family member sent me cover letter to review. Used phrasing like, new to the industry, eager to learn, opportunity to prove myself.
    I asked myself “how would Alison respond?”
    I answered myself, “with a healthy Nope.”
    OP, I’ll tell you the same thing. You are not new, you don’t need to prove yourself, you’ve put in time and have knowledge and experience to offer. Focus on accomplishments and stop taking advice (and lip – wtaf?) from your boss.

    PS: family member was hired back to first company as senior/lead marketing.

    Balance the company’s needs with yours. They can hire an admin. They are choosing not to.

    1. goddessoftransitory*


      If this company valued admin work, they’d hire administrative professionals and pay them a competitive rate. Or if they can’t afford it, insist that everybody in the office take turns performing admin duties.

      1. Orangeydude*

        OP sounds a lot like me (also 29) and currently our company’s admin staff are dropping like flies. I’m sure because we aren’t feeling valued or have a plan for growth.

    2. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      “You’re young so you might not understand this yet, but something you need to get used to as a junior employee is taking lip sometimes from people above you.”

      This is not a good manager and it’s horrible advice. Do you have to pay your dues sometimes, sure. Everyone has to start somewhere (I used to inspect phone books). But you’re not really entry level anymore.

  9. stk*

    I had a very similar problem, LW. My sympathy. I definitely left it too long, in retrospect… but good news, it is not too late. It does sound like your current employer may not react well to asking for a plan for promotion/getting the admin work as a smaller percentage of your day, but other employers exist if so! And for those employers, you have a few good years experience being reliable, you can talk the marketing talk presumably, and you have some project anecdotes that can hopefully sell your skills. Good luck.

  10. I am Emily's failing memory*

    I’m in marketing. The lack of mid-level roles is a symptom of “lean staffing.” Marketing departments need someone who knows what they’re doing in charge, and they need someone to do the grunt work, and anything more than that is basically a luxury and the department head often has to perform three certified miracles to convince their employer they deserve another headcount.

    You have 7 years of experience being exposed to what I would imagine is probably a pretty wide range of marketing activities, even. In my experience, that makes you an ideal candidate for a small organization/company that can only afford to hire one marketing person, and they can’t afford to hire the people who lead marketing departments at larger businesses/organizations. Apply for jobs where you’d be the Marketing Director with no direct reports under you because you’d be the entire department. I’m almost certain you would be competitive for these roles (even if you don’t strictly meet every listed requirement on their wish list), and while they don’t pay as much as a Director role at a bigger place, they’ll pay more than entry-level roles do.

    A caveat that small orgs/biz can be dysfunctional in a lot of ways, so you probably want to go into this thinking of it as a way to get hands-on experience directly doing all the stuff you’ve so far just been observing and hearing other people talk about doing. Because you’ll be a Director, you’ll have a lot of freedom to try the things you most want to gain experience doing. If you make the most of that freedom, after 2-3 years doing this kind of work, you will be competitive for Manager/Senior Manager roles at organizations large enough to have staff in such roles.

    1. Namaste at Home*

      This is great advice, because it is exactly what I did. I was in education for a decade and switched to entry level marketing. (Comm undergrad I will say). I worked for an agency for 18 months until Covid killed my dept. Got an online Masters for 15k and now I am a Marketing Director for an under-100 employee co that is family owned and I make great money.

    2. Smithy*

      100% this. Teams that run lean have that challenge of hiring a “director” and someone who’s junior. Regardless of their title, that junior person does everything else as that director won’t have a designated administrative staff member or executive assistant.

      In addition to looking at Director/Lead roles at small/midsized places – the other idea is to look at very very large teams who do have those interim or mid-level roles. Those position are often daunting because they’ll have requirements that allude to 5-7 years of experience management in addition to the technical skills. Ignore those management desires. For fields that often run *very* lean teams, those large teams that do have interim roles are not common sector wide and candidate pools where people have both 5-7 years of relevant experience plus management experience are just not common. And usually those people will be applying for more serious Director positions.

      Lastly, I think it might be worth considering what professional networks you do or do not have. Lean teams can mean that your work friends are often not in your sector, and so you might be less likely to get insight on the type of advancement that people in your field and your city/region are finding helpful right now.

    3. Office Skeptic*

      Yes, this! I got a mid-level communications role by working at a small nonprofit that could only really hire one comms person. Then I moved laterally into a big organization that could afford to hire a whole team. In a few years I’ll be positioned to move into a higher role.

    4. EA Wonder Woman*

      As an Executive Assistant by choice, I completely agree with this part – “You have 7 years of experience being exposed to what I would imagine is probably a pretty wide range of marketing activities, even.” Definitely really think through your tasks/accomplishments at work & see how you can package them for more of a marketing position. Are you preparing documents, emails, policies, presentations, etc? All accomplishments that can be rewritten with a more marketing slant that admin slant. Any special projects you’ve worked on “as the admin” that could actually be used to highlight your marketing skillset? A resume is literally your own marketing and I think you may not be using it to your full advantage to showcase your skills. Best of luck!

    5. Alan*

      I really like this. My whole career has been doing single-person stuff (working projects that aren’t big enough or funded enough for a large team) in a large company, and it’s gotten me much more experience, and ironically, much more visibility, than I would have as a member of a team. Team members (at least at my company) get *very* little visibility because there’s always a lead or manager to take credit. If you can find a way to be a one-person team at a smaller organization (or like me, within a large organization) you can jump start your career. Decades into my career now I have a reputation that I simply would not have had if I were always working under someone else.

    6. OP*

      Oooh, yes! I totally agree with lean staffing, though I hadn’t thought of that before. Thank you so much for sharing! This is really helpful and actionable for me.

      1. Qwerty*

        Yep. I’m also in marketing and came here to second this point – you’re not crazy for recognizing that there aren’t a ton of jobs for that middle layer.
        But also wanted to pile on that 29 is not so young! I was lucky enough to get one of those rare mid level jobs when I was 25 (web content manager at a marketing agency) and by 29 I was leading content strategy and managing the editorial team. Upward movement can happen fast in the right place!
        Which was gonna be my other suggestion for your job search – try working at a marketing agency, even if it is a more junior role. You could continue to get broad exposure to lots of types of projects and clients, and since “utilization rates” are important bc it’s professional services, they are incentivized to have you doing actual marketing work for clients that can be invoiced and not admin work.
        Final point – if you want to gussy up your resume, there are a ton of free or affordable certifications for marketing offered by companies like HubSpot, Marketo, Google etc. That could help add some credibility to your skill set.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Good luck in your search! Remember to be confident in what you know from your education, and don’t discount the value of things like having seen many marketing campaign briefs, possibly in various states on their way to polish; of having seen the kinds of choices your marketing leaders make and hearing the reasons why they make them; of being familiar with marketing industry jargon and best practices.

        Those are exactly the things that will make it possible for you to hit the ground running if put in charge of your own marketing program, and in your cover letter/interviews you really want to sell that, eg something like: “In my time at Company, I’ve provided office support critical to the execution of both direct response and brand campaigns, including multichannel digital campaigns and campaigns with an offline component, influencer marketing, and street canvassing. I’ve proofread marketing copy for all of the above, managed relationships with our acquisition and software vendors, and generated regular reports for leadership on the performance of various initiatives. I’m comfortable working in CRM databases and familiar with the ways automation and machine learning can be leveraged to execute data-driven campaigns. In my spare time, I’ve kept my industry knowledge fresh by pursuing various marketing certifications, and I hold current certificates from Google Analytics, Google Ads, Hubspot, and Meta.”

        Obviously adapt as needed to your particular experience, but the main point is to emphasize how broad your experience of marketing activities are, that you’ve had eyes on almost everything a marketing team does in a year, even if you were relegated to an entry-level/admin role on the projects.

