Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is The EA Role Right For You?

When I was little, I never envisioned I would become an executive assistant. I bantered around various ideas from being a photographer, teacher, newscaster, or print journalist. I just sort of fell into being an executive assistant when I graduated college and started looking for a job. I started out as a temp and figured I’d pay my dues, network, and hop to another company or department. When the Chairman/CEO’s office asked me to join their team, I said to myself, “Who says no to the CEO?!” and told myself it’d open many more doors than if I said no.

I had been on the track to being in event planning and had worked in that field. But realized as much as I loved it, the hours were too long at 60-100 hours each week. I had to go back to the drawing board and found I was now pegged as the assistant to CEOs.

I have many varied interests from volunteering, to reading, learning, and helping others, films, music, comedy, the arts. People always thought I missed my calling as a librarian or to do special events at Barnes and Noble. I even once worked at a PR firm reading books to help get authors national attention. Except I found that the moment I got paid to do something I absolutely LOVED, I hated it. The mentality to get paid money for something I would do for free killed my joy of it, because it became HOMEWORK, something I HAD to do, not just for my own pleasure.

So, I went back to being an executive assistant because I learned that it was my unique selling point - assistant to CEOs. I was a natural fit. I was okay with getting paid money for it because being organized and on top of things wasn’t so much a “hobby,” but a belief and value I lived by. (Life is short, spend the time you have wisely. Have your life in order so you can focus on other fun things. Pay your bills on time so you don't stress about shelling out more money in fees. Plan well so you don't plan to fail. Be a responsible adult so you can accomplish your dreams.) And that’s the key to working a job you are good at, but is not your love. Maybe for you, the value is self expression, creativity, problem solving, persuasion, making money, or justice. Respectively you can be or work at a company as a writer, in marketing/advertisement, a law firm, in sales, or law enforcement. Make sure it is a value you can stand behind because that is what will bring meaning to your career and your life everyday.

You can also do the reverse. Figure out what you absolutely will not do and narrow it down. I was once headhunted to work at a high paying job related to psychics, not physics. If it was physics, I would have said yes. Or I could never work for a cigarette company. You get the drift...

So how do you know if you are executive assistant material? You possess most of these qualities and traits.

-You are organized, pay attention to detail, and are borderline anal retentive.

-You are good with following through, keeping in touch, and you rarely lose anything.

-You are reliable, trustworthy, and don’t gossip.

-You are a great self-starter, have initiative, ask good questions, and think things through.

-You view situations from all angles, write pros and cons lists, and explore social, political, mental, and emotional ramifications of situations.

-You understand office politics and are sensitive to making sure no one is either kept out of the loop, offended, or find out information they should not.

-You have a customer service attitude with the sophistication, grace, and diplomacy of royalty.

-You are already the social director of your group of friends or sorority.

-You are always thinking 10 steps ahead.

-You love label makers, the Container Store, Office Max, and feel lost if you don’t plan your days.

-You are always learning and seeking out new information whether it’s books, blogs, technology, or food.

-You have a can-do, aim to please mentality, not because you need others’ approval, but because you like the challenge.

-You like being the leader, but also know when to take a step back.

-You treat everything as an urgent matter cause why put off what you can do now.

-You can keep track of many different things - lists, people, schedules, projects.

-Compared to most, you are good at handling stress, change, deadlines, and pressure.

-You don’t mind doing little tasks like ordering lunch or getting coffee as long it’s not 90% of your job.

If you have most of these traits you will be an amazing assistant. If you don't have most of these traits, but are fun to be around, that's enough too. People want to work with people they like being around who have the basic skills versus someone who is brilliant at their job, but grumpy, mean, or not a good fit for the department. So, know what your unique selling point is and play that area up, regardless of which field you choose!


  1. Wonderful post. I see too many people who become an Executive Assistant because they saw a job posting and thought it would be an easy thing to do. The best always seem to make it look easy, but I tell people we are like ducks on the water. We may look calm and under control, but look underneath and it is a flurry of activity. When people ask me what makes a great assistant I tell them organized without attitude. If you have trouble keeping track of things or if anybody has ever called you lippy don’t even try to be an assistant.

    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level Executive AssistantAugust 3, 2012 at 12:35 PM

      Guru of Assistants - Thank you for the comment! I agree on the duck analogy! :) Don't forget to check out my other site where I write at under Hollywood Executive Assistant.