Author Topic: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?  (Read 3727 times)

schoenbauer

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Hey all,

I would like to have some opinions on a decision I have to make and usually I found this forum very helpful in other regards before. So maybe you can speak your mind ;) I'm sure some of you have solid career experiences in a related field.

Situation: I'm mid 20s, just graduated with M.Sc. in Materials Science/Technology. No professional work experience. I want to have managerial responsibilities in the next 5 years (meaning budget & staff). My dream job would be in something "green" (renewables, public transportation,...)

Now I have a potential job offer to work as a technical assistant for a board member in a big car company (selling > 1.000.000 cars/year) in central Europe. The guy is responsible for all welding lines in the production sides of the company in the entire world. I fit quite well to the job as I'm fluent in the desired language combination (I guess this is the main reason why they offered the job...and my technical background). The potential pay has not been discussed yet. The task would involve communication with the parent company & different departments of the company, coordinating different technical projects, compile papers for negotiations and prepare presentations, analysing business plans

Pro:
-meeting many decision makers,
-being in contact with the management board,
-seeing how strategic operations are being carried out,
-it might be a good position to start out a career,
-the job could start right away

Con:
-it might just end up to be a "better secretary job" (i don't want to sound cocky here - nothing wrong with being a secretary, but not after 5 years of uni),
-it sounds like a lot of stress/e-mail writing/organising - basically doing all the small works for which the manager himself does not have time/doesn't feel like doing,
-it has little to do with my academic background (future employers may negatively ask: why did you do this administrative work which has little to do with your education?)

Your input is much appreciated ^_^

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2016, 08:39:42 AM »
Sounds like a great opportunity. Even if it ends up being a secretary-ish job, I think this has a good amount of potential. Scratch that--it has great potential. The two main things that this job could do for you are a) at a minimum, be a nice resume builder and b) improve your network tremendously. Remember that saying "it's not what you know, but who you know"?

I have an engineering degree like you and am in management. When you start getting into management, you get a little less technically involved. It is the nature of the beast. Many times companies will hire engineers from an analytical standpoint regardless of whether or not you'll use your technical ability directly.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 09:54:05 AM by GrowingTheGreen »

schoenbauer

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2016, 09:21:55 AM »
Wow thank you for this encouraging feedback. That is what I was looking for ;)

And one more thing about the job: If I really don't like it, I can always quit it. But I know that many high ranked decision makers were once manager assistants as well so I agree...I should precept it as a good opportunity.

YK-Phil

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2016, 09:49:40 AM »
One of my first jobs freshly out of university was "secretary" of a small resource management board. Most people who didn't know any better thought my job involved answering the phone and greeting people, but in reality, I was in charge of the whole board, and my job title was more like "secretary general". In that job, I had the chance to be involved in everything from technical/scientific advice to board members, preparing budget submissions, to organizing public hearings, meetings and conferences, attending international events in the circumpolar world, and even being put on the personal invitation list of the Premier of a Canadian province. That first job was my stepping stone into a rewarding career as an Arctic expert, and I am still riding that wave thirty-five years later...I think this job offer of yours sounds like an excellent opportunity to shine and excel.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2016, 09:53:26 AM »
Sounds like a great opportunity. Even if it ends up being a secretary-ish job, I think this has a good amount of potential. Scratch that--it has great potential. The two main things that this job could do for you are a) at a minimum, be a nice resume builder and b) improve your network tremendously. Remember that saying "it's not what you know, but who you know"?

I have an engineering degree like you and am in management. When you start getting into management, you get a little less technically involved. It is the nature of the beast. Many times companies will hide engineers from an analytical standpoint regardless of whether or not you'll use your technical ability directly.

Good luck!

Agreed great opportunity. Networking is key and is harder to do in most cases than gain some specific technical knowledge.

I'm also an engineer in management. I got diverted there right out of school and never did a day of engineering in my career. That doesn't bother me. I like getting to steer the ship and making decisions that have big impacts on the overall project being undertaken.

Good luck. Update this thread down the road and let us know how it goes. :)

bobechs

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2016, 09:54:00 AM »
I don't know about carmaking, but it sounds like a pretty close analog to being a general's aide in the military.

In the armed forces it is a visible career mark that you have been identified as a likely future general.  Very few make general (at least without a major war at the right time) without having been an aide.

MsSindy

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2016, 09:57:01 AM »
I think the pay range that they are offering will give you some clue as to how they value the position - is it mainly administrative, or is it a stepping stone position with real potential.  Having access to that level of decision makers means that you can make this role into what you want it to be.  It's a tremendous opportunity to show that you have skills, even beyond what this role may required - this is where you ask for special projects, or ask to assist on special task forces.

Look, we all have a certain amount of admin stuff that we have to do in our jobs - do that shit quickly so you free up time for the more interesting and impactful stuff.

Honestly, it looks like a hell of an opportunity for someone fresh out of uni.

schoenbauer

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2016, 11:45:36 AM »
Thank you all for your feedback. I highly appreciate it.

I think the pay range that they are offering will give you some clue as to how they value the position - is it mainly administrative, or is it a stepping stone position with real potential.
Yes, haven't really looked at it from this point of view. Good stuff!

ShortInSeattle

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2016, 12:06:36 PM »
If the guy you'd be working for is a good leader and an admirable human being I'd say jump at it. Not only is the networking good but you'll have a front seat view of how people at his level think and get things done. That's better than an MBA most of the time.

If he's a "good guy" and you do excellent work for him, he's likely to support you in your next career move even if it's not with his company.

SIS

Taran Wanderer

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2016, 11:36:59 PM »
This kind of exposure to hit level decision making early on will benefit you later, as will the connections. (I'm assuming you will use your brain wisely.)  Be aware, though, that with high level decision makers, there is no "good enough". Often only A and A+ work is acceptable. Anything less was something you did in university.

As noted above, make sure you're getting paid (including benefits) commensurate with other opportunities and your long term goals.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2016, 02:14:19 PM »
Echoing what others have said about the pay range reflecting the value the organization places on the position. I would also recommend asking what previous assistants have gone on to do. Are they still with the company? If so, in what roles are they currently employed? This would give you some idea of the typical career trajectory.

I also think the Board Member himself will be critical to whether or not you thrive in the position. Is he someone you believe you can work well with? Is he someone who can inspire and teach you? Because you'd be working directly for one person, that one person is going to really shape your experience. I'd want to find out as much as possible about him and his work style.

Axecleaver

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2016, 02:26:12 PM »
It's a fantastic opportunity. Go into it determined to learn as much as you can in two years, no matter how stressful or unreasonable the demands get. A lot of people in your age bracket get painted with the "entitlement" brush. You'll need to be aware that this prejudice exists out there, and make sure you don't ever give your boss the impression you don't appreciate the chance you've been given.

Work hard, keep your eyes open, and if you get the chance, share your dreams with him. If you're lucky you'll get a lifelong mentor and someone who will sponsor your future growth. Pay him back by giving 110% to the job. Every day remind yourself that your job is to make him look good. The best managers know this and pay it back in countless ways you'll probably never even see.

After two years, reassess and use it as a springboard to new opportunities. But don't quit before you give yourself a full two years to really understand the operation and learn everything you can. What a great opportunity!

Taran Wanderer

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Re: Career advice: Technical Assistant of Board Member - yay or nay?
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2016, 10:50:52 PM »
I love the advice in this thread. Awesome.