        If you can demonstrate that you’re familiar with the daily ins and outs of working in a marketing department, and that you’ve shown a bit of initiative and broadened your perspective by getting some of those free external certificates on your own, it’s not a stretch for an employer to believe that you’ll be ready to step up and start making marketing decisions and plans yourself, even if you’ve never been in charge of making the decisions and plans before. Just knowing what other marketing professionals base their decisions on, and what good plans look like when they’re complete, gives you a big leg up over people who don’t have that same experience.

    7. Emmy Noether*

      I’m not in marketing, so I can’t attest to that part, but I can say from experience that when you’re the only person in [role] in a small company, you get a lot of experience, fast. It can even be sort of scary at times, because you’re doing new things for the first time and there’s no-one to ask for guidance. It’s the thrown-in-cold-water approach to learning a lot of the time, but learn you do. Keeping friends from an old job, or some kind of mentor, for advice is a good idea.

    8. Sloanicota*

      I agree with this, and I’ve built what there is of my career by bouncing back and forth between “tiny scrappy nonprofit with little staff who makes one person do everything” (and may be dysfunctional, but you learn a lot and gain a lot of experience, for very little pay) and “big more established nonprofit that pays better but has more niche roles and smaller chances to get promoted / gain experience.” Just bouncing back and forth between the two, trying to get one ring up the ladder every time.

    9. That came off jaded*

      This. I work in PR/Comms but have limited options because I choose to live in a semi-rural area for family reasons. I worked positions similar to what you describe (supposed to be Marketing and sometimes did everything but) and now I work for a smaller organization as a one-person PR/Marketing department and make a fantastic wage for living in such a rural area. I have even looked at making a move to something remote (just because I have been here a while and want a new challenge more than anything) and can’t find anything competitive once I factor in my retirement benefits. I also have lots of autonomy and freedom of schedule which allowed me to build a very successful side hustle in a completely unrelated field. If you don’t mind being a one person shop there can be advantages, or it could be a stepping stone into a Director level role at a larger organization.

  11. Seahorse*

    Anytime someone emphasized my alleged youth at work, they turned out to be a person who had a general pattern of undermining anyone they felt was beneath them or a potential threat to them. It stemmed from insecurities around their own accomplishments, age, job duties, whatever. Looking back, it was never about me or how many birthdays I’d had.

    Even when I was in my early 20s and making mistakes out of inexperience, the managers or coworkers who helped me to improve never made it about age.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes; quite often the whole “you’re just a little bitty beginner” routine is a disguise for a Christine/Carlotta vibe.

  12. AKD*

    I work in Marketing for an architecture firm, and I’d like to encourage you to check out the professional organization for this type of work – http://www.SMPS.org. There are different local chapters with job boards for marketing positions for architecture, engineering, and construction companies. At least in the SF Bay Area, we are suffering from a lack of candidates at the intermediate level (5-10 years of experience).
    How much admin work a marketing position includes usually has a lot to do with the size of the firm. If it’s a smaller company, they’ll be looking for you to be more of a “jill of all trades.” Maybe look for positions in a larger organization that has dedicated admin people that are separate from the marketing staff?

    1. Nervous Nell*

      Thank you for sharing this link! I’m in the middle of a marketing job search and am at the exact same point as the OP.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    I would suggest job hunting actively and also doing some further education in the areas you want to focus on – whether that means some college courses to get a certification, or joining a relevant professional association and attending training and events they provide. Investing in your career this way will signal to your current and potential employers that you are serious about the direction you want for your career. It will also help you build your skills, make you more marketable to other companies.

    At work, I would look for opportunities to do the work you want to do. Doing some training will give you a better ability to push back if you’re told you don’t have the experience or skills.

    I would also have a conversation with your manager and point out that your job title is Marketing Assistant (or whatever your actual title is), and not Admin Assistant. Yes, admin work needs to be done, but she’s refusing to see you as a marketing professional and she’s making it difficult for you to be perceived/recognized as a marketing professional by other people, too. You might also want to point out that while you understand about “paying your dues”, you HAVE DONE SO for 7 years now, and you joined your current company to advance your career in marketing, not to be pigeonholed as an Admin Asst. (Perhaps be more diplomatic, but definitely be clear about this.)

    1. me just me . . .*

      Yes. This. I’d look at job postings and see what activities/skills/certificates are most mentioned and figure out how to obtain some of that outside of your current role (paid courses, volunteer work, contract work) and add those to your resume. Then hit hard on accomplishments vs tasks on your resume.

  14. No_woman_an_island*

    This post is a reminder that literal people (guilty) have a really tough time applying for jobs for which they’re not quite qualified. I’m 45 and just realized a few years ago you never get a candidate with the exact qualifications listed on the job posting. I legit thought there were people out there who fit the mold and got the job solely because they fit the mold. I undersold myself for years thinking that. So, go for it OP! You might be surprised just how qualified you actually are for some of those jobs.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I remember reading a study that talked about how male candidates are more likely to apply to jobs that they have some of the qualifications for, whereas female candidates are more likely to ONLY apply for jobs they have EVERY qualification for.

      As I’ve gotten further in my career I’ve realized that a lot of job posting “qualifications” are BS anyway and are often written by people who don’t know the job or industry. For example, I often see postings for entry level jobs in my industry asking for a certain certification that you are only able to get with several years of experience.

      That tells me that the person who put together the qualifications doesn’t know what the certification means and/or doesn’t realize that they’re asking for someone with a cert that usually means you have at least ten years of experience to apply for an entry level job.

      1. Alan*

        Yep. Like asking for 5 years experience in a technology that hasn’t been around that long. I’m in software development and it’s all too common for people to ask for lots of experience where it’s not really needed, and sometimes not even possible. And too often as well the people writing the requirements don’t even *know* anything about software so they ask for things that, experience level aside, don’t make any sense.

        1. I have RBF*

          I know a guy who literally developed a piece of open source software XXX who was turned down for a job using that software because he “didn’t have enough experience with XXX”. IIRC he posted about it on Twitter.

      2. Goforit*

        My former husband was firmly in the camp of “don’t have all posted qualifications, can’t apply”; until several cheerleaders (myself and a couple of friends) pushed him to try. He ended up excelling and having the top reputation in his field a few years later– all without that “must have” qualification that was on the original requirement list.
        So not just women, but anyone with a self-effacing or perfectionist personality type.

  15. Michelle Smith*

    “Also, if you had particularly good rapport with any managers or more senior colleagues at previous jobs, now would be a good time to reach out to them. Explain what you’re trying to do and the obstacles you’re running into and ask if they have advice for you.”

    Do this immediately, even if you don’t have any managers or senior colleagues to reach out to. If you don’t know anyone, get on LinkedIn and find people who are where you eventually want to be and ask them for advice, yesterday. This will not only give you the confidence you need, because they are going to confirm Alison is right about you NOT being too young, but they are the people who are going to be best positioned to give you clear, actionable advice to apply to the right jobs, adapt your resume, and ace your interviews. Good luck!

  16. Fikly*

    Along with the excellent advice from Alison, take a moment to check your assumption that everything your managers and other people at work are telling you is the truth.

    Often, when a manager tells you “I would if I could” it doesn’t actually mean that. It’s something they say to get you to stop bothering them about whatever they don’t want to deal with. Women, in particular, are socialized to believe what they are told, particularly about their limitations.

    But right now, and in your previous positions, you are useful to them doing the low level admin tasks, because if you weren’t doing them, they would presumably have to hire someone to do it – do you see anyone else doing them? So rather than give you the opportunities that you have earned with your experience, they are patting you on the head and telling you that oh, they’d love to help you, but their hands are tied, or really, you’re too young and inexperienced when of course you aren’t. That’s to their benefit, not yours.

