Career Path of an Executive Assistant
Often, when you’re interacting with a larger company or business, the first person you’ll talk to is an Executive Assistant. These individuals are crucial to the functioning of all sorts of organizations—think of them as the right-hand man or woman of the company’s top executives and managers. Executive Assistants will be well aware of the inner workings and structure of an organization and work closely with top management, particularly executives themselves.
It’s important to understand that Executive Assistants are not the same thing as Administrative Assistants or secretaries. The term “Executive Assistant” specifically refers to someone who is in close contact with a manager, supervisor, or executive and is responsible for that person’s schedule, as well as various other responsibilities. The job of an Administrative Assistant is usually more general and not attached so closely to one specific person, and secretarial work typically doesn’t encompass many of the things an Executive Assistant does, either.
So, what exactly does an Executive Assistant do? What qualifications do you need to become one, and how can you advance in your career and take it to new heights? Let’s dive into this exciting career path and learn more about becoming an Executive Assistant.
What Does an Executive Assistant Do?
An Executive Assistant’s responsibilities do encompass much of what Administrative Assistants and secretaries do, but it also goes beyond that. Some of their work is administrative, some of it is human resources-related, and some of it is interpersonal.
Common Executive Assistant duties include:
- Sorting and distributing incoming mail, email, and other communication
- Answering phones and taking messages
- Managing the executive’s schedule
- Arranging travel plans and creating itineraries
- Recording meeting minutes
- Taking notes
- Transcribing meetings or correspondence
- Performing basic accounting and bookkeeping tasks
- Handling secretarial duties like copying, typing, faxing, etc.
- Handling inventory
- Creating and updating spreadsheets with company information
Understand that these are only some of the basic duties of an Executive Assistant. Depending on the position, an executive may have their assistant prepare reports, deliver presentations to other executives or stakeholders, travel to act as their liaison, and much more. It all depends on the job itself, the company, and what the Executive Assistant has to offer.
What Are the Qualifications?
The precise qualifications for becoming an Executive Assistant will depend on the job and the level of experience required. Almost all Executive Assistant jobs require a high school diploma or GED equivalent, and some may even require Associate’s or Bachelor’s degrees, perhaps in fields like business or communication.
Additional qualifications for landing an Executive Assistant job include things like:
- Experience with programs like Microsoft Word and Excel
- Experience managing a schedule/calendar
- Basic accounting skills
- Phone skills
- Great reading and writing skills
Executive Assistants who hold certifications or have completed coursework in relevant areas—administrative software, IT certifications, etc.—may be even more attractive to employers, and they may be able to command a higher salary as well.
Executive Assistant Skills Helpful for Advancement
Whether you’re only just entering the Executive Assistant field or you’ve been an Executive Assistant for some time and are ready to move forward, there are several skills to develop that can help you advance. Any Executive Assistant can benefit from developing skills like:
Exceptional Organizational Ability
So much of what an Executive Assistant does involves organization. Organizing the CEO’s schedule; managing multiple calendars; sorting email and other communication into the appropriate silos; organizing travel arrangements and itineraries for the upcoming business trip. Almost every task an Executive Assistant performs on a daily basis involves some form of organization, so advancing your ability in this area is a great idea. Consider doing research on how to improve your organizational skills or take an online class—you’ll be amazed at the way adjusting your thinking can help with your organizational skills.
Executive Assistants with certain tech skills may be even more valuable to employers and executives themselves. Whether it’s familiarity with accounting software like Quickbooks, advanced knowledge of spreadsheet software like Excel, or certain IT skills that can make you an invaluable resource around the office, technological skills certainly won’t hurt your prospects. Basic computer literacy is a must-have, but being familiar with more advanced software or technology really sets you apart from the competition.
Thinking critically and having the decision-making skills to follow through is another important skill for an Executive Assistant to have. You’ll be expected to make choices and take initiative on your own, without constantly getting approval from the executive you work for. Being able to think through various possibilities and scenarios, as well as anticipate needs that may arise in the future, will definitely help you advance in your Executive Assistant career.
Active Listening and Use of Emotional Intelligence
There is a difference between listening and active listening. Active listening means fully concentrating on what’s being said and absorbing it completely, rather than simply hearing the words a person is saying. For Executive Assistants, this is crucial—you’ll need to be able to absorb what your boss or other supervisors are telling you and react to that information as necessary.
Tied to active listening is using your emotional intelligence. This is another great skill for any Executive Assistant. Utilizing your emotional intelligence skills means going beyond the mere words you hear or directions you’re given; it’s about considering how others feel, how others may react, and adjusting your work accordingly. This allows you to anticipate what the executive might need, notice certain trends, and predict changes—you’ll be able to stop problems before they start, and solve challenges before you’re asked to. That’s extremely helpful for executives and it can help you gain a reputation as a stellar Executive Assistant.
Career Path for an Executive Assistant
One of the great things about the Executive Assistant career path is that it’s a perfectly viable career choice all on its own, and it’s also a great stepping stone into other rewarding career paths. If you want to use your Executive Assistant experience to leverage your way into a more advanced, higher-paying position, you can. If you’re happy remaining an Executive Assistant and gaining more experience over time, that’s a smart choice, too.
If you do decide to leverage your experience as an Executive Assistant and shoot for more advanced roles in the future, you have plenty of options. Some examples include:
Operations Managers are often the top leaders in an organization under the C-suite level executives like CEOs and CFOs. They’re the people responsible for overseeing the actual day-to-day processes and procedures in the operation, as well as future planning and strategic thinking for the company at large.
Many of the skills you’ll develop as an Executive Assistant will serve you well as an Operations Manager. From managing schedules and calendars to performing a variety of administrative tasks, you’ll use hard skills developed in your Executive Assistant role to great effect. And the soft skills you learn will be invaluable—Operations Managers need to have great interpersonal skills and communication ability in order to be effective.
Office Managers, as the name implies, are responsible for everything involved in keeping an office running smoothly. They’re in charge of everything from handling inventory and overseeing scheduling to organizing records and handling employee complaints. All of the administrative work you will do as an Executive Assistant will serve you well in the Office Manager role, and the soft skills you used to make yourself an indispensable part of the team will be essential for overseeing the team in an office.
There are all sorts of coordinators out there. Program coordinators, event coordinators, office coordinators, marketing coordinators… the list goes on. And a former Executive Assistant is in a perfect position to be an extremely effective coordinator. Because of the organizational and practical administrative skills you’ve perfected as an Executive Assistant, you’ll be well-versed in the managerial and organizational skill sets that a great coordinator possesses. And because coordinators are heavily involved in person-to-person communication and collaboration, those people skills you developed in your Executive Assistant role will prove invaluable.
Begin an Executive Assistant Career Today
Are you thinking of entering the exciting field of the Executive Assistant? Ready to find your next Executive Assistant job opportunity? Workway can help. The recruiters at our executive assistant staffing agency specialize in the title, escrow, mortgage, and foreclosure areas and look forward to helping match you with a role that you want and deserve.
With offices in Dallas, TX, Scottsdale, AZ, and Los Angeles, Irvine, and San Diego, CA, Workway’s professional placement services help you find an employer who values your experience, specialized expertise, and background. That means you find a job that lets you thrive.
Trust our job search recruitment agency for your job search in the Executive Assistant field—contact a member of our team today to learn more and get started.