What Does an Executive Assistant Do? (And How to Become One)

Like the idea of managing schedules, solving problems, and being an indispensable aide to the boss? A career as an executive assistant could be perfect for you.

Executive assistants provide specialized, high-level administrative support to senior personnel.

They coordinate executives’ calendars and make sure their bosses have the information and materials they need to do their jobs effectively.

But what does that really mean? What does an executive assistant actually do, and what does it take to thrive in this role?

In this post, we take you through an executive assistant’s typical responsibilities as well as the skills and training required to get started in this career.

Here’s everything you need to know.

 

WHAT ARE SOME TYPICAL TASKS FOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS?

Executive assistants (EAs) handle a wide range of administrative tasks to help high-ranking leaders perform at their best.

Their role is similar to an administrative assistant. The main difference is that administrative assistants typically focus on keeping an entire department or company running, while EAs support one specific executive (or a small group of executives).

An executive assistant job description will vary from company to company. But generally speaking, if you took on this role, you could be responsible for:

☑️ Coordinating and maintaining the daily schedule of an executive

☑️ Managing an executive’s email inbox and responding to messages on his or her behalf

☑️ Organizing meetings, including booking space, preparing agendas, and arranging for audio/visual equipment

☑️ Researching and preparing reports and presentations

☑️ Making travel arrangements

☑️ Developing filing systems

☑️Answering, screening, and forwarding phone calls

☑️ Recording and distributing meeting minutes

☑️ Managing office supplies

☑️ Scheduling couriers and distributing incoming mail

☑️ Completing expense reports and handling basic bookkeeping duties

 

WHAT KEY SKILLS DO EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS NEED?

It takes a specific combination of skills to be effective in this role. If you want to become an executive assistant, you should have:

☑️ Solid computer skills—You should be highly proficient with Microsoft applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. It also helps to be comfortable with accounting software and videoconferencing tools.

 

☑️ Keen attention to detail—Whether you’re proofreading a company report or taking note of the security protocols for an upcoming conference, it’s important to stay on top of the tiniest details.

 

☑️ Good organizational and time management skills—You will be required to juggle multiple tasks, schedule an executive’s time wisely, and make sure all deadlines are met.

 

☑️ Top-notch communication skills—You must be able to speak and write in a way that gets your (or your executive’s) message across clearly and concisely.

 

☑️ Well-developed problem-solving and decision-making skills—You need to anticipate problems and take action to keep them off the executive’s desk. An EA’s job is to keep the boss focused on the most pertinent issues.

 

☑️ The ability to work well under pressure—Can you keep your cool when chaos erupts? EAs need to be able to stay focused and adapt as circumstances change.

 

☑️ A high level of discretion—You may be privy to confidential and sensitive information (like merger negotiations or planned staff layoffs), so it’s important to demonstrate integrity, diplomacy, and tact.

 

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED TO BECOME AN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT?

You don’t necessarily need a degree to become an executive assistant. In many cases, a college diploma is enough.

College-level administrative assistant training tends to be short. Most programs can be completed in well under a year.

You can expect your courses to cover:

☑️ Microsoft Office software

☑️ The fundamentals of accounting

☑️ Effective communications

☑️ Information management in an office

☑️ Human relations

 

Note: Keep in mind that executive assistant is not typically an entry-level role. After completing your training, you generally need to gain a few years of administrative experience in order to land an EA position.

 

WHAT CAREER OPTIONS DO EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS HAVE?

Executive assistants can work for officials in any large organization.

As you gain experience, you can take on roles supporting higher-level executives. For instance, you might go from working with a middle manager to directly supporting the CEO.

You can also work your way up to become an executive assistant at progressively larger companies.

And executive assistants are in demand in Manitoba. The provincial government expects jobs in this field to grow by 25% between 2019 and 2025.

 

INTERESTED IN BECOMING AN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT?

The first thing to do is find some quality training in office administration.

Take a look at the Administrative Assistant program at Herzing College Winnipeg.

It’s just 7 months long, including a 4-week internship at a local business.

Students get thorough training in office software and administrative procedures. They graduate with the technical, organizational, and communication skills employers want.

Still have questions?

An Admissions Advisor can walk you through the details of the program and help you determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Click below to learn more about the Administrative Assistant program and chat live with an Advisor. We’re here to help!

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