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Coffee Break Confidential

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Real-Life Tales from Assistants

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Who I Am and Why You Have to Read This Book

I was born in Moscow, in doctor’s family. I’ve graduated from the Russian State Trade-Economic University with a diploma of economist-manager of the enterprise. I started to work when I was 20, tried a lot of companies — Russian, European, Japanese in order to find what suits best, because I have never could not stand if I do not like something or do not feel that I belong to the place where I am.

I’ve never thought that I will write. But, my first article was published in 2013, my first book in English appeared in 2017, in Russian — one year later. And now — I sit and write this preamble to my second book.

I always write about job and everything what is connected with an assistant’s job. I work as an assistant already 15 years. And though right now my official job title is Head of Administration, I’m still — firstly Executive Assistant, and then everything else.

In this book I’ve put together different stories and notes from my experience and also from my colleagues. First book was a little bit more serious, I wanted to share what I think about job and why you need it. This one — is for coffee, thinking about different situations, work or life, and, probably, finding yourself in some articles☺

Why I write it? One day I decided that if you want to do something, if something great appeared in your head or even if you think that it’s might be not great — you have to Try and Do. If you have any idea — please, try to do something with it. I wanted to share my thoughts about my job, because it is very interesting, very promising and very complicated. I wanted to share what I know.

I wanted to talk to people. Through my articles, through my books. And it worked. After 2 years I have more then 12 000 contacts. I found my colleagues in many parts of the world and very happy that we are connected and communicate.

Everything I write about — is from my own knowledge, from my own mistakes, my experience, my communication with colleagues and partners.

In August, being 37, I wrote small note — about what do I think being 37. Here it is. And hope it will help you to understand me better and find out who I am ☺

I’m still-just-yet (!) 37 :-P

I have few regrets. But I do not regret about them. Yes, I’m a human being — but who’s not. Like Franky said — I did it my way? And I think to regret — it’s just to waste the life. There was a time when I thought that being mistaken is something what I should avoid. When I afforded myself to have the right for mistake — I started to breathe calmer and lighter. It’s a great thing — to afford not to judge yourself too strict. Moreover — you have an indisputable right to afford this.

I have a lot of wishes and dreams. It’s a big thing when you do not lose power to wish and dream. Keep this ability in yourself — to want something. Even small stupid things, like new case for your iPhone, or yellow diamond;) Last one not small and not stupid, but still. Or, to travel where you have never been. Or, to start the new project, or renovate your kitchen… or whatever — it’s a lot, when you feel that you are full of emotions and passion, and your life can give you more and more — just lend your hand.

I’m proud that I can take part in different projects, that I’m invited and I can communicate with a lot of people around the world. It’s an honor.

I’m happy because I’m surrounded by people whom I love with all my heart and who loves me.

I feel no regret that being 22 I didn’t marry the guy. I was fool. I did not know what I want from him, I did not know what I want from myself, from my life, from marriage. I had no responsibility about anything. I was born when my mum was 21. Another time, another history. My story — is my story. No matter what is said, like I’m already a little bit old woman to have children. I want family, I want children. Because right now I know what to do with all this.

I feel that I live in rhythm of “It’s My Life”. This is now or never! But sometimes Macarena is also dancing in my head :-D

I’m happy because I have the job which I love. It was a long way to get here. Long and complicated. But it was worth it. Nothing can be achieved without taking yourself from the sofa and start acting.

I have the answer on the question — where do you find time for all your projects? Siting on the kitchen, which right now is under renovation, and checking my mail; thinking that yesterday I talked to my colleague from Japan while I’ve been in the bus on the way to the office; or recording the video for Brazil project at 12 at night; or thinking about 3rd book, while 2nd one is in the process of checkup; or writing notes; or planning the participation in December Forum for assistants. I know the answer. I just want to do all this. And I’m doing. Just doing.

I feel that sport is my best friend. Otherwise with my passion to cookies, ice cream and all other very tasty things I will be 100 kg :-D Yes, now my body needs more sport than before. It’s true, I do not get younger. No regret. Just correction. And this is the point where — more is better than less :)

I feel that the trainings of personal growth gave me a lot. It’s a good thing. Even if you think that you have everything fine. It’s good to learn yourself, it’s good to learn new things.

I understood that I don’t need a lot of make-up. It makes me older. Just a little bit. But well maintained skin is much better and more attractive.