    I’m not saying they are wrong about everything. I can’t possibly know if they are. But what I do know is that you need to question what they are telling you, and look for hard proof that they are correct, and that any of them who say they are helping you are actually taking concrete action to do so.

    One question I find helpful to ask myself when I’m wondering if I’m overstepping or otherwise having an inappropriate reaction is this: would a man in the same exact situation be feeling this way? If the answer is no, I don’t necessarily change my action, but I certainly think further on it, and why I’m acting and feeling the way I do.

  17. BookMom*

    I’d also suggest identifying what aspect of marketing you really enjoy and are good at and lean into that. Is it events, graphic design, sales, etc? Let your peers know you’d like to help with projects with that focus so you can get more hands on experience. If you can site manage an event for a colleague who is on vacation or out sick, for example, then that’s experience you can leverage in interviews. Or take a no credit class on basic graphic design at the community college then offer to help with internal communications campaigns that are a little lower stakes than work for external clients. Colleagues who see your interest and developing skills may refer you to openings at other companies they see in their network. I almost got pigeon holed as an admin a couple times in my career and it took effort to move up.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I totally agree with this advice! If I hadn’t been able to get a ton of events experience in my past roles (which had a lot of admin tasks too), I would never have been able to break out of admin work in my mid-40s. I was hired into my current role specifically for my events experience and I don’t really have to do any admin. OP, definitely pick the thing about marketing you want to focus on the most and do that as much as you can.

      Also (and this is key), when I started applying for jobs the last time I was job hunting, I had to mentally re-frame my years of experience and how I discussed my past work. So it wasn’t 12+ years of admin experience with events on the side, it was 12+ years of events experience with admin on the side – but I talked almost exclusively about the events experience in my CV, cover letters and interviews. I did not mention anything admin-related unless I was specifically asked about it. Taking that mental leap was difficult at first, but it was SO vital in getting an events job! And re-framing also helped me so much when I started this job too – I would never have described myself as an events specialist before even though it was a huge part of my past jobs. But now I do, and making that mental shift has helped my confidence so much.

      Best of luck to the OP and everyone else who is looking to get out of admin work. It’s not easy, but it IS possible!

  18. Not my usual name*

    You might also want to check out the professional body for marketing or comms/PR in your area – here in the UK I would suggest Chartered Institute of Marketing, PRCA or CIPR. These will help build your networks (especiallyif you volunteer with your local or sector group), provide cheap or free CPD, and will reassure you that you have skills and experience for taking the next stage.

    As for your CV/resume – you are in marketing. You know how to highlight your key selling points – you can do this!

  19. Green Tea*

    As someone who struggled for years to get out of admin work (which was sold as a stepping stone role during interviews and quickly transformed into ‘you’re part of a permanent servant underclass’ once I started the role, I sympathize with this so much. I was finally able to get promoted, but my career was significantly slowtracked compared to similarly qualified people who joined the team as interns. And, few other companies will think someone with admin experience is qualified for anything other than admin work, so it is really hard to get a job elsewhere that breaks out of the mold.

    One thing you have going for you is your title doesn’t say admin, so it will be easier to follow Alison’s suggestion to reduce focus on your admin responsibilities and emphasize your marketing work. Another thing that I did was make clear every chance I got during my day job that I was looking for opportunities to work on more challenging work, not just to my direct manager but to everyone. Then my name was in mind sometimes and they approached my manager about getting some of my time on projects. Good luck, it is incredibly difficult to break out of these kinds of roles.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      And make sure people are aware of your educational background. You’d be surprised how little management often knows about staff’s actual training/skills/background if they weren’t directly involved in hiring them.

      1. Not my real name*

        This. My grandboss only sometimes remembers that I have a relevant master’s degree after nearly 10 years.

      2. Green Tea*

        Yes, 100% this for education and skills. This is true for all roles I think, but especially for admins and people seen as admins like OP. Now that I’m in a programmatic role people will sometimes ask if I have a given skill or experience if I am a maybe on a project. Basically,
        I’m given a chance to sell myself, if the situation is right while admins have to create those opportunities.

        When I was an admin, people assumed a lack of skills/education unless I specifically told them about it, and even then, my experience was suspect until proven. They’d assume I had a very basic skillset and was under the Dunning-Kruger effect about what I had done/could do.

  20. PotteryYarn*

    The job you’ve wanted is exactly the job I had when I started out at my current company. My title was Marketing Assistant and most of my job was supporting our sales team with marketing materials (presentations, promotional items, data entry for sales/purchasing forms, etc.). This position was specifically designed for someone to get their foot in the door and then get promoted out of it. Both my boss and my grandboss held the position before I did, and at least three more of us have been promoted out of it into full-fledged marketing positions over the last five years. When I interviewed, this was something they mentioned several times. It was a stepping stone position and that I should not expect to be in it more than a couple years. One of the things that was designed into the position was the opportunity to assist with other projects in our skill area (creating graphics for social media, writing blog posts, taking photos at events, etc.), so that we could continue to build those skills and have work to can showcase when our boss was ready to push for the promotion to upper management. Definitely ask about the people who previously held your role—How long are people typically in that position? Why does the position open up (do they leave or get promoted)? What does the company do to foster career growth? All of these questions are good data points to determine if there’s any upward mobility and what you need to do to achieve it.

  21. Brain the Brian*

    Right here with you, LW — just turned 30, with seven years in the industry, and still in a position that’s essentially one level above entry. I am bored to tears most days, and the pay just isn’t enough. I asked my manager about a year and a half ago what to do to be eligible for promotion, and she informed me that I would need to a master’s degree to do that. Of course, working full-time while dealing with multiple family and health crises over the past few years has allowed zero time to even work on applications for grad school — let alone actual coursework — so here I am. I suspect I need to find a wealthy spouse.

  22. MelancholyMeandering*

    Oh man, this letter feels like it could have been written by me! I’m 28, have a masters degree from a prestigious institution, and though I’ve had some impressive positions and have always gotten rave reviews from my employers, I’ve been at the same place in the same (mostly admin!!!) job for 5 years. Yesterday, when I realized I was hitting the 5-year mark this month, I definitely descended into a crisis, which only got worse when I glanced through job listings. There’s such a lack of mid-tier jobs, and I’ve been strung along with promises of promotions for too long! I’m going to try and take Alison’s advice to heart and try to really sell myself and apply to jobs that I feel a bit under qualified for.

    1. I Wish My Job Was Tables*

      I’m 34 and this letter feels like me somewhat now! I’ve been taking assistant positions for the last 5+ years because it feels like it’s all I’m qualified for. I’m trying to figure out how to use what I like doing at work into a career path, but I can’t figure out what kinds of “next step” careers I should look for because it often feels like there aren’t any mid-tier job listings I can use as a guide! I searched by responsibilities, programs, and fields and it still sometimes feels like I’m only finding entry level assistant jobs or the most insanely high tier director positions. I’ll be reading through these comments to get inspiration on how to proceed.

  23. AngelS.*

    I would say to please speak up when the manager introduces you as their assistant, and give them your actual title.

    1. Momma Bear*

      This, too. Or look for times in meetings to interject skills. “Actually, I have experience with social media marketing and could promote your Teapot Decorating event if you give me the details.”

      1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

        Yes! Don’t rely on the boss. Let your coworkers and other know what you are looking at. If there’s someone in the marketing team now talk to them and say that you have X qualifications and are looking for ways you can help them.

  24. RJ*

    I pivoted from administration to project accounting/management and I feel your pain, OP. The cornering of experienced admin workers by executives is real and it happens way too frequently. Brush up your resume and LinkedIn profile and list your accomplishments and contributions. You can apply and will qualify for jobs outside of admin. It’s all a question of selling your skills.

  25. Punk*

    I learned the hard way that it never works out to accept a job in the hopes of eventually moving into a different role. Not that it doesn’t happen, but it’s not a reliable strategy to accept an admin role if you’re hoping for a transfer into marketing, even if the manager promises it.

