Data collecting: the Backbone of a Good Assistant

By | Feb 9, 2008

Back when I was a department secretary (we won’t talk about how long ago that was), I had not yet realized the importance of collecting snippets of information about people and things. Then one day our long time receptionist announced she was retiring, and I was tasked with entering all the information from her Rolodex into Outlook. Gretchen had been collecting snippets of data during her entire 50 year career as a receptionist for various companies and agencies.

I was amazed at some of the things I found. When I came across the personal phone number of a former first lady, I went to her and asked her how she amassed this kind of information. The answer was simple: never throw away a phone number. Whenever she took a message, she entered the name, whatever she knew about the person, and the phone number in her Rolodex. Many of her cards included names of wives and children and snippets about them, hobbies and interests, and other personal information about the callers. When she took a call or greeted a client, she could easily flip to the name in her Rolodex and ask the person about the wife, the kid in college, or his golf game, depending on the information she had collected. She kept duplicates of her Rolodex, and when she left one job, her duplicate Rolodex went with her.

The moral of this little story is, keep information! When I start a new job, I start a file on the boss (usually an encrypted file on my computer). In that file, I keep names (spouse, children, parents, etc.), numbers (driver license, passport, social security, credit cards), and any other information that comes to my fingertips. I make it a point of pride never having to ask the boss for that kind of information twice.

Information about other people (the boss’s boss, clients, other assistants) I generally keep in my Microsoft Outlook Contacts. There is a nice Notes area in each contact that can hold this information. Of course, be sure to periodically export your contacts list for your personal use if you decide to change jobs. Just be sure that if you’ve signed a Non-disclosure agreement that you don’t take any information that would be considered proprietary. Generally, though, you would only be violating the agreement if you took that information and gave it to a competitor. You’ll also want to copy it to floppy disc or CD since Outlook can strip the contents of a .pst file if you e-mail it outside of the company (as I found to my dismay when I quit a previous company and e-mailed my contacts to myself on my final day. I lost some valuable contacts from that.)

To sum up…information is gold. Keep whatever comes your way for future reference.

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3 Comments so far
  1. Fuzu (1 comments) October 28, 2009 8:14 pm

    Ooh shoot i just wrote a huge comment and when i hit reply it come up blank! Please please tell me it worked properly? I do not want to write it again if i do not have to! Either the blog bugged out or i am just stuipd, the latter doesnt surprise me lol.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) October 28, 2009 8:28 pm

    I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but no, it didn’t come through. I know how frustrating it is to spend a bunch of time on a comment and then lose it for whatever reason. I hope you’ll take the time and try again.

  3. CJ (1 comments) April 26, 2016 10:18 am

    Does anyone out there know how to remove somebody from a meeting invite without cancelling the meeting series and re-issuing (Outlook).

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