I feel that 37 is a wonderful age. Not too young to be very stupid, but not too old for a few stupid things :-P

I’m very glad that when I was 6 parents took me to English school. I cannot imagine that I don’t know English and can’t talk to all of you around the world. I feel that one day I will start to learn Italian, or Japanese :)

I know that happiness is in a small little things. Like: making autumn pictures, sound of the rain, cosy café, helping somebody, read the favorite book, meet friends, birthday celebrations. In each and every moment you can find it.

I know that negative emotions kill. Don’t use them. Try to be positive. I know, sometimes it’s difficult. And the only thing that we want — just close the door and cry. I do. Sometimes I cry, because I’m tired. But this is just the way to understand that you need time to stay alone for a while and have a rest. Everything will shine again. That’s it.

I feel that I always have to try. Whatever I do. Otherwise, I will betray myself and the life which was granted to me 37 years ago.

And I think that finally I’ve found my word. It’s Passion.

From Author

Here we go. With my second book. There were a lot of positive feedbacks about my first book “Assistant’s Path in Russia: a Guide for the Profession”, which was published both in Russian and English, so I decided not to stop by ☺

I’m very proud and glad that the book was read by my colleagues all over the world, it is a great appreciation that I did something useful and helpful.

I thought that definitely can share another my thoughts and stories which can be funny, or probably not. Which can happen just in my country, or maybe somewhere else.

I decided to write about team buildings, office, gifts, add some simple notes, so about everything what I have faced during my career.

Now you hold in your hands the book “Coffee Break Confidential: Real-Life Tales from Assistants’.

I hope you will like it.

Don’t take it very seriously, take the coffee or tea and just enjoy the reading. I’m always saying that whatever you do in your life — you should enjoy and be happy ☺

But, before you start I want to share with you a very little story, which happened with one of my colleague and my dear friend. It’s not related to the job of assistant, but it’s related to the fact that when you decide to take the step and change something in your life, a lot of wonderful things begin to happen. And doesn’t matter if you decide to travel where you have never been, or you decide to change the job. I believe that when you sincerely want something — it comes to your life.

It was long ago and happened when we decided to visit our dear friend in Dominican Republic. Irene has moved there after she’s been married and a year ago we have finally visited her…

“The plane landed in Punta Cana.

— Lord, what a silence! — Valentina exclaimed, as soon as we descended the ladder.

— Maybe we should relocate here? — grunted Kate. Previously, the morning was always given to this young lady with difficulty. And then there’s the flight stretched in a few hours.

— Yes, you see what a beauty! — Valentina never ceased to squeal, not paying attention that people have already begun to turn around.

— Hey, I’m here — rang to their left. Turning the heads we saw Irene.

Hugs and exclamations took another ten minutes. Staying comfortable in a new minivan, we set off towards the city.

And the morning was really wonderful. The plane landed at six in the morning and the sky was still brightened by the predawn rays of the sun. Dominicana, one of the favourite places of divers. State, with a population of less than in any major city in the world.

Irene lived here for a little over a year.

• At first it was hard to get used to, — she said as we drove — Mostly because of the silence. At first, we hardly slept at all.

Hey — Michelle interrupted her, — Aren’t we going to the hotel? I was here a year ago; I think we should have turned to the left?

Oh, I forgot to tell you — slyly squinting, Irene paused — we have a house now, so you will live with us.

That’s awesome! — Valentina squealed so that Kate jumped in her place, banging her head on the ceiling.

Goddamn it… Val! — Rubbing her head with her hand, Kate looked as if she had been pushed after hibernation.

Kate, dear, we will come soon and you can sleep — Irene smiled conciliating — We know how you hate to be dragged somewhere early in the morning, but this is a rest.

Fifteen minutes later, the car turned into an alley, on both sides of which, at a fairly decent distance from each other, stood at home. Turning to the third right, Irene turned off the engine. The fence was entwined with ivy, on the lawn in front of the house in a neat order are located flower beds. The house was a two-story, and judging by the appearance is quite spacious.

— There is a swimming pool in the backyard, — Irene said — Many here fill it with ocean water, but it’s too salty, so we use regular water. Some of you will have to live alone, the rooms are for two. Although, if you want, we can move the bed. Sam will come only in the evening, so you can start a permutation.

— Do not move anything. I have nothing against retirement. Eyes are closing. Show me the room, and I’ll go to sleep — Kate yawned.