    The problem is that marketing is super competitive and small companies do just fine without dedicating marketing staff. Additionally, marketing doesn’t look like it used to. At my last job, marketing handled event planning and customer outreach. At my current job, they work with vendors and do…event planning. I’ve never seen anyone fully do that Mad Men thing of sitting around and brainstorming commercials.

    If I can offer specific advice, I’d suggest learning some technical stuff. Do you know how to use Google Adwords? Do you know data analysis methods?

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I’ve been in marketing for many years. I’ve been saying more and more that marketing is now mainly about project management.

      You rarely use your creative skills anymore and just work managing the various agencies.

  26. Ozzie*

    Blah I’m in a similar situation and it is so frustrating. I’ve been at my job almost 7 years and despite being in charge of an entire (single person) department (after about 5 years of clawing my way up to this point), I STILL do admin tasks for my original department, because, well, the job needs to be done by someone and the person that department just hired needs to do OTHER things so they still need my help with admin tasks and certainly they can’t hire an additional person into that department.

    Ah, to be rewarded with additional work.

  27. HonorBox*

    I think that your experience and background give you the standing to apply for a job that asks for 10 years of experience. It seems like you’re undercutting yourself and your skills.

    And absolutely job search! It doesn’t sound like you’re getting the proper respect from your present boss/manager, and even having the conversation Alison suggests doesn’t seem like it would go the right way given the additional admin tasks being put on your plate. So I’d find a place that you can walk into without the weight of those tasks on your shoulder.

    And just a note to any of us writing a job description… quality can be better than quantity when it comes to experience. I’m just saying that in reaction to the LW’s comment about jobs being entry level or asking for 10 years of experience, but I’ve seen that too often elsewhere too. The number of years can be an obstacle to a great candidate even thinking they’re qualified to apply. And I’m saying this to myself too, as I do write job descriptions/posts.

  28. Somehow_I_Manage*

    Marketing is a broad field. I have family in the advertising/media/web side of it. That particular field can be ruthless on young employees. Lots of egos involved in all levels of management. Lots of possessive managers and gatekeeping. Clients can be very difficult to please- which breeds very controlling project managers unwilling to share responsibility.

    For my friends and family, the common thread to breaking out of the bottom has been to move jobs until you find a great manager who wants to be their champion. You just wont get anywhere without a hand up.

  29. Llama Event Planner*

    I am a 35 yo female and I constantly get that “you’re so young” or “since you’re just starting out” comments. I have been with this company for 10 years! I have 6 years of working a bank previous to that and heck, if you want to count it, I was working at a stable in exchange for horseback riding lessons since the age of 12. People are always flabbergasted that I’m far closer to 40 than they thought and can’t seem to mentally recalibrate. I am always being looped in with the college students or recent grads for great learning opportunities. Or spoken to in that manner, like I’m fresh out of the gate and still learning. No amount of my trying to combat it has worked.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I know men who have a beard based on the perception of youth. If they want to be seen as older and wiser or are interviewing, they’ll keep the beard. It’s frustrating to be perceived as too young well into your 30s.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Lucky men! I am a man (cis) who can’t grow a beard worth anything, and I am consistently carded at bars despite being 30. This carries over into the workplace, I know.

  30. Momma Bear*

    A lot of women don’t reach. The “joke” is that men apply when they meet just a few of the requirements and women don’t apply unless they meet all the requirements. I changed my whole career trajectory applying for an adjacent type job that lead me into tech (and I didn’t consider myself a techie). I took a chance on the application. They took a chance on me. I suggest to OP that she list her skills and then look for jobs with those skills and see what opens up to her. If she wants to do Marketing, what options are there, even if it’s not directly “Marketing”? Does a small group need help with social media or event planning and can that then be used to pad out the resume in the right direction?

    If I get a resume that doesn’t look obvious but they’ve focused on their skills and made it clear how they’re a fit for my job opening, I might bring them in for an interview just to see what they have to say and see if it really would work. We often need people who will be flexible but maintain their core role. Someone like OP would be valuable for a small to mid-sized company where people wear many hats.

    The other thing OP might consider is looking at different departments. Can she be “borrowed” by them for projects and gain skills that way? Are there openings elsewhere in the company that might fit the bill better than where she is now? If the manager is all too happy to keep OP where she is, OP might need to find the opportunities herself.

    Keep reaching, OP. It’s not too much to expect more.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree with you, that it’s worth a try, but as a career woman I always scratch my head at this piece of general wisdom, because I feel like I’ve always tried to reach and I always get slapped down and selected for only lateral roles, particularly in admin- adjacent fields. Maybe I look a little young or don’t present as a “leader” but I do truly believe there’s some gender BS involved in this.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Women have to be twice as good as a man. I honestly think this is why men apply when they don’t fit everything and women NEED to fit everything in order to apply.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah! Thank you for putting it this way! Because so often I feel like the “takeaway” is that silly women just need to BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES like men do and apply for more stuff, and that has … not been my experience?? And then I’m like, oh I guess I just suck but other women probably can succeed by just believing in themselves more, that’s probably what’s going on …

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Sadly, it’s not a joke – it’s based on research.

      I always think of that when I’m choosing a doctor.

  31. Office Skeptic*

    This is so strange to me – 29 and 7 years of experience isn’t “young” in the work world. It’s definitely not entry level. I’ve seen people in management at that age. LW, it sounds like someone has sold you a really skewed idea of work, maybe on purpose to keep you in your low level role.

    I think you’ve been bamboozled. I was out of entry level work by age 29 with 4 years experience.

    I’m in communications and marketing, and something you might be missing is that sometimes manager titles in this field aren’t super high level roles. I have a manager title, working under a director. I got the title of manager with only 3 years experience, barely out of my twenties. I manage projects, not people. In some organizations, what I would do would be a “coordinator” or “associate” or “specialist.” So don’t let titles hold you back from applying, in case they were!

  32. Anonymoose*

    I’ve come to think of “years of experience” as a bit like BMI – everyone keeps using it because it’s easy to calculate, but it doesn’t actually tell you anything useful.
    You can work somewhere for 3 years and learn less than someone who worked one year somewhere else.
    Not to mention all the stories of postings that require 5 years of experience using a tool that is 3 years old.
    Treat years of experience as a rough guideline, but not a barrier to applying.

  33. MountainGirl19*

    Aim high. I was in the same boat years ago and started applying for levels one or two steps above my skill set thinking there was no way; however, I often got calls and interviews and it opened many more doors even if I didn’t get the job I applied for. After interviewing with a few different companies, they would say, I don’t think you quite meet ‘X’ job but we have another position that would be perfect for you (and not below my skill level). So it worked out :)

  34. Bluebonnet*

    Thank you for sending your letter, OP. I can definitely relate to you! I am in my early 30’s and in a very similar situation. Hoping for the best for you!

  35. CoinPurse*

    I call this the admin trap. It’s be one particularly vicious since most companies I have worked for have dramatically minimized admin staff over the last 20 years. I worked at one place that expected one admin person to do the tasks for a building of 100 and that included security.

    I agree with the other posters to aim higher. No one in your existing place wants to mess with a system that gets them out of admin tasks…meaning you.

  36. TootsNYC*

    this boss keeps saying “you’re young”

    I’d also suggest LW look carefully at attire and mannerisms, conversations, etc., and try to make those look older.

    And then every time she says “you’re young,” maybe say in a surprised tone of voice: “I’m not young–I have seven years of experience.”

    If there’s an HR, I might go to them and ask for advice on how the company chooses whom to promote, and ask about other company-specific things. Get this “promote her” idea on THEIR radar screen.

    1. MsM*

      If the company doesn’t have a mentoring program, might be worth pushing to create one. (Bonus if LW gets to do the promotion for it.)

