His (or her) second self

Second self (n.) – a person who contributes to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose on behalf of another person. Syn: right-hand man, trusted assistant, man (or gal) Friday

This appears to be my calling in life. When I think back over the various jobs I’ve had in the last 40 or so years, it’s easy to see that I’ve often been the primary assistant to an organization’s leader, whether he or she was an independent entrepreneur or head of a segment of a larger enterprise. Some people might be disappointed or bitter because they aren’t the star of the show, but I’m actually quite happy with my supporting role.

I appreciate the trusted position I’m in, and I’m careful to guard my boss’s privacy and perogatives. I’m usually “in the know” about a lot of things simply because I am the gatekeeper for a variety of interpersonal, telephonic, paper, and e-mail communications. I genuinely feel that I make a positive contribution to the businesses I’ve been associated with—I know where my boss is and, as necessary, how to reach him/her, what his/her commitments are, and at least the broad outlines of the issues he/she is dealing with, perhaps along with others of the company’s leaders.

It was interesting doing some cursory internet research on this topic. Most references to assistants are not very complimentary, especially to female assistants, often inferring that women’s work positions, at least in the past, were based more on their physical appeal than on intellectual merit and that women were often subject to unwelcome sexual advances from their male bosses. In addition, bosses have a reputation for being inconsiderate and unreasonable. Though I know these circumstances, especially sexual harrassment, are a real problem for many assistants, I’ve been fortunate with all of the people I’ve worked for that they are are appreciative of my efforts on their behalf and are usually understanding when my personal circumstances occasionally conflict with job requirements. The following two quotes illustrate two opposing views of assistants:

“You’re no good unless you are a good assistant; and if you are, you’re too good to be an assistant.” ~Martin H. Fischer

“It’s always been and always will be the same in the world: The horse does the work and the coachman is tipped.” ~Anonymous

I’ve often wished for a wife—because I know from firsthand experience the kinds of supportive work a wife does. Jac(queline) of all trades doesn’t begin to describe what most women are expected to do—childrearing, cooking, cleaning, nursing, etc., etc. The list is endless. It’s not only an awareness of what needs to be done—it’s also the know-how to accomplish it all. To me the job descriptions of a wife and a personal assistant are similar in breadth and depth and usually require a combination of sensitivity, dedication, and attention to detail that aren’t usually expected in most other positions.

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