We looked at each other, but said nothing. In the usual time, Kate was ready to light the day and night, but lack of sleep just knocked her out of a rut. And the cute pretty girl was turning into a bore. Showing her the room, Irene quietly closed the door behind her and went to help us to disassemble the luggage. Do not bother to undress completely, Kate pulled off her jeans and fell on the bed.

The evening promised to be wonderful. The weather was gorgeous, the sun was setting, the sky was not cloudy, and the wind only occasionally stirred the branches of trees. A small cafe is conveniently located off the coast, so that the sound of the ocean was heard.

We chose a table away from the speakers so that the music would not interfere with the conversation. Having ordered four portions of mojito and a huge, at all at once, portion of the Mediterranean salad, we unanimously clinked to make the holiday a success.

— Kate, what happened? Why don’t you drink? — Michelle asked, seeing as a friend froze with a glass in her hand — What …?

— Oh shit! — Michelle exclaimed, following the look of Kate. Michelle best of all us knew a young man coming our way.

— What the… damn yourself! — whispered Valentina.

— Interestingly, his wife is also here. Although, it is unlikely she would let him walk on the beach like that, Irene sarcastically remarked.

— Yes, the rest was a success, no doubt, — said Kate.

Max Harper in person. The first young man Kate, they met at the university. The novel stretched out for eight years with breaks. The finale of which was the marriage of Max completely on another girl.

— So, ladies. Do not forget that he is married and this is the page of my story, which is in the past. Give me a couple of minutes. He wouldn’t need any more — after drinking her glass in one gulp, Kate began to rise at the meeting of the former passion, but Max was ahead of her.

— Girls, good evening! — smiled the young man, and turning to Kate added — Did not expect to see you in the Dominican Republic, surprised and… delighted — Can I steal you from my girlfriends for a while? — He said, holding out Kate’s left hand, which has not a wedding ring.

— Okay, okay, so be it — Kate smiled, giving him her hand — It seems I have no choice.

“I’ll tell you what, girls, no matter how we play a wedding here,” said Michelle thoughtfully, when the couple moved a fair distance from their table. “It seems that this time everything is serious.”

“Then for Kate!” — exclaimed Irene.

— Agree! — raised her glass Valentine.

“And may love always find its way home!” — said Michelle.

I saw them walked along the ocean shore. A young man next to Kate clasped her hand tightly in his hand. They did not speak. For so many years of dating, the words were not needed. The surf was noisy, the sky was illuminated by the sunset rays of the sun. And, perhaps, indeed, this evening, after many years of wandering, love has found its way home”.

Is it worth to say that couple of months later we were celebrating another wedding. My friend Kate, being along already for several years, prior to this trip has lost the job and was sure that nothing great should happen in her life.

After our return, Kate became Mrs. Harper and found the new job. And now Max and Kate have two beautiful twins ☺

Do not take it as a too sweet story. I want to say that even if we think that nothing positive can happen, it will do.

And this is the principle. When you decide to change the job, when you decide to relocate, when you want to go where you have never been — just do it.

Taking the very little step — can be followed by something great. If you have read my first book, you remember — I wrote my first article in 2013. 6 years later — it is my second book. But without that first article, who knows if something could happen at all. My friend Kate didn’t want to go with us. She is afraid to fly.

Neither me, nor Kate haven’t seen the whole staircase 

And what about you?

Christina A. Maslova

I. Myths and Legends About Assistant’s Job

Everyone Can Do It

Well… you can try. At least. However, of course, not everyone suits for this job. And, no surprise that not all of assistants are successful in what they do. I’m strongly convinced that before to dive deep in this job — the first question should be — why do I need it, second — how special I am to be successful. Yes, assistants — are special, unique people.

If to touch the philosophy — what is success itself? What it means to you? You want be popular, want people to know about you. Or, want to become the manager who leads the big company? If to think — assistant’s job is not about success, as we understand it in our ordinary life. Moreover, I know people who do not consider assistants as part of management team. Then, what it’s about if not about success and not about recognition. And while making the step to become an assistant — you should be ready to face this reality. You should be sure that the reason why you have chosen this profession is not because you’re looking for success. That is why — the questions are why and how? Sorry for tautology. And that’s why not all of us can do this job.

It’s for elected ones, who understand their own place in the story and the roles of others. And, of course, who can accept the opinion of people around and know what to do with it. First of all, of course, not permitted to be broken by this opinion. But this is not what I wanted to talk about in this note. Some of you, or probably most of you, will agree that it took years to get “armored” and face the difficulties on our job with smile. To become those who can shake hands with business owners and don’t feel themselves “bounded by privilege”. Do you know why? Because the business sharks are supported by our colleagues and they know the value.

