Being an EA isn’t an easy job, but it’s one of the most pivotal positions in a business. You are the direct line of support to the GM or CEO and probably know more about the operations than the leadership team, and as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
Premium member Carlie Clark has spent a decade as an Executive Assistant. In that time, she watched women juggle and struggle through their high powered positions, both at work and at home. She learned the many ways look after women in the business world, and how to help them be successful without burning out. Carlie shares what she learned on the job below.
1. Confidentiality is key
You are in a lot of meetings with big wigs, HR and staff, and a lot is discussed that should not be public knowledge. Keep it under your hat, no matter how many wines you have at the Chrissy party. This helps a business to run, if staff begin to find out things they shouldn’t, then the rumour mill starts and you are in all sorts of trouble!
2. Make friends….WITH EVERYONE
I mean friends with everyone .. IT, HR. security, the owner of the café next door, the courier driver, other EAs in the building. You will need to lean on them at some stage to get things done, and of course, return the favour.
3. Be present, but not obvious
The role has the word assistant in it for a reason. You assist, you are not front and centre, it is not about you. You are supporting an individual and in turn a business. So being at arms reach when you are needed is essential, but don’t make your presence an annoying one.
4. Carry a notebook (at all times)
Leave your desk for a hot minute, and people will stop and ask you to do something or give you the most important information. By the time you are back at your desk you will have forgotten, write it down!
5. Make “Go-to” your middle name
All the things that no-one else has in their job description comes under your remit. I have learned how to fix printers, change the oil in a car, and source food for 40 people in an hour. Make yourself indispensable and be willing to be flexible.
6. Don’t become political
Don’t take sides, don’t bitch about your boss, and don’t engage in the corporate politics that are always there. Your job is to stay focused on making things better, not bringing everyone down.
7. You are a private investigator
Most clients have no idea who you but you certainly know them! You know their children’s names, where they live, if they are into golf or tennis. This makes things easier when you are scheduling meeting, booking restaurants and trying to find a time to fit into their diary.
8. Supplies, Supplies, Supplies
Your life will be so much easier if you have two spare outfits (one for you and one for your boss), spare shoes, deodorant, dry shampoo at the office. I once had to do an emergency run to Nine West to purchase new heels for a very important meeting, when my boss didn’t have any suitable shoes at work.
9. Schedule EVERYTHING
This is maybe one of the most important things I learned; schedule travel time to a meeting, schedule preparation time for a meeting, schedule lunch breaks, and even schedule five-minute breaks to stretch your back. Whatever you need to do, I find if it is in the diary and you get the all important reminder pop-up, you are more than likely to do it.
10. Pass on your knowledge
Not only so you can have a holiday (ok, it’s mainly so you can have a holiday), but so others can learn from you, how to do things for themselves rather than always depending on others. If you teach others shortcuts and faster ways to do menial tasks, they will appreciate your help while making your job a little easier.
This sounds cheesy, but in a central role like an EA, you reflect the culture. If you are happy and positive, people can’t help but reflect that.
Carlie is just as passionate about helping professional women succeed as ever, she’s started her own business offering graphic design, social media and admin assistance for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Connect with Carlie here, and check out The Creative Assistant here.