    2. Loulou*

      I actually think the “I’m not young” thing can often backfire and make people seem less seasoned. I’d proceed with a lot of caution there.

    3. Podkayne*

      +100 on evaluating your attire and presence. .. Also, it’s been my observation that sometimes management has decided they will never promote a particular individual, and they have work-quality reasons for this, but they don’t share those reasons with the employee, so the employee does not get the opportunity to make changes. Seek specific, concrete feedback about your work and your judgment, not only from your managers, but from colleagues who you trust.

    4. Decorative Rocks*

      I would leave off the “I’m not young” and keep the “I have seven years of experience.” Keep the focus on experience, not age. I am speculating that the manager might be discounting the time OP spent at other companies or even the time under the manager that OP hired in with. I’m not saying the manager is consciously doing this, but there can be an unconscious mindset, almost an “out of sight, out of mind” with respect to previous jobs. So keep reminding the manager of the previous experience.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, I did deliberately not say “I’m 27,” but kept it on the years of experience.

    5. Devo Forevo*

      As a terminally baby-faced woman, I make a point to mention previous jobs in conversations at work, things like “oh, we had this situation at one place I worked and this is what happened” or “I used to work with X program but that was years ago.” This started after a manager used the phrase “new to the working world” with me, assuming that because I’d just finished my masters that I must have gone straight from undergrad instead of working several years before going back to school. It sets people’s expectations without needing to be confrontational.

  37. Interview Coming Up*

    Get on LinkedIn and search under the People section for Marketing Assistant, Marketing Director, or whatever jobs would be one and two steps above where you’re at.

    Follow people who have smart or interesting things to say. Look at the profiles and see what path they took to get their current role. Then start applying to things, keeping in mind that you should apply when you meet SOME of the qualifications.

    When creating your resume, use terms that other people in the roles you want use. And tie yourself to whatever others or the company accomplish. Any tiny thing you did may have allowed for an amazing outcome. It’s not so much that you’re saying you and only you did this. It’s showing that you recognize what outcomes the leadership in your potential future company wants to see.

    1. Interview Coming Up*

      And ask anyone who is at the level of who would be hiring you to review your resume. Your former employers sound like they’re not working in your best interest. Just ask your new connections on LinkedIn, or a colleague of a friend. Join online meet ups for your field.

  38. RH1812*

    Great advice from Alison, and I had a very similar story and was in a similar place at age 29. I ended up applying for a job that indeed felt like a bit of a stretch. In my case, after working in assistant type roles in Marketing for quite a while, I decided I wanted to pivot to project management. I was able to focus on the project coordination type of work I did within my role and get a job as a junior PM at a new company. Once I got that and was no longer stuck in an admin role, I was able to continue to grow and get promotions. It did feel quite uncomfortable to apply for a job that felt like a stretch, but just remember it is up to the places you’re applying to to decide if you’re qualified for the role or not – don’t rule yourself out. You’ve gained a ton of great skills and experience so far, you don’t need to just apply for entry-level jobs anymore. Good luck!

  39. Estimator*

    As someone who dealt with this, it is highly likely that even if your position & title changes where you are now, you will forever be stuck with the admin jobs. Leaving for something new is your best bet and diplomatic but firm pushback on things truly not part of the job when you start a new position. It’s hard to let stuff go when you are used to being the one who gets things done but worth it in the end!

  40. 2 Cents*

    As someone in marketing, can I suggest you pick a specialty? It can be somewhat broad, but make it something you’re learning. Like, do you want to be client services? Or do you want to do digital marketing? That way, you can tailor what kind of jobs you’re looking for–and there won’t be as much (or any) admin work attached to it.

    Also, this might not be possible in your current job or with your current manager, but stop seeing the admin tasks as “someone has to do it.” It doesn’t have to be you, unless someone specifically asks you to. As a new/newish grad, I often took on these thankless tasks, figuring that someone would see my go-getter-ness and I’d be rewarded. I was only rewarded with more work and not more pay. So, just don’t do it.

  41. Charlie*

    I’m in a similar boat, LW (also 29 although only in my second full-time post-college job). Something I struggle with is that there theoretically ARE projects I could work on that are more in line with my interests, but no one actually needs or wants them so it’s hard to motivate myself to spend the energy on that when I still have to do all the admin things that everyone else does need.
    I don’t really have much advice; I did a master’s and have already received 2 non-admin job offers (turned them both down and am currently scared I’ll never get another and be stuck an admin forever, lol), but I second applying to stretch things as I’ve got interviews for things that I definitely thought were a reach!

  42. cactus lady*

    I too was stuck in admin work for a while and I got a great piece of advice from my mentor years ago that got me out of it: leave stuff off of my resume if I hated doing it. Even if it was a main component of my job and I had years of experience. She also recommended listing my accomplishments and responsibilities in the order I enjoyed doing them, with the things I liked most at the top. Once I started doing this I started finding jobs that were better suited to my skills and interest, because I was more focused on those rather than what I did most often. I would suggest focusing on what you like, and if you don’t feel right leaving something off your resume, just put it at the bottom.

    1. Llama Event Planner*

      That’s a great idea! I never thought of that – always figured I should put everything so I can show just HOW MUCH I can do.

    2. Decorative Rocks*

      Yep. Stuff that I never want to do again does not appear on my resume. I also list what I did and what the relevance is (numerical measures don’t apply for me), but not what percentage of my time it took. The 2 months to characterize a board has the same number of bullet points as the year I spent supporting command media improvements to support ISO certification–and I don’t use the words “command media” or “ISO” bc I don’t want to be associated with that work. I include it only bc I was a project manager, and the bullet points are all about project management tasks, not about writing documents.

  43. OP*

    Wow, thank you so much for posting and answer my letter, Alison! I really appreciate the insight, and it’s good to know that I am indeed not too big for my britches. I am considering what my next steps will be.

    I will say this post could not have come at a better time. This week especially has been a time of thoughtful reflection for me as I consider the future of my career – as in, before I knew my letter was going to be answered today, I had already planned on spending this evening considering what I want to do (to stay or to go, to have a more open conversation with my main manager, etc.). and then today I hopped on AAM (as I do everyday :) and was very pleasantly surprised to see my letter here! I didn’t know it was going to be answered. I have felt encouraged and oddly emotional reading through comments of people who are in or have been in a similar boat. Thank you all for sharing your advice and experiences with me, just a rando stranger on the internet. I have already learned so much from your comments, and the day is still young. I appreciate it so much!

    1. Decorative Rocks*

      I notice that the advice to ask for a path to promotion didn’t ask you about a couple things: 1) how long have you been at this job? 2) what is the balance of admin tasks to marketing tasks? 3) What exactly is the advancement path, that is, would the next step be a promotion or something else?

      Even though your total time in the field is 7 years, if you have only been at your current job for 1-2 years, it may not be realistic to expect advancement soon. If your admin:marketing balance is 70:30, a promotion is not realistic. You want a path to, at minimum, getting more marketing tasks than admin tasks, with the admin portion continuing to decrease. That’s the first talk to have. Once you feel like you are on a path to increasing the amount of marketing in your job, then start the talks to what it takes to get to whatever the next level is for your role.

    2. Office Skeptic*

      Good luck, OP! A lot of good advice here.

      I would emphasize that it’s totally normal for people in their late 20’s to be in mid-level and sometimes even senior level roles in many organizations. I was in a mid-level leadership role by age 29 with 4 years of experience.

      It totally depends on the organization, industry, specific experience, etc, of course but anyone telling you that you’re automatically “too young” or inexperienced isn’t correct!

  44. tbs*

    My first job out of college was at a small PR firm – my boss was late-20s and promoted from account manager to director during my time there. Just sharing for reference – 29 is a normal age to be at a manager or above level. Even at a large firm or corporation, plenty of people in their 20s have non-entry level or non-administrative roles. Your boss is gaslighting you.

