The Most Important Skills to have as an Executive Assistant
In modern offices, you will be hard-pressed to not find an executive assistant. These individuals play a crucial role in organizations big and small. Ostensibly, an executive assistant supports just one person—but in practice, an exceptional executive assistant adds an extra dose of efficiency and productivity to the entire office.
The job description for the executive assistant to a vice-president of finance will differ from the job description for the executive assistant to the CEO of a non-profit organization. However, certain skill-sets will always be in demand for this position.
The most important skills to have or acquire:
1. Time Management
An executive assistant manages the day-to-day schedule for the person he or she supports. Therefore, you should be familiar with scheduling software, such as Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and PeopleSoft. These programs will also help with forward planning: you will be responsible for keeping an eye on what’s coming up, especially deadlines. Time management also involves being able to prioritize tasks. Your to-do list will no doubt be long; the key to making your list manageable is knowing which tasks are urgent and which ones can be safely put off to another day.
You will have contact with many people both inside and outside the organization. It goes without saying that your communications need to be professional. Not only are you representing your boss and your organization, but you need to maintain good working relationships. Another way to maintain professional rapport is to communicate and set appropriate expectations. Know when you need to say, “I’m sorry, event X has to take priority this week. Can I get back to you about event Y next week?” And when you promise to follow up; make sure you do!
Executive assistants need to be flexible. You may have put together the perfect schedule for your boss—but an emergency happens and now you’re busy coordinating with other busy people to reschedule meetings. Is this a headache? Yes. But if you react with a negative attitude, you are acting unprofessionally. Learning to roll with the punches is a necessary skill-set for executive assistants because life is not always going to follow your schedule.
Now that you have a better idea of the core competencies of an executive assistant, you can investigate what skills and knowledge you need specific to your boss and your organization. For example, if you are applying to work for a vice-president of finance, you will stand out from the other applicants by having some experience in an accounting or finance environment. Becoming an executive assistant is a challenging and demanding position, but an incredibly rewarding one.