So, the time has come for a career change and you have your eye on the role of executive assistant. You have the qualities for the job and know you can excel but there’s one problem – you don’t have any experience. So how can you get that dream EA job without experience behind you?
What is an executive assistant?
First, it is a good idea to have a clear picture of what an executive assistant does and what kind of skills will be required. For some companies, the term is used interchangeably with a personal assistant (PA) but in many cases, it is a role separate to a PA and often with more responsibility.
EAs are often required to give professional advice and recommendations in addition to the standard assistant jobs such as clerical tasks and liaising with other areas of the business. They may also do work in the public relations side of the business. Some examples of the main responsibilities of the role include:
– Being the first point of contact for customers, vendors and team members for your employer or manager
– Handling incoming and outgoing mail, calls, emails and faxes to ensure the right people see them- Drafting and approving written communications, reports and presentations, both
internally and externally
– Managing the executive’s calendar, often coordinating professional and personal
– Managing and reporting expenses
In the majority of cases, the EA will be senior to the PA and may even have personal assistants working with them. This requires them to be able to think and work more like a senior partner as opposed to a PA, whose role is more administrative support.
Get the right training
One of the first things you will want to do on your path to becoming an Executive Assistant is to get the right training. This will mean started with an Executive Assistant Course where you can learn the basics of the role and also start to fine-tune other skills to help you prepare for the job’s requirements.
Courses are often broken into different sections to allow you to add to your skills. A basic PA or EA course will create the foundations needed to understand the role and to develop the skills that will be used in it. An EA course will go further, helping to cultivate the right mindset to be a vital part of the business, offering support and advice as well as completing the typical PA tasks.
You can also look at more advanced training. Examples of the kind of supporting courses that you might want to take include for Microsoft Office, reporting writing and minute writing. Training in Microsoft Office is a good way to show your aptitude and even if the office doesn’t use the software, it is a recognised standard that can be applied to other office software.
Reporting writing is a useful skill that is often required for EAs as you will be preparing presentations and other reports for your manager’s use and for them to provide to others in the company. Likewise, minute taking is something that not all EAs are required to do but by having this skill, you could put yourself ahead of other candidates that don’t.
Adding speciality skills
When you don’t have any experience as an executive assistant, gaining the right qualifications and training can make all the difference. There are also a number of specialist skills that you may want to consider, especially if you are aiming to work in a particular industry as an EA.
One example is to train in the basics of human resources. While the role of EA is separate from HR departments, there is some overlap and it can be a good idea to have basic HR skills, especially if you may be required to help your manager with hiring and promotion of staff.
Marketing and social media skills may also be worth adding if you plan to aim for industries with a strong online presence. As part of the role as an advisor and sounding board for your manager, having a good understanding of the basics of these areas can help you make sound recommendations.
How to find a role
Once you have completed the various training that helps you be ready to be an EA, then you are ready to start looking for roles. However, a lack of experience can still be something that can hold you back – so what can you do?
One idea is to do some voluntary work in a similar area to show you have the hands-on skills needed as well as the qualifications. Many non-profit companies and charities would love to have some administrative help and you can show you are motivated and knowledgeable.
You may even want to look at starting as a personal assistant and working up to an executive assistant role. That way you have the qualifications and can add that experience in a lower role before then applying for the role you want after a short time. You could even do some work as a virtual assistant online to build up the experience needed while you are training.