How to Become an Executive Assistant

By Robert Half April 25, 2017 at 10:17pm

As an administrative assistant, your skills are top-notch. But are they adequate for transitioning to an executive assistant position? Both roles involve many of the same skills and experience, but there are some differences in the types of responsibilities each is expected to handle.

Typically, the duties of an executive assistant include screening calls, managing calendars, making travel arrangements, coordinating meetings and events, preparing reports, and maintaining good customer relations. The bottom line: The role of an executive assistant requires a higher degree of initiative than that of an administrative assistant.

If you're thinking of making the leap from administrative to executive assistant, you'll need to sharpen your skills accordingly to meet the demands of the job. Following are several qualities employers look for in an executive assistant:

Impeccable communication skills

Strong verbal and written communication skills are some of the most important qualifications for an administrative assistant. For an executive assistant, communication is the most important skill. A large part of the job involves speaking with people at all levels within the company, as well as clients and customers. You'll also need to write letters, memos and prepare reports and information for distribution. Whatever the means of communication, the ability to be clear and concise is at the top of an employer's checklist when hiring an executive assistant.

Download OfficeTeam and IAAP's Office of the Future Guide to learn more about in-demand skills shared among the best administrative professionals.

Strong computer and internet research skills

An executive assistant's computer proficiency must extend beyond spreadsheet management and word processing. Executive assistants often use their computer-based skills to maintain company records, set up filing systems or digitally manage daily operations. You may also be asked to take on special projects usually outside the realm of the administrative assistant, such as conducting market research for statistical reports.

Flexibility

The responsibilities of an executive assistant vary greatly and are rarely the same each day. He or she must be versatile enough to handle tasks ranging from the mundane to the more complex on a daily basis. From screening calls to organizing documents for a board meeting, a first-rate executive assistant must be prepared to do it all.

When it's time to interview for an executive assistant position, know what questions to ask the hiring manager.

Excellent interpersonal skills

Very often, executive assistants are required to work closely with other staff members, so it's important for you to relate well with people. For example, sometimes you may be charged with managing or training lower-level administrative staff. Strong people skills are also a must for interacting with clients and vendors.

Lastly, as an executive assistant, you must be committed to maintaining strict confidentiality regarding any sensitive information you may be privy to. Working with senior managers and CEOs, you might hear about sensitive issues, such as upcoming layoffs or company trade secrets. It's essential that you can be relied upon for absolute discretion regarding delicate matters.

Robert Half conducts exclusive research and offers free resources you can use to advance your career.

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