Tara writes in:
I just graduated from college and got my first job as a Production Assistant for a talk show. I’ve done some freelance PAing and the biggest problem I seem to have is that I can’t find the balance between making sure I get everything right and asking too many questions.
I understand that there are certain times where it’s important to double check with somebody higher up to make sure you’re doing something right. I also don’t want to be the PA who gets sent on a simple task and has to call back to ask a question that really doesn’t matter.
I really want to impress my new bosses because I know how important it is to make connections and be the PA who goes above and beyond, but that also means I’m very afraid of making mistakes. I don’t want to bring back the cheapest garbage bags in the store if the office really needs the heavy duty ones, but I also don’t want to call somebody who couldn’t care less1 what types of garbage bags are there.
Any advice on getting past this?
Ugh, this is The Worst.
I think a problem most young PAs have is, they’ve just spent the last three quarters of their lives asking older people questions. If something isn’t immediately clear, their first instinct is to raise their hands.
Instead of asking a question, take the following steps:
- Think. Seriously, stop and think about it for a second. Just because the answer to a question isn’t immediately obvious, doesn’t mean you’ll never figure it out. Run the assignment through head, and think logically.
- Research. Most questions can be answered via the Internet. The AD is not the Internet, so don’t ask her.
- Ask someone at your level. A fellow PA might have more experience than you, or at least have the relevant experience in this particular case, and she’s not going to look down on you for not knowing.
- Asking up the chain of command. The AD asked for a coffee, and you realize you don’t know how she takes it. Rather than interrupting whatever important business she’s handling, ask the 2nd or 2nd 2nd AD what she prefers. The second-in-command (meaning APOC in the production office) has probably worked with the boss for a while, and knows her quirks and preferences.
- Ask your boss. Only if all else fails should you ask the boss a follow up question.