    1. Tbs*

      Just to clarify – I wasn’t trying to be rude! My comment was just to emphasize that you should lean heavily into Alison’s advice and not listen to your boss.

  45. Alan*

    Maybe I just missed it, but I don’t see other people saying it so… Often the reason you can’t move up is because you’re good at your low-level job. I often see people where I work who want to move up, but their efforts get killed by their current management, because they’re really good at their low-level job and management doesn’t want to replace them, especially not with several people, which is often what’s needed. In that case, you need to move on.

  46. Marketing person*

    LW, identify what part of marketing you like and join an industry group. It can all be done online. Get super involved, make friends, start learning more, share what you do, and when a job comes up you’ll have people to think of you to refer! This is how I got myself out of a lower specialist role and into a senior position. You’re more ready than you think. You got this!

  47. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Since you wrote to ask if you’re aiming too high, I know it might be weird to hear that you’re aiming too low.
    Nope, not weird at all. This is pretty much imposter syndrome in a nutshell. That is, the more I worry that I don’t know what I’m doing or that I’m aiming too high, the less high I’m likely to aim.

  48. CB*

    I was stuck in a similar situation. 28, almost a decade of work experience (and a master’s degree), but impossible to break out of the “admin work” cycle. All of my work experience was for the same employer but with increasing levels of responsiblity from assistant->coordinator->specialist. But no matter what, they always saw me as the go-to person for any and all admin work because that’s who I was A DECADE AGO when I started there. Sure, I know how to fix the copier jam and connect a laptop in the conference room, but there is a whole admin team whose job it is to deal with those things.

    Finally, after a legit mental breakdown last year, I left. Took a chance on a program manager role at a different organization and got it, along with a ~$25,000 pay bump. Sometimes it’s just a lost cause to try and get people to see you as the valuable and respected professional that you are. OP, I hope you can find a place that makes you feel that way!

  49. Cynical Old Fart*

    Or you could stay in your job for another 5 years until your manager moves on and then watch your company hire a 24 year old to replace her because they want “young & fresh”. (my experience when I was younger.)

  50. Sarah*

    My first job pigeon holed me. I ended going to get my MBA. I was still called ‘the intern’ for the first couple years after I graduated at least until the admin leaked how much I made to my coworkers and that stopped.

  51. AnonandAnon*

    I’m at the end of my career and still haven’t managed to get beyond a support role in my organization. While it’s technical in nature, there are areas where, since I am the only woman on the team, certain admin tasks have never left my plate. Hey, if they want to pay me 6 figures to do the admin work, I’ll take it.

  52. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Hi OP,
    I am a seasoned marketing professional and I’m fairly surprised by this as it seems you are not even a Marketing Assistant or Marketing Coordinator, but more of a general office Admin Assistant. I feel so bad for you!

    True Marketing Assistants/Coordinators (and I’ve had several interns in this kind of role) would not be buying office supplies, managing calendars, and cleaning the office, they’d be helping with MARKETING activities (building databases, writing draft content, trafficking files, or helping with social media and website, researching companies, building presentations, organizing/creating graphic assets, or helping organize trade show events/speakers/schedules, etc.). I’m not sure if you’ve been applying for the wrong sorts of jobs, or if the companies you’ve worked at have all been too small and done you a horrible disservice by not giving you any actual marketing tasks.

    Typically with marketing the progression goes something like this:

    Marketing Intern
    Marketing Assistant or Marketing Coordinator
    Marketing Specialist [lots of positions in here depending on specialty area]
    Marketing Manager/Sr. Mgr [lots of positions in here depending on specialty area]
    Marketing Director
    Sr. Director of X Marketing
    VP Marketing
    CMO – Chief Marketing Officer

    Not sure of the company size where you’re at, but I suggest looking at much larger companies with marketing departments that run the full gamut of roles (where you won’t be expected to clean the office!), and also applying to Marketing Specialist roles if you meet some/most of the requirements. A large organization will also tend to have better onboarding and training opportunities.

    You also don’t specify what type of marketing you are interested in? My company has the full spectrum of marketers: from marketing analysts to product marketing, to the marcom creatives working on campaigns and digital. It’s a big field with lots things you can specialize in. If you have something in mind, I’d also suggest taking some hard skills courses that would help you in the particular area you choose. [For example SEO & Google Analytics for digital marketing specialists. Pragmatic Institute for product marketing.]

    You can also try to have a honest conversation with your manager or grandboss about getting to work on, and involved with actual marketing projects. Might be worth a shot still, but the attitude there doesn’t bode well. Given what you wrote, it sounds like they don’t have time to bother and you might be best to move on whilst you still can.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I honestly thought “they love nurturing younger employees” was a bit of a red flag moment that would prompt me to ask some follow ups. I’ve just seen a lot of companies who take the creepy dude approach of focusing on the young ‘uns to exploit and basically treat them like shit; never look at their resume or goals etc. This is the type of company who would never accept an older career changer for an entry level position. It’s difficult to spot ageism but I would give someone a break on saying to me “you’re young” as opposed to “you’re early in your career”, if they didn’t pair it with “take lip”. Plus the fact that the boss is basing an assumption of age on appearance is more than a bit sexist. I wouldn’t pay any attention in future interviews to companies who “love younger employees” – focus instead on detailed descriptions of how their employees have progressed at all levels. With concrete examples like where is the predecessor moving on to?, what tasks where they mainly responsible for? etc

  53. Hannah*

    The # 1 thing I’ve learned in the last year is that just because they have “requirements” doesn’t mean that employers are set in stone on them. Make sure your resume is super strong and strut your knowledge.

  54. Jill Swinburne*

    I have written hundreds of job advertisements. Much of what’s in the ad is a nice-to-have, an indication of what they’d ideally like. Usually if it’s absolutely essential it will say so.

    We generally didn’t label experience in terms of x years for this very reason. Instead, you’d say something like ‘some experience’ (1-2 years), ‘solid/sound experience’ (5-7ish years), ‘strong expertise’ (10 or so), and ‘a very high understanding of x at an executive level’.

    I’d advise you to look at the job description if you can, rather than the ad, because that’s going to give you a better indication of what the job entails. Do apply for stretch roles – I did in my first job, and while they really needed someone with more experience they found budget to hire me as well.

  55. Sloanicota*

    I do think there’s a gap that maybe doesn’t get talked about enough – like Alison says, when you start out, a low-level admin role is usually what you can get, and it makes sense to take it if the alternative is not having a job. Ideally, it’s a low level job *in your field* where you’re doing admin for someone who has a role you want, rather than being a general secretary, but sometimes these things happen. As such, you’re truly entry level and have to suck it up a bit – but after a year or two in this role, you should be able to see if there’s any possibility of promotion where you are, or if you can make a (possibly lateral) transfer to still-low-level-but-career-revelant role, in my field it would be “coordinator” – and then again, in a year or two after that, you need to be seeing promotion or transfer in your future. Don’t stay in a low level role for seven years if you’re not doing the kinds of things you want to be doing! It’s better to make a same-pay-lateral move than that.

  56. Katie N.*

    Senior marketer here, putting in a plug for looking for roles at a large company! In my department, your experience would absolutely put you smack in the middle of the team–and nowhere near admin tasks. We have coordinators, specialists, managers, directors for each team within marketing (email, web, creative). I’ve seen tons of ads for marketing jobs at smaller companies where it does seem like they’ve lumped it in with other work like admin or PR. There are downsides to big companies, but even doing it for a few years would give you a lot of experience and access to more mentors.

