Executive assistants: what do they do?

By Priyanka Gupta|12th Dec 2016
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More and more companies these days are hiring for an executive assistant (EA) profile. These people report directly to CXOs and aid in carrying out their everyday jobs. While it may sound like the role of a personal secretary, I beg to differ. EAs have greater responsibilities and better career prospects. Their job description involves an assortment of responsibilities that can directly affect the profitability of the firm. A really dynamic profile, it needs a person of exceptional organisational abilities to juggle among tasks of report making, communication, correspondence, research, crisis management, project tracking, and much more.

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Through this article, we bring to you two important aspects of this job — what are the role expectations and what’s in it for you?

In this extremely powerful role, the immense scope for learning comes at a cost. Utmost professional discipline is the imperative here. Generally, this is what will be expected of an EA:

  1. Discipline of work and management: Diligently following up with necessary parties, maintaining progress reports, and the ability to handle confidential information comes only with discipline and is an absolute prerequisite.
  2. Punctuality: Though this is indispensible aspect of any role, it becomes an imperative factor here given the nature of the job and the gravity of things the EA deals with.
  3. Impeccable MS Excel skills: You may be required to prepare reports and project a scenario in less than five minutes, which makes this a must-have skill.
  4. Strong fundamentals with ability to learn on the fly: A must-have ingredient to make the perfect EA. CXOs do not have the luxury of time to teach you the basic stuff. However, they are not inhuman and do not expect you to know everything. A balance between knowing and quick learning is needed.
  5. Proactiveness and practicality: An EA is required to stay on top of everything. It is required from the person to bring anomalies and delays to his boss’ immediate attention. Sharp analytical skills coupled with the ability to give sound advice/options/opinions can take the person a long way in his career.

While the money in this role is good, I believe it shouldn’t be the only motivation. HRs are open to hiring freshers or experienced people for this role because what they really look for is the ability to multitask and manage the office of the CXO. Here are a few things in store for you in the EA profile:

Tactical position

One will learn and master the art of planning and diplomacy in this role. While you will be required to be decisive, in order to maintain a neutral work atmosphere, you will need the weapon of diplomacy.

On the other hand, you also develop sound business acumen.

Scope of learning

This role encompasses myriad things. The CXO is accountable for a plethora of tasks ranging from meeting deadlines to achieving targets. Challenges come up day to day in any business environment and handling them with the CXO’s guidance can be where the real learning is unboxed.

Job opportunities

This is the major difference between the EA and PA role. The proactive nature of an EA role opens up opportunities in similar roles, unless, obviously, you progress to become a business head or a functional head. Another road that many EAs take is, after a few years of immense learning and growth, they quit the corporate life to start up on their own.

As the above suggests, an EA profile is rich soil for growth. However, there is a small point I would like to reiterate. Please consider this role only if have an understanding of the fundamentals. If you have specialised in academics and in previous jobs only in a specific function, it would be very difficult for to cope with this kind of work, not that it is not possible. In the end, it is the zeal with which you work that really counts.

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