How to Succeed as an Executive Assistant
One common misconception about working as an Executive Assistant is that it is an easy role. Executive Assistants are involved in every aspect of an executive's life, and they get to share in many of the successes and challenges of their executive. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to this line of work, however, there are a few key attributes that make an effective executive assistant regardless of the principal they are supporting.
What does an Executive Assistant Do?
While Executive Assistant responsibilities differ from executive to executive, many underlying responsibilities remain the same. From scheduling to strategizing, you must be able to keep track of all projects and manage your executive’s time in the most efficient way possible. You play the role of the gatekeeper; you are the first point of contact for your executive and a liaison between teams and both internal and external contacts. You are both an ambassador for your executive as well as an air traffic controller, ensuring all moving pieces run smoothly and that nothing gets overlooked.
What makes a strong Executive Assistant?
As an Executive Assistant, you are responsible for juggling all aspects of your executive’s life. There are so many moving parts that you will drop the ball without strong organization. It is critical to think ahead and plan for every possibility; think about what could go wrong, and what your plan B would be in that scenario. A strong Executive Assistant looks critically at their plans, anticipates what could go wrong, and works backward from there. For example, if your executive has a flight planned, you must think: “What will happen if the flight is delayed?” or “What will happen if the flight is canceled?” and build a plan from there. Being able to switch your plans or change with short notice are crucial aspects of being an Executive Assistant. Your own organization plays a key role in your ability to execute at a high level and make these adjustments.
One of your biggest roles as an Executive Assistant is to be a spokesperson for your executive. Everything you do will be a reflection of your executive. This means making sure you do things in a manner in which your executive is proud of the work. By nature, this can often spill over into the personal side of an executive’s life, and you must be able to balance this and be flexible should those needs arise. From emails to personal organization, learning how your executive prefers things to be done is critical. Many executives appreciate an assistant who will learn them well enough to be able to complete tasks and take on responsibilities without having to ask for approval. A strong executive assistant will be able to mirror their executive through learning, listening, and soaking up their approach to business and to their life in general.
Flexibility and adaptability are two key traits of a successful Executive Assistant. The mindset of “no job is too small” goes a long way in this field of work. The best assistants plan ahead and are willing to do almost anything to ensure their executive maintains productivity and efficiency. Whether it is running to the kitchen to prepare a snack before a meeting or blocking off their calendar for time they need to put their head down and work, a strong executive assistant will be ready and willing to do it all.
Being personable and warm can open doors for you as an Executive Assistant. While each executive is different, having strong relationships with your colleagues and contacts will allow you to lean on them when you need support. Successful Executive Assistants are often approachable and invest time into their relationships.
More often than not, a strong Executive Assistant will have the ability to propose solutions rather than just asking for help. Consider asking your executive, “This is how I would approach this, what do you think?” as opposed to asking them for step-by-step directions. High level executives do not have the time to teach their assistant how to do everything, they are ideally looking for someone who can “hit the ground running”. Take the initiative by bringing your executive a solution that they can tweak, as this not only reflects your understanding of their work style, but it shows your ingenuity and ability to level up in your role.
How to become an Executive Assistant
If you are interested in building your career as an Executive Assistant, take time to learn from those around you and ask lots of questions. Be proactive with your work and be open to feedback. Every Executive Assistant role will be different, and no day is ever the same, which means that you must be ready to learn with every task and responsibility. If you are in a role with other Executive Assistants around you, take the time to learn from them. Seasoned Executive Assistants can help you grow in your skills and hone in your abilities to make you an effective member of your executive’s team.
Why become an Executive Assistant?
If you’re someone who is warm, nurturing, and wants to learn daily, working as an Executive Assistant may be for you. Executive Assistants get a VIP, behind-the-scenes view of everything that happens within your firm to get the job done. Being an Executive Assistant allows you to make a great impact on the organization as a whole and on your executive’s life specifically. You will find that this line of work allows you to play an integral role in your company and support others in meaningful ways. While things may fall on you during high stress times, working as an Executive Assistant can be extremely rewarding work.
Career Group places both seasoned and junior Executive Assistants in top tier companies nationwide. With over 40 years of experience in this field, we are experts in making career matches and don’t stop our search until we make the perfect placement. If you are interested in becoming an Executive Assistant, or ready to take on your next role as an EA, you can browse our range of open opportunities on our LinkedIn and Find Work pages.