BECOMING A SENIOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
THE OBJECTIVES OF THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
The senior Executive Assistant role is light years away from the Junior Secretarial role in terms of duties, attributes and skill-set. Particularly as senior EAs often work at CEO level.
The titles "Personal Assistant” and “Executive Assistant” are often used interchangeably. But this should not detract from the fact that senior Executive Assistants are established professionals with proven managerial and operational abilities.
Senior EAs are expected to be fully aware of their executive's goals because helping their boss achieve his/her strategic objectives is a fundamental requirement of the role. The senior EA's ability to prioritise and remain focused under pressure is testimony of their flexibility, adaptability and change responsiveness in an atmosphere of constantly shifting priorities.
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT
Senior Executive Assistants adopt an attitude of regular professional development. They keep abreast of technological changes so that they can quickly master new technologies and keep a watchful eye on the latest gadgetry. Influencing decisions by recommending the latest and most cost effective office technology is an aspect of the senior EA's role.
Senior EA’s invariably have a bachelors degree - usually in Business Administration or similar. Many have a masters degree. For bright junior Administrators, the senior EA role represents a clear career strategy, and a pathway for planning training and development.
The Senior EA role tends to expand to include important projects; therefore, the successful EA should have multi-faceted skills that include project management. Attending Executive Assistant training courses and EA seminars on a regular basis is a must for the EA's continuous professional development.
THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT'S CV
The senior EA's CV shows a high level of IT literacy and the ability to trouble-shoot technical problems. It also shows good numeracy skills, an understanding of budgets and strong decision-making abilities. The EA's CV would present evidence of their ability to work independently and with a high level of autonomy, such as representing the boss at meetings and events, as well as running the business in the boss's absence. The Senior EA's CV would also show that she/he has mentored peers and perhaps even managed a team.
BEING THE BOSS'S "RIGHT HAND PERSON"
Because of their understanding of the long-term goals of the organisation and their dependability, accountability and proximity to management, EAs are considered to be key players in the organisation - a fact that is not lost on colleagues. As the boss’s "right hand person" and his/her eyes and ears, EAs make up for gaps in their boss’s knowledge and memory.
Senior EAs assume a lot of power in organisations. As gate-keepers of the executive's time, they ensure that the executive remains sufficiently accessible, while keeping him/her on track with their daily objectives. As confidantes, EAs are discrete and maintain strict confidentiality. They have excellent verbal and written communication skills and often draft written communication in the guise of their executive. Many work similarly anti-social hours as the boss and it's not unusual for them to attend to an emergency at 1 o'clock in the morning.
THE SENIOR EA's KNOWLEDGE BASE
In addition to the above attributes and expectations, senior EAs should have a general understanding of ecommerce, health and safety, human resources procedure, and the basics of public relations, such as how to deal with the press. Senior EAs should also understand their executive's statutory responsibilities in order to ensure that they are met.
The EA is relied upon to develop and maintain systems and procedures, and translate protocols, such as the company's purchasing protocol. A basic understanding of corporate law and governance would help EAs to effectively support the Board of Directors; therefore, corporate governance is an important skill to develop.
It is clear that senior EAs are established professionals and middle-managers in their own right. The key to becoming an effective senior EA is regular and strategic Executive Assistant training and an ongoing programme of continuous professional development, because "the road to success is always under construction!"
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