They may not always be at the front-and-center of an organisation, but an Executive Assistant is the chief efficiency creator in a team.
They make organisations run smoothly by supporting their manager to increase productivity, making decisions more easily, and supporting the leadership team. Usually, this means saving the Executive’s time by managing processes meticulously and communicating with internal and external partners on their behalf. This will ensure the Executive is more available to make the critical, high-level business decisions. With all that needs to be done in a single day, Executive Assistants ensure that Executives have the bandwidth to do what only they can do, and delegate the rest appropriately.
What would you be responsible for?
An Executive Assistant is the ‘right hand’ of the person they support, handling everything from personal schedules to executive board meetings. In many respects, the role of Executive Assistant is that of a Secretary, Receptionist and an Administrative Assistant all rolled into one! They perform clerical tasks, like accepting and making phone calls, maintaining files, scheduling meetings, sending memos, drafting and editing correspondence, accepting visitors, reviewing incoming reports and setting the Executive’s daily schedule.
The Executive Assistant’s role is also one of the ‘gatekeeper’. He or she controls which phone calls and reports go through to the Executive, as well as what meetings are scheduled. In order to fulfill this responsibility, Executive Assistants must clearly understand the goals, values and needs of both the company and the Executive(s) they work for.
Scheduling meetings is an absolutely imperative part of the role. The Executive Assistant should feel comfortable doing everything that is needed to successfully schedule and execute a meeting for their Executive from start to finish, from selecting a date and inviting the appropriate attendees to clarifying the agenda, taking minutes and sending follow-ups, to-dos, key dates, or recaps.
Other daily functions will include booking travel, preparing meeting packs, organising corporate/team events, proof-reading, ordering of office supplies or even catering a business lunch. While these tasks and responsibilities may seem unrelated, they all have the same mission, which is to keep schedules and processes running smoothly for your manager so that work isn’t interrupted for unnecessary reasons.
What are the standard requirements?
Successful Executive Assistants are reliable, professional and responsive self-starters. Traditionally, they are punctual, diplomatic, and skilled conversationalists in both written and verbal form, which is important because they will regularly be called to represent the Executive(s) they support or to represent the company. A successful Executive Assistant must also be accessible and available when their Executive needs something done quickly.
You will also need to be comfortable with standard office equipment, including personal computers, printers, fax machines, scanners, multi-line telephones, and advanced computer software programmes, including Excel, Word and in some instances even accounting programmes.
Essential skills needed…
- Professionalism when handling confidential information
- Strong attention to detail
- Excellent communication in both written and verbal form
- Previous experience with minute taking and preparation of board packs.
Serving as a key support for an in-demand Executive can translate to long hours, late nights, and sometimes even working weekends or holidays. Occasionally the work might feel thankless but It’s important to maintain a positive attitude at all times, and not to let the work suffer or details slip through the cracks. When all’s said and done, there is a tremendous amount to gain from being surrounded by brilliant leaders, it’s not uncommon for an Executive Assistant position to eventually lead to an Executive position.
What if I’m just getting started?
Like any career, it is important to either get a qualification and/or experience in the sector. If you are already working, then you can look to get involved in the preparation of internal meeting’s and assist with minute taking to get an insight into this field. If you are currently working as an Administrative Assistant, this can be a great stepping stone into an Executive Assistant role.
If you are not in a role then you should look at gaining different qualifications such as a degree or professional qualification; the ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries) qualification is internationally recognised and a great option.