Today’s reader question comes from a young woman who does not live in the USA. So just wanted to say hello to all my international readers too! :) This is her question:
“I am located internationally and I've been reading your articles. They have helped me so much but I still have concerns. I applied to be a EA to the CEO of a big company in my country.
I passed the HR interview and I am waiting for the answer from the CEO interview. I had 2 initial interviews or tests before I came down to meeting the CEO.
I am scared, VERY scared I've volunteered a lot. Both English and Portuguese are my first language (I think that's why they are considering me in the first place). The CEO speaks only English but the official language is Portuguese, so they needed someone who speaks both languages well.
I am scared because I have no experience in the business world and he has another assistant. I am scared of how our relationship will be because two girls in the same territory is not always good news. So my questions are:
1- What should I do to create a good relationship with the other assistant? Because we will both be his assistants and he already has a secretary.
2- What should I do in the first day (How should I set up my desk? What questions should I ask that will be important later on? Should I bring my boss some coffee? Should I ask his secretary for his schedule?)
I will be awaiting your reply and best regards.”
Congrats on being in the running. Just making it this far is an accomplishment so be proud and feel free to keep me updated. You asked many questions so I will answer all of them and also encourage you to read all my old posts and refer to my other site since they all answer your question in one way or another:
To create a good relationship with the other assistant and the other secretary is a two part answer. First, for the business aspect, mirror them. The goal is to fit into what exists already and understand your role in the organization/seniority. Be willing to learn a lot, wear a lot of hats, not complain, and follow their lead. It’s best not to gossip or form secret alliances. Just be a good person and be you. Since you are young/new you may have to do the “not fun” stuff, but it’s better it be you then someone else who wants the job more for lesser money. Paying dues is not a bad thing. Once you gain experience you can think about how to plan your career. But first things first - when you ask questions, be curious, but not as though you are questioning their judgment and method. The best attitude is to do anything you are told as long as it is not illegal or immoral and consider any sort of task a part of your job description. Conduct yourself so they are aware you are there to make their lives easier. Be humble, gracious, professional, and very, very organized. Also respect that they are also busy and may not be able to hold your hand past the initial training period. Learn to walk the fine line of having initiative but not stepping on anyone’s toes. You are their to conform and fit into the dept and company as the newest member. Be a student and view them as your mentors/teachers. I am hoping the secretary will be a good boss, mentor, and leader to you.
Second, the personal side... Emotional intelligence is a big thing in business - putting yourself in other's shoes, sympathy, empathy, listening, communicating well, a high emotional quotient. Relationships are very vital at work and it's a great question to ask. Get to know them as co-workers, women, and humans in general. Everyone has a story to tell and as you work there, get to know them. The little things - where they are from, their hobbies, interests, what drives them, what they did over the weekend, etc. You don't have to best friends with everyone you work with, but you do want to get to know them a little. So align yourself with those you will be working with the most.
Overall, having a giving/sharing attitude and being nice will get you very far. And do not add to the emotional drama of the office. Work is work, it's not a soap opera. :)
On the first day you should follow their example. You want to become a representation of your boss and the department. It’s important to be yourself, but it doesn’t hurt to be similar to your boss and team. How they dress, carry themselves, the words they use, tone, values, principles, how they communicate, etc.
Your desk should be set up aim for being over prepared. Hopefully you are allowed to buy as many office supplies you need - electric stapler, manual stapler, postage stamps, rubber stamps that say fax, confidential, draft/etc, various binders in different sizes, folders, hanging files, scissors, ruler, 2 hole punch, 3 hole punch, etc. If you’re allowed to, might as well get a laminating machine, wrapping paper, thank you cards, blank cards, etc. It’s better to err on having it than not.
For any office I inhabit, my desk has two sets of supplies laid out on my desk. On the outer edges of my desk, I place extra pens, pencils, highlighters, ruler, scissors, tape, tissue, stapler, Post-it notes, staple remover, lotion, hand sanitizer, and an extra phone if possible. The reason why I do this because there’s always that office guest or executive that wants to borrow my stuff and they either run off with it or have to come around to my side of the desk where important documents may lie or where they can see my computer screen. They also want to make a quick phone call and if they were to use my phone I can’t grab other lines if they were to ring. Having the extra set of supplies for them makes it so much easier for them to do any final stapling or leaving notes for my executive. They are always so happy to have their own section of supplies and an area of my desk to do what they need to without interrupting me to ask for stuff.
Someone else asked a similar question, so read this post too.
And 7 defining traits most successful executive assistant have
Also read 10 tips to be a better executive assistant 1-5.
***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.