Behind every successful executive is an exceptional assistant. Acting as gatekeepers and problem solvers, their responsibilities go way beyond basic administrative work. They not only help manage inner office workings, but also maintain a balance between professional, familial, and social obligations. In short, everything they do is to make their executive successful.
“The best executive assistants are more than just assistants,” says Lindsay Hildebrandt, an Associate within The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support division. “Serving as an extension of the person they support, they know everything about them. They understand their executive’s working style, know their expectations, and remember the small things that make them tick. To build this type of relationship, however, there first needs to be a great deal of trust between both parties.”
To reach this point as an administrative professional, you have to go above and beyond your job description. This initiative, combined with a few inherent traits, will enable you to become an irreplaceable assistant. Continue reading to learn about the characteristics of a top executive assistant:
They anticipate needs: An exceptional assistant is able to address their executive’s needs, even before they are aware of them. This can either be something as small as ensuring they’ve eaten lunch before a big meeting, or something that can have a larger impact—like filtering distractions to keep the executive on track for meeting a deadline. A great assistant, in short, doesn’t need direction to increase productivity.
They’re resourceful + adaptable: A great EA practices sound judgement. Knowing when and how to take action, they can respond to and resolve unexpected issues. Furthermore, they are able to juggle multiple tasks at once. If they have to quickly switch gears, they’ll see that their original task is still completed in a timely manner.
They reflect their supervisor’s values: Considered a gatekeeper, an assistant must represent their executive in a positive and professional light. As a result, strong attention-to-detail, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and a high level of discretion are all integral to helping the executive achieve their goals and make a strong impression on key contacts.
They volunteer for special projects, while keeping the office running: Finding an individual to take on special projects or initiatives that don’t fall under a specific department is a common challenge for many companies. This is where a talented EA can step in. If a project is important, but the executive doesn’t have the headcount to devote to it, a rock star assistant will offer to take over. In a similar vein, this person will never consider a task “too small.” Whether it’s ordering a car or maintaining office inventory, they will happily carry out the task for the good of the company.
They’re tech savvy: The role of an executive assistant has evolved over the years, and today, they do so much more than just answer phones and file paperwork. “Top admins can assist with a broad spectrum of work and contribute to complex projects, which often require a strong handle on technology,” explains Lindsay. “As a result, admins who are proficient in Excel, PowerPoint, and QuickBooks or Concur will find themselves in especially high demand.”
They help build company culture: This is just another area where an assistant can make a significant impact. From organizing holiday parties and happy hours to setting up employee appreciation initiatives, they can help make the company a better place to work.