An Executive Assistant or EA is a role often seen as the next step from a Personal Assistant. When businesses utilise this role, they are looking for someone who has an Executive Assistant Diploma or similar qualification, maybe a certain level of experience and also certain characteristics. Here are five to cultivate to ensure you are the one that has the attributes they are looking for.
Most employers would say that communication skills were the most important for an EA. Not just communicating with them, either. The role is as a central hub for your boss, the person who liaises with different departments, creates memos on behalf of their boss to circulate around the company, prepares briefings and deals with clients in some cases.
This means that not only do verbal communication skills need to be top class but also skills such as grammar, punctuation and spelling. Listening skills are also tied up with this, they need be able to listen to instructions and information and act upon it.
In the second place (or joint first for some) is the need for top quality organisational skills. The role of an EA is to organise their boss, to help them do their job in the most efficient manner and this requires skills to organise themselves as well. It also means being very detail oriented and proactive when dealing with issues. When they spot a problem, they deal with it rather than waiting for it to worsen – calendar clashes, for example. This ability to organise and remain calm and self-possessed at all times is something that you need for a successful career as an executive assistant.
The role of an EA might seem a relatively solo one – working closely with one particular person to organise their working life. But in fact, the role means being a part of a team that might include other EAs or PAs, other staff in the business, higher management and event company owners. The company as a team is a view that many businesses adopt, broken down into smaller teams for departments, locations and such. The EA needs to be able to work within all levels of the team and coordinate them where needed to do their part towards the smooth operation of the business.
Most of us will be professionals in what we do but this can be a little different when your role is that of an EA. For example, you may be party to sensitive information within the business – wages, benefits packages, potential deals, new customers coming on board. All of this information must be treated with the highest level of privacy. This means not discussing with anyone and not sharing information outside those people who need to know it.
Professionalism is also an approach that ties in with teamwork and organisational skills. It is the ability to work under pressure, to keep going when things are not as expected and to remember the essentials at all times. Training can help with this and that’s why getting the right diploma in place before taking on a role can be key.
In most businesses, there will be a combination of common tech that we all use and specialist tech that relates to what the business does. Being tech savvy and even being able to quickly learn new systems and specialist software can be a big advantage for an EA. Often you will be required to know about bespoke systems so your boss doesn’t need to or to be able to use them as part of your role. So being up to date, ready to learn and tech literate is important.