25 April 2008

Will that be one sugar or two?

I’m a Secretary, but “I don’t do coffee”. Let me explain.  I am not talking about being liberated and not being willing to make coffee. I can’t make coffee period. I am not a coffee drinker and those who have had one made by me, have quickly learned not to ask for more.

I remember years ago wanting to impress a friend who was a coffee connoisseur. I got up early and quietly went about making the coffee. It was a 12-cup carafe and I assumed that meant you put 12 scoops in the coffee maker. I was anticipating the joy on his face when he woke to the smell of the coffee brewing.

The smell did wake him up, but not in the way I thought it would. He came alive to the smells in the apartment only to ask “How much coffee did you put in here?” So much for appreciation! He made a comment about it looking like tar as he poured it down the sink.

The whole coffee culture has always mystified me, but sometimes I want to join the coffee crowd because they seem like a fun group to be a part of. Recently I went with a friend to a speciality coffee shop and wanted to show my knowledge at ordering. I heard others saying “one coffee, double-double”, so like a pro I ordered. Everything seemed to be going fine until I sat down and took a sip. Annoyed, I said to my friend, “There’s sugar in my coffee!” I had no idea by ordering double-double I had ordered two creams and two sugars. (1)

Bosses normally do not ask their assistants to get them a coffee these days, but occasionally one has asked me. I usually panic and ask the other assistants how to work the machine and which coffee packet do I choose? There are so many different kinds. Isn’t there anything called “regular” coffee?

Aside from the fact that I don’t know how to make it, I usually do not have time in my busy day to bring someone a coffee. I think if you are asked to get your boss coffee you need to evaluate the request. Sometimes you are being asked for convenience sake only, not because they think it is your job.

When my boss asked me for a coffee, he felt he needed to explain to me that he normally would never ask his assistant to get him a coffee, but he was just starting a conference call that was going to be a long haul and he forgot so he quickly asked me to get him one. Although after that first cup he never asked me again. I guess my coffee-making skills haven’t improved.

Here are some things you may want to think about:
  • Do you mind getting your boss a coffee? If not, then do so. If you do, you need to speak to your boss about it and decide if this is a deal breaker for you.
  • Do you have the time to do this extra task? Everybody’s job is different with different requirements. When you interview for the job you need to be clear on what the job expectations will be.
I read an article in this month’s AdminAdvantage about someone who is a celebrity’s personal assistant. Her job description is “anything goes”, from driving her boss to the airport to making appointments and picking up things at the store. She knew what she was signing up for and the benefits of the position outweighed these small inconveniences. Click here to read the story of what seems to be a very interesting, but demanding career choice. The article begins on page 10.

(1) I am not sure if this coffee lingo is worldwide, but at coffee shops in Canada they have a language for ordering coffee of which I know nothing about. I have come to realize it is serious business ordering coffee in Canada. The meaning of double-double as it relates to ordering coffee has even made it into the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

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