Everything what assistants finally get — is the respect. But, it costs so much more! And, believe me, assistants would not sell this even for billion dollars. A! Final question before to decide that everyone can do this job — do you really ready to work for the respect of one person? In this world when money sometimes plays much poorer role than you can imagine.

Communication — it is an Extraordinary Skill

But as a fact, you need just one thing — TALK TO PEOPLE.

First of all, let’s define. There is an internal communication with partners, colleagues, boss. When you discuss the contract, the business issue. It is one thing. But, I would like to talk about external one, when you need to go and ask, take the phone and call, open the laptop and write, when you need help, answer or advice.

Recently, I stirred up, I think, almost the whole office of Disney Land Paris because I couldn’t buy tickets online. Neither on their com. web site, nor the co.uk. It just told me “your reservation couldn’t be completed” during several days. The call on the number mentioned on the web page finished in a 5 minutes as I heard — yes, we know the problem, try later. That’s it. My dear boss — go to Paris, and buy the tickets at the cashier’s office. But, as you can imagine, the issue is really simple and quite stupid. And it couldn’t be finished like this.

My big thanks to Marco Bernini, Vice-president Parks Operations chez Disneyland Paris, he wrote me the number of his office, where his assistants helped me to solve the problem. And now I know both names of assistants and the Russian representative of Disney Land Paris. The secretary in my office was surprised when heard that I communicate with top management of Disney Land Paris. And she asked, how did I know all these people?

I don’t know them. And I don’t know a lot of people from my almost 8 000 contacts on LinkedIn. And they don’t know me personally. But, the main thing what I say on my master classes is that people, in most part, are very nice, open and friendly. And the only thing what you need to do — is to go, write or call and ask. And there is nothing extraordinary in this. I communicate with my colleagues, business owners from Brazil to Australia, I know what I tell you about. And it’s a very efficient tool I should say. Not your communication skill. But your openness, your wish to talk to people. Our big mistake is that we don’t want to deal with people. But, as a fact — very often to solve the problem you need to do a very little step. TALK TO PEOPLE.

We Can Not Burnout

No, we can. Just because we’re all human being and if you think that you can work 24\7\365 on maximum of your skills — you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

It’s true that most of assistants are perfectionists. The intention to do everything with high class efficiency and speed — this is what most of us had used to. But, in fact, sometimes you need to stop and do ordinary things just good with no rush. And, very often most of us feel shame, because internally it means that we don’t do as much as possible. But we forget that sometimes it’s not needed. This is the conflict between you and yourself. The internal burnout when you need rest, but yourself cannot afford it, because, well, I’m professional, I can do everything and any time.

I notified this, approximately twice a year if to talk about me. Twice a year I need to slow down. Then I talked to a few of my colleagues, and during the coffee meeting they told me that have the same issue. So, somehow the statistics is correct. When many years ago I went into sport, my father, who is doctor, told me that human body is a kind of a machine. You cannot load everything you want inside, because one day it will be broken. You should take care of it. I think the same approach should be used when we talk about job. We cannot “run” the whole year. And, you shouldn’t be upset that you cannot. Because it is a normal thing. When you feel, that already are on the line after which you will burnout and will reach the level when you don’t want any job, you should stop. We should take care of our job and if we want to do it perfectly — every job needs breaks. Otherwise we face bad mood, we face illness, we feel as we don’t like our job at all, though it’s not true.

I notified an interesting thing. I usually eat in the office. Very bad habit to eat and continue read mail. As I used to do everything quickly, I eat quickly in the office. But the same I notified when was sitting in the country during lunch on vacation. I eat quickly though there is no rush, there is no mail to read and meetings to run. Mentally, I continue working and running. And it was a very upset observation, I should say. When you don’t have habit to stop when you need. It took me couple of months of an intensive internal work to get used that I should think, I should control what I do and how, when I eat, when I need rest, what and when I feel.

But, finally I understood the main — when you afford yourself the normal breaks, the return to the work is much more pleasant. And, when you feel that one more step and that’s it — you should stop.

Just remember that work is always there, but life has tendency to end.

We all need to press “Pause’ button sometimes. Learn to rest.

It’s Very Easy to Deal with Any of Your Colleagues

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