5 Top Skills for Executive Assistant Roles
To say an Executive Assistant wears many hats is an understatement. Not only are they in the background making everything run smoothly for their executive, but they are often trusted with intimate details of their executive’s life, from scheduling meetings and making travel arrangements to managing personal appointments, in addition to the special projects they have been tapped to manage. Needless to say, the daily to-do list of an EA is often a mile long. There’s plenty to do and a finite amount to do it in. Pepper in an emergent situation or two and things can get pretty hectic.
To be successful as the right hand to an executive, executive assistants must have a dynamic combination of hard and soft skills. When all is said and done, however, it’s the intangible skills and inherent traits of an EA that will not only land them the job, but allow them to become a true partner to their executive.
If you’re thinking about a career as an executive assistant, here are five key skills that you should have in spades.
The Ability To Remain Calm Under Pressure
Executives often find themselves moving from crisis to crisis, so by extension, executive assistants will regularly find themselves dealing with high-pressure, high-stakes situations as well.
When these situations arise, a great executive assistant knows how to remain calm under pressure. They have a strong pulse on what’s going on around them, they know how to prioritize and they can think on their feet. When there are ten things going on at the same time that all need to be addressed, a great EA keeps their composure and finds a way forward regardless of the situation. Executive assistants that get rattled easily will likely find it hard to succeed.
Most Executive Assistants have had their fair share of tense moments with either an executive with a short fuse or someone else within the company. The ‘ability to handle difficult personalities’ is a frequent request from our clients looking to hire a new EA. When these moments inevitably arise, a good executive assistant knows how to take a step back and not take things personally.
Moreover, as the gatekeepers to the executive, EA’s frequently find themselves dealing with plenty of people both within the organization and outside of it who are ill-tempered and thorny as well. Managing difficult personalities is par for the course as an executive assistant, and a great EA knows how to rise above.
Strong Communication And Interpersonal Skills
Again, an executive assistant represents their executive to both internal and external parties. Not only must they be mindful of the executive’s time and bandwidth, but they are frequently required to draft emails, company memos, edit press releases, and field a myriad of phone calls on any given day.
In order to do so effectively, EA’s must have their Executive’s full trust that they will maintain a professional and polished communication style at all times. Furthermore, they will be tactful, and know how to finesse a situation as needed, and have the ability to cultivate relationships on every level. Moreover, EA’s must also have a strong sense of how and when to wield their power and when to acquiesce.
Exceptional Attention To Detail
Attention to detail is an important skill for all jobs, but for an EA, it’s critical. As the right hand of an executive, the stakes are often higher, and mistakes have greater consequences. A typo on a presentation leads to embarrassment but more importantly, it will erode the trust built between you and your executive, and a poorly worded email can lead to a lawsuit.
Attention to detail is important for EA’s because there is generally no one behind them to catch a mistake if they make one.
The Ability To Anticipate The Needs Of Their Executive
The best EA’s consistently work ten steps ahead of their executive. They have backup plans in place for every eventuality. And just to be sure, they frequently have backup plans for their backup plans. Beyond being a “fixer,” executive assistants must be attuned to their executives. For example, if their executive is working later than usual into the evening, the EA will likely be there too— planning ahead for the next day. Their priority would be tweaking the executive’s schedule for the following morning, pushing back meetings to accommodate a late start, etc.
A successful EA always anticipates problems, offers multiple solutions to said problems on the fly, and regularly goes above and beyond what is required of them.