Organized to help others

Karen T. Watson is so organized that she alphabetizes her spices, and that, she says is the trait that makes her such a good executive assistant.

Growing up, Watson used to visit her mother on the job. Her mother was a file clerk in City Hall and Watson was so impressed at how well she did her job. "You gave her a name of a file, and she'd give you a number," Watson said. "She was that sharp. She was a very orderly person and she never forgot anything."

Karen Watson

That kind of organizational ability was an inspiration to Watson, who pursued the same career.

One of the pleasures of the job, she said, is turning a mishmash of notes and paperwork into a readable, clear document. "I love the idea of creating a new document," she said. 

Beyond that, she loves the physical sensation of typing. "Typing calms me," she said. "They say music calms the savage beast. When I'm typing, it just calms me." 

A common theme in Watson's story is an ability to adjust, despite an initial feeling of being overwhelmed. During the first week on any job, everything seems confusing, but soon names, places and procedures click in. "Once I'm acquainted, everything runs smoothly," she said. Her favorite jobs involve a feeling of mutual respect between her managers and herself. Given that, she's willing to do anything to help.

Since she was laid off in the spring of 2010, she's been grabbing whatever temporary assignments she can from Manpower Staffing Services, including one four-long stint at Citizens Bank. She also offered her services to private clients.

Her last fulltime job was as an administrative secretary to a real estate company. When the housing market collapsed, she was laid off -- not because her administrative skills weren't up to par, but because the other secretary had more years of experience in the field of real estate and the company could only keep one of them. It was a decision Watson understood, even though it hurt her.

Over the years, most of Watson's bosses have been men and many of them have been excellent managers. But at a recent Manpower assignment, Watson worked for her first female boss. What surprised and delighted her was her boss's willingness to bring her coffee, instead of vice versa. But that coffee thing isn't an issue for Watson. "I like to cook," she said and she's more than willing to put on a pot of coffee. "And I'm a stickler for cleanliness. I like to make sure everything is where it should be."

Update: As of December 2011, Watson is still looking for work. 


  • Karen T. Watson
  • Hometown: Philadelphia.
  • Profession: Executive assistant
  • Experience: Prepared reports, spreadsheets and presentations. Organized mailings, Arranged meetings, handled administrative tasks, prepared contracts.
  • Education: High School graduate.
  • E-mail address:
  • Karen Watson's resume


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The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or