    1. Annon*

      Implement some of these options to help you network, build your résumé and skills:
      1) Look for several volunteer opportunities at nonprofits for a marketing project with a specific deliverable and start and end date. If you’ve been mostly an admin at work, it sounds like you may need some deliverables or projects for your résumé. My county hosts a webpage on which nonprofits can request volunteer help for a specific project. Most involve tech or marketing.
      2) Join a professional organization and look for a role to take on (committee chair, for example).
      3) See if you can join a board of directors at a local nonprofit.
      4) Attend conferences and present, if possible, even if it is as part of a group.
      5) Many universities will allow you to take a class or two at the Master’s level as an unmatriculated student. Those classes usually have projects which may help you fill in gaps in your résumé that you may have from lack of experience if you’ve been sidelined with admin work.

      At my employer, by mid-level, it was expected that we served on a board, presented at conferences and served on advisory panels for local or state government.

  57. Fleur-de-Lis*

    Sounds like this workplace needs to hire an actual, full-time office administrator, rather than shifting that burden onto you and taking away the job duties you were actually hired to fulfill!

    I agree with Alison that it is time to job-search and find your next stretch position.

  58. Daisy-dog*

    I have only found 1 job by applying directly for it on an online application in my 11 years of professional life. I have worked a lot more than 1 job.

    The key: staffing agencies or my network. Connect with a staffing agency that specializes in placing marketing roles. Use all the other advice that you’ve gotten here.

  59. 867-5309*

    Let to commenting but I’ve spent my career in marketing and have never had a job with admin duties like you describe. As a young and early career professional I was responsible for things like doing media reports, sending notes following client meetings, etc. so the more “admin” “client management” activities but not managing calendars, etc.

    In my experience, those admin and marketing roles are typically at smaller, non-agency organizations that really want an admin who can maybe do some graphic design and manage the social media. I know at least half dozen people hiring marketing roles with 5-7 years experience so if you’re not already, use LinkedIn and search jobs with the title marketing specialist, marketing and marketing manager. Also, avoid ANY with “office manager” or “admin” in the job description or title. Depending on your market, you can also look at agencies and specifically Account Executive and Account Supervisor level.

  60. Sunshine Gremlin*

    I really needed to see this, I thought I was being brave for applying to positions asking for 10 years of specific experience when I have 9. I’m going to commit to submitting one application to something I’d like but don’t 100% fit the mold for by the end of the week.

  61. MSD*

    Like has been said……. 29 is not young. What an odd thing for your manager to say/imply. If she thinks you are inexperienced than she should be helping you gain experience through assignments. The fact that she calls you her assistant is not a good sign. Not sure if you indicated your gender but if you’re female then you’ve fallen into the “helper” category. You need to leave. Stop taking on more admin duties!

  62. Kim*

    It sounds like she works for a small organization . Take interviews at larger companies where they already have formalized admin positions and can afford cleaning services – you won’t be asked to clean offices! Her boss sounds awful- who even says things like “take lip from senior people’ and you are too young to understand . Get out of there pronto! Maybe take some grad level courses online and put it on your resume. Get some leadership experience in volunteer activities too.

  63. Anonymouse*

    I wholeheartedly agree with Alison’s second point especially. I almost didn’t apply to two of my last three roles because I didn’t think I had enough of the right experience, but I’ve succeeded in all. I realized hey I can apply and if I’m not what they’re looking for, they won’t call my. What’s the harm.

    Also don’t let imposter syndrome control how you talk about yourself, either. Don’t sell yourself short.

  64. Isabel Archer*

    OP, if by any chance you live within commuting distance of central New Jersey, my employer is always hiring brand marketing people at multiple levels. It’s an extremely stable company with generous benefits and they pay well. churchdwight.com (Church & Dwight) Regardless, definitely set your sights higher. Good luck!

  65. Mfg. Supervisor in Medical (No degree but 6 years of experience)*

    Related to OP, I have been working in a Medical device Manufacturing company, such as Medtronic and etc for last 5-6 years (This is my 4th position and fourth different company).

    My first job was an assembler that paid me 14/hr and 8 months later I was making close to 18/hr. I worked there for 2 years max then left for school purposes but covid happened. Then I decided to Apply a new job and wanted better pay. I was applying for weeks and fortunately, one of the agencies said, they have a position that can pay you up to 26/hr – (This happened only because they asked me how much money you are looking for and I went for “I am looking for over $20/hr). So that how I got my from 18/hr to 26/hr. I worked there for 1.5 years and already looking for a higher position so, I randomly applying for Team lead position even though, I had less experience and was decent with communication skills…but i knew exactly what employers are looking for depending on the position. Somehow, I got a Team lead position offer and had an interview and told what they wanted to hear and boom! got the team lead position and managed 10-15 people. A year forward, I buff myself about how to manage people, fill up communication gap and built tons of confidence during working as a Team lead in different Medical device company.

    My dream job was to become a supervisor which would make me feel proud and not have self-steam. So once again, I started applying ONLY FOR SUPERVISOR POSITION (my experience was bare minimum, but I still kept applying for at least 6 months) then I got an email for a supervisor interview – after 2 hours of talking, I was told you dont have much experience but “we will put you on hold” then 3 to 4 days later, they offered me $32/hr as a supervisor role as a Contract for 5 months and later they are willing to give me a full time position and more pay.

    After all, I learned that they also had difficulties to find a good supervisor – So I was they bet and now I am proving the right and they are currently happy with me, so am I.

    Moral of the story: Just keep applying, no matter what the requirements are unless you want to be a doctor or a MUST have degree. ALL they’re gonna say no or perhaps yes :)

  66. Jinni*

    Can I second the volunteer work? I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of hours and realized I have a friend who was in a similar position about 20 years ago when she was 28 and stuck in admin roles.

    She volunteered for an organization that had yearly galas (If you’re near a big city with old money – they’re a huge thing). The second year she took over the marketing. It’s a glitzy affair with celebrities, about 500 attendees, and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars in hours.

    The best part is that she could take credit for that year’s successes, even though, these volunteer organizations are marketing machines. They do it regularly, hand you a notebook, and give the marketers a great hand up in making the next year bigger/better.

    At the end of her volunteer tenure, she quickly moved up the ranks in marketing and PR firms. Now she’s VP of a huge coastal firm. (There was time away for marriage/kids/divorce – without that, her trajectory may have been faster/straighter/quicker).

  67. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW, it’s possible that you’re SO good at being an admin that your company has no intention of EVER moving you on to any position (even a lateral one). THEY’RE happy to keep you slotted into that role until you retire – it works for them, after all!

    But, assuming that you don’t want to wind up like Mr. Twimble in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, it’s definitely time to start looking around at other companies. And Alison was right: be careful NOT to apply for anything that smacks of entry-level admin work! You don’t want to become ANOTHER company’s indispensable admin, after all!

  68. Lost academic*

    at your age I’ve seen people ready to make partner in my firm so whoever’s running their mouth at you is just looking to keep you down and cheap.

  69. Emma*

    LW, if you do decide to leave this job, a smaller company night be worth considering. I’m not thinking “3 people and the boss thinks he’s your life coach” small, but 10-15 people. I say this because in small companies there’s often a lot of “everyone wears lots of hats”, and it can be easier to get the opportunity to do specialised work that you might not have been hired to do, and then you can use that experience to move into a role that’s entirely specialist down the road.

    To be clear, follow Allison’s advice first! But if you have no luck applying for marketing positions and wind up looking at admin positions again, this could be a slightly longer route to where you want to be. And be explicit, say in the interview that you enjoy marketing work and ask if there would be opportunity to do that alongside the rest of the role. If they balk then you didn’t want the job anyway.

  70. Former Executive Assistant*

    It’s great that you’re recognising this early on in your career that you’re in danger of being pigeonholed into admin work in the longer term. I was stuck in those kind of roles for more than a decade before I retrained completely into something else. As you’ve said, nothing wrong with being in admin, but it certainly wasn’t for me and I felt unhappy and trapped for a very long time.

