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The Modern EA: What you need to do to stay relevant
In our fast-moving globalised world of business, the role of an Executive Assistant (EA) has had to evolve to one of a gatekeeper and project manager for the CEO, all the while adding strategic value to the business.
From traditionally managing diaries, booking travel arrangements, running errands, arranging meetings and appointments, and communicating on behalf of the executives, the list of responsibilities of the EA has expanded immensely. The role is now known to entail conducting training for other admin staff, managing events, supporting more executives or a bigger team, and even having a real say in the company’s affairs.
In addition, some EA roles are becoming more multi-faceted with finance, budgeting and data analysis functions.
For some, this empowerment can seem like a lot to take on but don't be overwhelmed – most EAs already have the basic skills and knowledge they need to be effective in this expanded role. It’s ultimately about gaining a strong understanding of how to utilise and refine those skills.
While rudimentary skills like being detail-oriented, articulate and independent are essential, a great EA today needs certain abilities to go a lot further — you must be a strategic multi-tasker, highly organised, a resourceful, trustworthy, a ruthless prioritiser, a delegator and have an up-to-date level of tech prowess.
Proving yourself in these key areas will make you indispensable to your CEO and the business, and also help you to stand out from other EAs.
Providing strong support
For EAs, it is essential to learn how you can help your boss be highly productive and successful. Learning the rules and undercurrents of the company, remembering your boss’s preferences as well as anticipating their needs will help you to adapt quickly and foster a stronger working relationship between the both of you.
With the current advances in technology, there are a lot of online platforms and workshops to enhance your productivity, minimise risk of errors and make your life more convenient.
A great EA will seek to proactively upgrade themselves with the necessary and most up-to-date skills. For example, if your boss is very active on Twitter, you may want take a course on social media engagement to really learn the ropes of the platform to fully take advantage of what you can really do with it to achieve efficiency, such as scheduling Tweets.
If you are required to organise events, an event management course or refresher may be beneficial.
If you decide to take up a course, do your due diligence as there are many on offer, such as short courses which will only cost a couple hundred dollars. But there are also lots of complimentary and free online learning platforms available. Coursera is an online learning channel supported by top worldwide universities, including Stanford and Duke University, which provides free courses across many specialisations. There are also online resources for EAs that provide free resources and articles, such as Practically Perfect PA, if you don’t currently have the time to take on a course.
Attending PA conferences is another a good way to meet other EAs and administrative professionals and learn from them how to best adapt to this constantly evolving role – you might already have a network of contacts who you can draw advice from, particularly when you have unique or tricky scenarios that you can run by them. Otherwise, conferences and events are a great starting point for connecting and building a network of EAs you can call on.
New doors and responsibilities
Generally, the more capable a secretary or assistant is at their job, the more new doors open up for them. This is something that happens across the board, with many businesses and executives requesting candidates who are able to handle more than one set of responsibilities.
Our advice to assistants is the more responsibilities you take on, the more you will learn, the more experience and exposure you gain, which eventually contributes to your growth.
Above all, a good fit between executive and assistant is paramount, and seeking a great working relationship as demonstrated by the EA’s up-to-date skill set will be a strong start.
What to explore the latest EA roles? Find out more here.