JustJobs Interviews: Office Manager

JustJobs interviews professionals working in a variety of fields. The good folks there have given me permission to post some of their interviews here. So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work in a specific field, you might want to check in here frequently. I’ll be posting interviews as I get them.

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This Office Manager proved all the people who told her she couldn’t wrong and has had a long and successful career. This is a true career story as told to ‘DiversityJobs.com street smart’ – a collection of true work-life stories told by members of minority groups (including women) from ESL Teacher to Journalist , and everything in between.

My most memorable position was as office manager for the inspections department with the City of Prichard. I was excited to have the chance to put my 18 plus years of clerical and administrative experience to use.

My day to day routine was anything but tedious. I issued various types of building and other types of permits. I also scheduled the inspections to check on the progress of the work done under these permits, I also maintained the records regarding these permits. Of course as an office manager I also handled the department time sheets and reconciled the income from the permit sales to deposit in the departments bank accounts.

Although I didn’t find it an issue personally, as the only Caucasian female in an African-American work environment there was a period of trial to get through before I earned a place of respect. While there were some moments of anxiety, because I wanted to fit in and help the community. The people I dealt with came to view me as I viewed them; just another person, my race didn’t matter and everyone came to realize that all I wanted was to do the best job possible.

Luckily, I worked in an English speaking environment, especially since I don’t speak any foreign languages.

If I had to rank this particular job on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this one a 7. The only reason I wouldn’t rate it higher was because of my termination due to the dissolution of the department.

Working for a city office I learned one lesson the hard way. I returned the greeting of a potential mayoral candidate and the current mayor, who was also running, overheard me say ‘hello.’ The mayor became angry because of my acknowledgement of the other party. When I accepted the position I wanted to remain non political and simply do my job. When it comes to a political environment this is obviously not possible.

Although my education provided me with a great base for my career path, I really wish a course was taught on dealing with the idiosyncrasies of the public.

When I was 15 my grandparents advised me to learn a field that would always be open; clerical. Although they encouraged any dream I pursued they also drummed the idea in my head to have a solid set of skills to fall back on. I think I made the right decision because there have been many doors opened to me that wouldn’t have been without pursuing this course.

The reoccurring customer was the strangest thing I remember dealing with. She insisted that I could call the electric company and have her lights connected. While I could issue electrical releases the problem was that she didn’t live in our city limits.

I know the days I valued the most were the ones that went smoothly. One aspect that I enjoyed was being able to issue certificates of completion to people who had completed construction on their new homes.

Of course on the flip side are the days when things don’t go right, issues such as the inevitable lost property permit, thanks to an inspector’s fondness for taking the original and neglecting to bring it back.

While dealing with the city’s construction issues can be stressful, the best way I found to handle the stress was to simply leave it at the office door when I left for the day.

Although $15,000 a year does not seem like much for such a job as this, the retirement and health benefits help make up the difference. Of course since the salary increased with my tenure the salary does begin to meet the job.

I believe that for me the rewards of the job were being able to help homeowners have safe and comfortable places to live. My proudest moment would be connecting needy families with Habitat for Humanity.

My biggest challenge would have had to be catching up on the back log from when I began my job. The department went without a manager for months before I was hired, that meant I got the honor of doing all of that work.

Although my only education is that of a high school graduate, I took advantage of the Business/Office education classes offered and made the most of the education I received with independent study as well as continued practice.

I had a friend ask me recently what my advice was about working in a field such as this and I advised her to only consider it if she were truly willing to dedicate herself to the job and the people she served.

Vacation was never exactly a priority for me, I think in five years time I may have taken one week, if you add it altogether.

Many people believe that I hold the ultimate decision on their building projects. The truth is that everything done is done in accordance with the current state and federal building codes.

While I worked in this position I enjoyed it tremendously, especially when it came to offering and finding help for the citizens of the city of Prichard. My enjoyment in life comes from helping people who aren’t sure which direction to turn.

If I had my choice of what I would be doing in five years time I would have to say my goal is to be in a position where I am helping people to find resources that aren’t public knowledge. Helping people find help who feel there is no hope is something that I would love to have the opportunity of doing.

While I’m all for education and would love the chance to go back to college, I think that anyone who is determined to learn can do so by pursuing independent knowledge. I was always told that I could not do this or could not do that, I have done my best to prove all those who told me that wrong, and have so far succeeded.

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