Fetching Coffee and Making Copies

This is a man who once had a dedicated congressional staff of 12 in a posh office on Capitol Hill. Now, he’s lobbying and is reduced to sharing 23-year-old me with two other lobbyists on our floor.

I am as low on the totem pole as you can get in Washington, D.C.

I answer phones. I fetch coffee. I send faxes. I make outlandish requests happen.

I am an assistant in Washington, D.C.

Now, years later, one of the things I appreciate most about D.C. is: it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or how many honors you graduated with – everyone who comes to D.C. starts out answering the phones.

Like it or not, it’s a pay-your-dues kind of place. It’s a town where it’s perfectly OK – and even expected – that assistants are picking up the dry cleaning and running out for special-order lattes at the whim of a super-power boss. It’s a city that humbles you. But it’s all predicated on proving yourself in the small things to earn the privilege of being entrusted with more.

Truthfully, when I was 23, I thought I was a little above answering the phones and making copies. But D.C. knocked any sense of entitlement out of me, and I probably needed it. I learned that we all have to start somewhere. I learned what it meant to serve and service. I learned the value in playing a support role. It was a job that prepared me well for my career in client services, which is completely gratifying work that can sometimes be decidedly unglamorous and humbling.

My first job also gave me a roll-up-your-shirtsleeves brand of pragmatism that has become a great asset. And anyway, the best and most inspiring leaders I’ve observed don’t think anything’s beneath them – no matter how important they become. So, we all have to start somewhere. Make the most of it. Bide your time and do whatever you do with pride, poise and flair.