1. Always think ahead.
Ask yourself, What’s happening next in my manager’s life, and how can I prep for it? “I love it when my staff makes my life easier,” says Emma Bengtsson, executive chef at Aquavit in New York City. “I’m preternaturally
happy when the walk-in fridge has been organized for the day without [my] mentioning it.” When she was an assistant, Amy Peck, now the chief culture officer at SoulCycle, developed a Sunday-night habit of reviewing
her boss’s schedule for the week ahead. “I’d ask myself what facts she might need, like the time, location, dress code, other attendees, and what research I could do to help her walk into meetings like a hero.” Peck then
summarized the information in her boss’s online calendar and handed off background materials in a labeled folder that could be read en route.
2. End the day on a high note.
Consider what more can be done at the end of the day before retreating to check your texts for the evening’s social plans, adds Christine Kovner, PhD, a professor of geriatric nursing at New York University College of
Nursing. “In a home-care setting, that might mean a nurse aide taking a patient’s vital signs before the visiting nurse arrives or laying out patients’ medications for review,” she says.
3. Keep it classy.
Be discreet with insider info, including on social media. “Violate your boss’s trust and your career could come to a screeching halt,” says Anita Bruzzese, author of 45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy. “One
legal assistant I know carried a file with her wherever she went, even to the break room. If someone tried to gossip, she would gesture at the file and say, ‘Sorry, I’m supposed to be taking care of this. Got to go!'”
4. Get your hands dirty.
A great assistant is never too cool to fix a paper jam, make a Starbucks run, or do whatever dues-paying tasks are required. Showing others that you’re a hard-working team player will lead them to give you more
strategic work, says Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College. “The better you are, the more quickly you’ll get promoted out of it,” she explains.
5. Be a buffer.
Making your supervisor’s day go smoothly means prioritizing tasks and, yes, people for him —which calls he should take, when he can be interrupted, and whom to decline politely. “You’re the gatekeeper and the filter,”
says Rachel Terrace, a senior vice president of brand management at Beanstalk. “Ask for a VIP list with names of people who always get time.” Carving out time for personal matters — like knowing when to block off his
calendar for his kids’ school performance — will also impress.
6. Learn to bounce back.
Everyone has bad days, including your manager. She might have a migraine, be thinking about a fight with her husband, or have screwed up in a way that will upset her own supervisor … and then you came into orbit.
“Assistants will often be on the receiving end of a variety of boss frustrations, which is why you can’t take them all personally,” Levit says. Think of it as practice for when the criticism actually is for you. “People who try to
implement suggested changes rather than making excuses master the learning curve faster and become invaluable,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
7. Make allies everywhere.
Ask for tough-to-access things in a way that makes others want to help you, says Joanna Marcovici, a marketing executive in Toronto. “An assistant asked me for box seats at a sports event — not for hosting clients, but
for a kid’s party — and she did it so nicely, I actually wanted to deliver.” Show an interest in other people’s lives. “Ask them, ‘How was that product launch the other day? That vacation to Peru? Your cat?'” says
Marcovici. Then move into a sympathetic remark that reinforces you’re on the same team. “‘I know how hard you guys work. You must be ready for a break.'” Rather than seeing gate-keepers as roadblocks, see them
as contacts — people who might be helpful when it’s time to find the next job.
8. Help your boss look thoughtful.
Your manager probably cares about icing-on-the-cake details but has a limited amount of time to see them through. You can help her be as conscientious as she really wants to be. Offer to reply to long-outstanding
emails or ask your boss if she’d like you to send some flowers on her behalf to an ill or bereaved colleague. “A great assistant acts as an ambassador for the vibe their boss wants to present to the world,” says Caroline
Webb, a former McKinsey partner and author of How to Have a Good Day. Those small touches will reflect well on your employer — and on you.