During my career interviewing and working with Administration professionals, from various levels including reception, data entry, and team administrators, I’m often asked how do I progress my career into a senior level EA role? What steps are needed? What attributes are important as an Executive Assistant?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to interview many exceptional senior level Executive Assistants, and have placed many EA to C-suite levels roles, during my 12 years in Recruitment. Along the way I’ve uncovered what it takes to be a truly great Executive Assistant. Here’s my view on what makes a Senior EA truly indispensable.
A knack for multitasking is essential for any administration professional. This is elevated to “Triage” when supporting at this level. This doesn’t come naturally for most people. One of the key components for your role is to ensure the executive can meet their deadlines and you are responsible for maintaining even the smallest of details. This relies on your judgement to triage the many tasks, prioritising what you are collaborating on with your boss. Ensuring you limit distractions and focus on the most important tasks at that moment in time. Especially as that priority list could change the following day. It’s your responsibility to ensure they have capacity to achieve the deadline that they have committed to. You will often have to say ‘no’ to people and you must be comfortable with it. so this must come easily to you.
Written, verbal, non verbal. face to face, over the phone, email. You may be responsible for writing emails on behalf of your executive, you may be the eyes and ears when they’re not in the office, you may be faced with managing sensitive situations. Being able to do all of this with emotional intelligence and tact is essential to ensuring the business continues to drive forward and the culture remains positive.
It’s a cliché but you truly are an extension of your manager and your organisation.
Multitasker level: expert
Can you handle a number of jobs at once? Are you able to multi -task a number of different ‘to do’ items at once? There will be many times in this gig that you’ll need to think on your feet and completes many tasks at once. You probably don’t want to try tackling 2 critical projects at once, but you may be able to book some travel while waiting on hold to IT. On the flip side, knowing when to shut out the world and focus on one task can be just as efficient.
Life in the cloud
Advances in technology have changed the scope of the Senior EA’s role. No longer office bound, executive assistants are required to be mobile and able to cope with change, sometimes 24/7. With their manager overseas, they are still required to provide support across time zones at a moments notice. Whether it’s creating or editing content on the run, updating social media or setting up conference calls and video conferencing means an understanding of the different technologies of today is a mandatory part of the job.
“A solid understanding of Microsoft Office” is now an assumed skill. A better question would be “what are you like with Buffer, Salesforce, Calend.ly and Slack?”
The ability to anticipate what comes next, what resources will be required for that project, which stakeholders to engage, are all skills of a “next level” Senior EA. These skills will see you navigating efficiently through tasks and proactively avoiding disasters. This will allow you to focus on the important stuff. Similarly, over time you will know what your manager needs and when. Not really a morning person? Maybe don’t book a briefing with the board at 8am. Allowing time for your manager to take a breath between meetings, to maybe even grab a sandwich (!) will be so greatly appreciated.
More than ever, Senior Executive Assistants are dealing with an overloaded manager and a broad scope of responsibilities. Those that have risen to the top show all of the above attributes, a strong business acumen and above all, the ability to breathe.
If you would like to discuss Senior EA opportunities, or you're looking for someone with these attributes please dont hesitate to contact me on 02 9641 2413.