I’ve worked for a lot of senior executives through out my career. As an EA, one thing you should be mindful of is the presence and reputation your boss wants to exemplify. This ties very closely with who the boss is as a person, their values, principles, and how they interact with the public, press, employees, and stakeholders. The very best assistants realize the decisions they make on behalf of their boss can reverberate throughout their day or affect other things, whether they are secondary actions or other people. I’ve been extremely lucky in that everyone I have worked for has NOT been a nightmare boss. They have all been down to earth and the most normal people despite their intelligence, job title, and power. Still, executives like to conduct business in their own way and this is how it matters.
1) Kids & Personal Life
I’ve worked for people who had kids, but almost tried to hide the fact they did. This was mostly to the press and for safety and privacy reasons. When all eyes are on you because you are very high profile or run a world-renowned business, it’s almost like being a celebrity with the amount of scrutiny one receives. There are both pros and cons in being “famous” so it can affect your family and children as well.
If your boss is very private or if he does admit to having kids he may shy away from disclosing how many, their ages, names, where they go to school, or only share this with journalists as long as any details are not mentioned publicly in writing or verbally.
This means, it’s best to say your boss is “not available” instead of explaining where he is or who he is with. If you must say something, it can be: a family event, a personal commitment, a prior engagement, a celebration, anniversary, Mom’s 80th birthday, or a personal business/matter.
2) Car service & Transportation
I’ve worked for executives who did not like car service because the corporate flamboyance it portrayed. It could play into an article or interview if an executive shows up to a press event or an interview in one. Where the press interview was taking place also becomes an issue - pick too nice of a restaurant and they have expensive taste. Pick a too inexpensive one and they have no taste or are cheap. Other executives like car service because they can work in the car and prepare for meetings during the down time. An in-between step is having a personal driver, dressed up as one or not and driving a town car or a regular one (hybrid vehicle, van, etc.) Some executives are okay with taking a taxi or driving themselves. Some will take a helicopter, private plane, or the subway.
So when you book travel, be mindful how it can portray your boss and if they care. Personal details do come to light in articles, expense reports, and in social media.
3) Your Behavior
I’ve heard a lot of recruiters complain about their fear of hiring executive assistants who think since they work for the CEO/boss they are also afforded special privileges and power. How you speak, carry yourself, and make requests reflect that of your boss. Don’t get power hungry and believe you deserve special treatment because of who you work for. This will only alienate the other assistants and reflect poorly on you. You are NOT your boss. You are an extension of your boss. Stick to your role.
Be yourself on interviews and at the office. If you try to be something else, at some point the real you will arise. A lot of hiring decisions are based on your personality, your management style, and character. They want the culture fit as well as someone who can get the job done. It is in everyone’s best interest to present your best TRUE self.
4) Personal Requests
I’ve worked for a slew of executives both in mid level and upper level management. They each had their own personal requests or preferences. It could be anything from any time I went out on an errand, when they paid me back, they would shut the office door and give me the money back. I never asked why, but perhaps people could look into all sorts of odd, untrue reasons why the boss was giving me a few dollars in cash. I’ve had others state that if I am out on my own personal time while with others when they contact me with a last minute request that I no longer have to do the errand for them. This could be because they don’t want to violate my free time or have others be inconvenienced and be “that boss” or have others know non-urgent, but business related requested are being asked of me. I’ve heard of other executives being known for their fashion sense and tailor made clothes that people would ask if it was true. These sorts of questions are harmless, but everything in executives’ office is really on a need to know basis so curious questions were answered with, “You know... I actually don’t know!”
In the end, honor your boss’ request for privacy and image management. They have their reasons. You may not know and agree, but unless you feel it is immoral or illegal, it should be safe to align yourself with them.
***New “rule” - when you ask me a question for anonymous advice and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post? You can just write “Thx!” or something! :)
As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.
I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.