    Definitely don’t undersell yourself. Best of luck!

  71. Rosacolleti*

    As a marketing agency owner I’m dumbfounded- it’s such an in demand industry, our Grads are being headhunted after just a year with us. After a year with us they should have responsibility for their own clients and not at all ‘admin’.

    Is it possible that you simply don’t show interest or initiative toward marketing and as a result they are finding something for you that you can do?

    The people who excel with us always put their hand up when we get a new client, go to relevant meetups and networking events, build relationships with product partners eg Klaviyo, present Lunch & Learns for the rest of the team
    Etc Are you doing these sorts of things?

    I would also remade a meeting with your manager to make a plan for what you actually need to deliver in order for your career to progress.

  72. ijustworkhere*

    What size firms are you applying to? You want to work for a company that has some turnover at all levels of the organization-that creates opportunities for advancement. When you mention the others having “decades of experience” I hear “no career ladder.”

    I see this in our town. Smaller firms with no mid-level career opportunities. Available positions are advertised as a “marketing” position when what they really need is admin support.

    Good luck. Apply for those positions with 10+ years of experience. A lot of people get hired who don’t perfectly meet all the ‘asks’ of the job posting.

  73. Carrie*

    I’m a Head of Marketing and currently recruiting for a marketing officer. Do reply if you happen to live in the north of England! I specified two years marketing expertise however I have received many applications and considered people with less. With seven years experience within a marketing team I would most certainly put you on the shortlist!

    Just some things to consider but is there an area within your team where you could take on a bit more responsibility? It depends what sort of admin you are doing for the team but there must be something like email marketing, web content, analytics etc where you could take it a step further and learn to become a bit more of an expert.

    The other thing that may help is volunteering. Find a local charity or group and help out on the marketing front for a while and put that experience on your CV.

    All the best!

  74. Katastrophreak*

    I, a woman/lady/female, started a whole new career at 29 with a shiny new degree in Business Administration. That career was in IT.

    It’s about how you used your (time management) skills to (close 10 tickets/hour) or your (Excel) skills to (troubleshoot a problem for a VIP customer).

    12 years later I’ve got a secure job, fully remote, and my most recent jump was to a public/ private corporate job instead of Federal. It came with a 25% pay increase and a 40% reduction in hours.

    Alison’s advice is excellent and I highly recommend!

  75. Former Admin, Current PM*

    Hi OP! I was in this situation and was able to make a move from being an admin into being a project manager. I don’t know a lot about marketing (I’m in another field), but I will say that gaining project management experience while in my admin role was key. Marketing needs PMs too! If that is something that you can add to your conversation with your manager, that may be a great way to build tangible skills that you can add to your resume for your next role. In my experience, many admins are already doing some amount of project management, so it’s a good foundation to build on. The other thing that I will say is that even though I was at an amazing company during my time as an admin, with lots of people who believed in me and valued me, I still could not get people to see me as more than an admin. I absolutely had to start a full job search and go to a new company. I think that was what really made the difference. And to further prove that point, another PM on my team was previously an admin in my department, and he still gets looped into admin work. And my current manager saw my past admin experience as a plus, so don’t get discouraged if the search is slow at first. There will be people out there who want to give you a chance!

    1. roann*

      Can I ask about your job transition? Did you get some kind of PM certification before you started job hunting? I do a job that is essentially project management, but that’s not my actual title and I don’t have a certificate or anything. I’m not necessarily looking to move right now, but I work for a government org where I’ve kind of hit a ceiling in terms of the leadership promotions open to/appealing to me, so I’m thinking about changing fields in the future.

      [Alison, I can take this to the open thread if that’s preferable]

  76. Fluffernutter*

    Are we the same person OP? Also 29 and entry-level marketing lol. Granted, I did change fields so I had a late start but also tired of admin tasks. I definitely think your manager is doing you a disservice and not taking you seriously. My manager has me doing admin tasks, since I am the most entry-level employee on the team, but she also assigns me with more complicated tasks/projects that develop my professional experience. She has even talked about how I can move up, either on this team or somewhere else in the company. Your manager needs to help you grow or time to get out.

  77. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    This is a very timely letter and advice. I changed careers during the pandemic and started in an entry-level department administrative support role in HR, even though I have a Masters in a related field and 20 years of supervisory and management roles. I was told during my recruitment that this was the perfect job for me because it was my “foot in the door” to HR and I’d be able to develop a foundation and grow into the department.

    Welp . . . three years later, the boss who DID support me left, and the managers left don’t give a shit about my career. Even though I’ve gotten excellent reviews and recently won a department award for my work, even though the current analysts are drowning in work, and even though we have open analyst positions I could/should be moving into, no one is interested in moving me up. I’ve suggested a reasonable promotion for myself three times in the past 6 months, and had the door politely shut in my face each time, but without discussion of what I’m missing. I’m just left feeling vaguely not good enough: am I not “political” enough, am I just too convenient in the support I provide now that moving me would upheave the department, do they just not *like* me . . . ? I don’t know, but it’s really crushed my confidence the past few months.

    So . . . I am now looking for jobs, too. I deserve better, and so do you, OP. I hope we both find the right orgs/teams/roles soon!

  78. Matth3w2*

    I just want to commiserate. I am not in an admin role but I do feel “stuck” in my career path and have trouble finding opportunities to shift (really, only a little bit!) into the work I really want to do.

    I consistently get “beaten out” for jobs by people who have only a few years of directly/obviously relevant experience vs my 15 years of work that’s just slightly off target. It’s frustrating! This advice is a good reminder to never give up.

  79. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    “Young and inexperienced” are not qualifications for office administration jobs.

  80. HelloFromNY*

    LW: I’m reading your letter and tears are streaming down my face. I’m in the exact same position 9 years out of college, and I feel so trapped. Positions available in my field are either “Assistant with 1-2 years experience” or “Director with 10+ years of experience ”. I know I’m not ready for a director role, but I feel very ready for a mid level job. Mid level jobs are difficult to come by, and turnover in those positions is low. For example, my manager is a low level manager and has been in her mid level job for 15+ years. She intends to retire here. Many people do not want the high level of responsibility and/or stress that comes with Director level jobs, so they are content to stay in their decent paying mid level jobs for years. I appreciate Alison’s advice. But it ignores the LW saying that the jobs just aren’t out there.

  81. glouby*

    Thank you for writing in, OP, and for all the helpful commenters! I’m in a very different field and am not facing this particular issue, but a lot of these comments are very helpful to hear. Pulling for you!

  82. Malika*

    The good news is that due to staff shortage now is a very good time to get out of the pink ghetto! Like you i was trapped in admin work for a decade. All the while i gained valuable skills and was even rewarded very well for them. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate into new roles as they were more than happy to have an effective administrator after a decade of admins who either didn’t have the admin or the people skills required to make the job a success. I broke out of it towards the end of the pandemic by starting at a customer service center and swiftly moving on to giving trainings. I have just had an interview for a promotion and will probably be on track to become a senior trainer. I don’t need to do any other admin work than my own and I LOVE it. This road isn’t for everyone and i did take a paycut for two years. What i did learn is to apply to companies that were big enough to have dedicated admin staff so that you never have to take on those duties. Quickly have the talk about how you want to develop yourself. One of the things that kept me stuck is that i felt i had to have a clear view on what the next step would be. I didn’t have that. Fortunately, at this company we have the option of interning at other departments for an afternoon a week. This shows you the realities of what working in a different job is like and you get to network and see which skills you need in order to get a job in that department. I know earn a better salary with one third of the work stress. The additional bonus is that i now really enjoy working again and can see myself developing myself further instead of pigeon-holing myself in a position i have outgrown. I am sure OP has similar opportunities out there for them.

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