Becoming an Executive Assistant

A top-level Executive Assistant is light years away from a Junior Secretary in terms of required attributes and skills.

The titles "Personal Assistant” and “Executive Assistant” are often used interchangeably. But this should not obscure the fact that, in the true sense of the title, Executive Assistants are established professionals with proven managerial and operational skills. They usually work with CEO’s and other senior executives. EAs should be fully aware of their principal's strategic goals and objectives, as it's the EA's responsibility to help their principal achieve their strategic goals.

An Executive Assistant resume would reflect strong problem-solving and decision-making capabilities and attributes, and reflect that EAs are often highly numerate. Their duties include working independently to plan, coordinate and organise projects. They supervise, mentor and develop administrative staff, and often have an assistant of their own. The role itself invariably expands to include other opportunities, so the successful EA needs to have good multi-faceted skills. Attending the right seminars and workshops on a regular basis is a must.

Because of their long-term vision of the company, and their dependability, accountability and proximity to the boss, EA’s are considered key players in the organisation - a fact that is not lost on members of staff.

As the boss’s "right hand man" and his eyes and ears, EA’s make up for gaps in the boss’s knowledge and any memory lapses. They assume a lot of power in the organistion, as they act as gatekeepers and confidantes to top executives; ensuring that the boss is accessible but guarding his time. They are discrete and maintain strict confidentiality. EA's are expected to work the same anti-social hours as the boss, so it’s not unusual for an EA to attend to an emergency at 1:00 o'clock in the morning.

As part of her job description, an EA may be called upon to organise the boss and the boss' personal life, or to run the organisation when the boss is away. An Executive Assistant resume will show a high level of IT literacy and the ability to trouble-shoot technical problems.

An Executive Assistant resume will also show commitment to continuous learning. They keep abreast of technological changes and quickly master new technology. Keeping a watchful eye on the latest gadgetry and assessing and implementing the latest technologies is part of the EA's role.

Three fundamental requirements of the EA role is the ability to prioritise, remain calm under pressure and remain focused. EA’s have to cope with an ever shifting set of priorities, so flexibility, adaptability and change responsiveness are essential attributes.

Top level EA’s invariably have a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration or similar, and some even have a masters degree. For some bright junior Personal Assistants, career progression will lead naturally to the EA role.

In addition to the above attributes and expectations, EAs should have an understanding of ecommerce, health and safety, HR procedure, PR and project management. EAs should know their boss's statutory responsibilities in order to ensure that they are met. The EA is relied upon to develop and maintain systems and procedures, and understand protocols, such as the company's purchasing protocol. Understanding corporate law and governance will help EAs to effectively support the Board of Directors.


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