Executive assistant jobs are always popular, so how do you secure that perfect job? We take a look at what an executive assistant actually does, how the role differs from a regular personal assistant and the skills you will need to succeed in a competitive jobs market.
What does an executive assistant do?
Most people know an executive assistant supports high level corporate execs, even those sitting on the board but what most don’t know is the broader range of challenging tasks EAs get involved in. Many people assume that the role of an executive assistant is the same as that of a personal assistant. That is not the case.
Personal assistants are usually charged with responsibilities such as running errands for their bosses, or handling tasks that are not directly related to the workplace. By contrast, an executive assistant focuses strictly on tasks that are directly related to work functions and does not provide any type of support with tasks considered to be outside the scope of the business.
Generally a large part of an EA’s day is spent handling clerical tasks, such as reading and screening correspondence, dealing with calls, drafting and proofing letters, and handling other basic office functions. They are commonly called upon to manage the schedule and diary for the executive, keep track of meeting times and appointments, and taking responsibility for making travel arrangements as necessary.
What training and education do I need?
Securing an executive assistant job normally requires a combination of training and practical experience. While many companies prefer that assistants have a degree of some type, there are still a number of executive assistant career opportunities where experience will be more important than formal education.
Top level EA’s usually have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration or similar, and some even have a masters degree. For some bright junior Personal Assistants, career progression will lead naturally to the EA role.
If you are in an administration role and want to become an executive assistant make sure you try to:
- Build relationships: Build a good relationship with senior executives. Often when an EA position becomes available in a business the executive selects candidates from the administration staff.
- Volunteer: Volunteer for extra responsibilities. To demonstrate that you can do more than your current role make sure you volunteer for extra tasks like organising the xmas party.
- Shadow an executive assistant: To learn more about what’s involved in the role of an EA ask one of the EA’s in your business if you can shadow them for a day.
What skills do I need?
EA’s should have an understanding of e-commerce, health and safety, HR procedure, PR and project management. EAs should know 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 understand company policy, corporate law and governance to help EAs to effectively support the Board of Directors.
What should my CV look like?
An EA’s CV would reflect strong problem-solving and decision-making skills as their duties include working independently to plan, coordinate and organise projects. They supervise, mentor and develop administrative staff. The role itself invariably expands to include other opportunities, so the successful EA needs to have good multi-faceted skills.
A commitment to continuous learning is a must. They keep abreast of technological changes and quickly master new technology. Keeping a watchful eye on the latest gadgetry and assessing and implementing the latest technologies is part of the EA's role.
How much do executive assistants earn?
In Ireland executive assistants can expect to earn between €25 – 60k dependant on experience.
For more detailed information on secretarial and support salary trends and market changes access Robert Walters salary survey.