I’m startled by the number of people who reach out wanting to transition to being an executive assistant from work in managerial positions, teaching and entrepreneurship because they think that being an executive assistant is a less stressful occupation. But an executive assistant is a professional with specific hard and soft skills, and it isn’t a fall back job for people who want an easier life with better work balance. Ask any executive assistant whose days involve managing myriad responsibilities for executives. And just because an executive is a nice person, he or she or they didn’t get there by taking it easy, and neither do their executive assistants. So my guess is that you won’t experience a better quality of life by making this type of career pivot.
Then there is the issue of qualifications. Recently, I’ve received requests for resumes targeted for executive assistant roles from the following people: a real estate management vice president, three entrepreneurs whose businesses weren’t producing sufficient income, five teachers and a retired librarian. Putting aside for the moment the harsh reality that most companies are reluctant to hire entrepreneurs , it’s important to read the requirements in job postings for executive assistants thoroughly. Let’s analyze a few:
Executive assistant to Chief Legal Counsel at a hospital:
Experience working in healthcare administration or pursuit of advance academic credentials in healthcare administration strongly preferred. Must be able to use Microsoft Office suite, including Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel at an expert level. Applicant must possess a sound understanding of business principles, operations, and process improvement strategies. Highly motivated, self-starter with strong leadership, planning, organizational and project management skills. Ability to effectively contribute and collaborate within a high-functioning team as well as across multiple professional levels including executive leadership, administration, clinical and ancillary staff. Very strong organizational and time management skills to handle functional workload and multiple priorities. Experience arranging meetings and general office organization necessary, with exposure to public entities or non-profit boards preferred.
For a major real estate company:
- Serves as a liaison between executives, internal management and employees, clients, and visitors as required; reviews, requests, schedules appointments and meetings. Relieves executive of routine matters and handles many questions without escalating to the executive(s)
- Reviews incoming correspondence via paper or email, lead initiative to determine appropriate action required. Leads, monitors issues for appropriate follow-up
- Creates, maintains, and/or updates various databases. Analyzes, and presents data for management information reporting purposes
- Completes expense reports and handles the reconciliation of receipts for a designated work group or for executive leaders
- Coordinates data from a variety of sources for inclusion in technical reports and presentations; performs independent research and prepares information for special projects as assigned
- Administers the department/business unit record keeping system; updates various department/business unit records and publications; ensures that department/business unit files are maintained in accordance with company policies and procedures; reviews requests for information and determines the appropriateness of release.
- Plans global meetings and special events: details to include budgeting, invitee list, managing vendors, travel, awards, etc.
- Assists with processing department financial data as it relates to budgets, accounts payable, and generating various financial queries and reports.
I’m sure you’re reading these two examples and thinking, “What’s Lynda talking about? I could absolutely do all of this!” And I’m sure you could, but without evidence in the form of prior experience to support your ability, what is the likelihood that you are invited to interview for the job?
There are many types of software that executive assistants use. Microsoft Office, of course, but everyone is familiar with it, and Google Workspace (not as common, but increasingly so); virtual meeting software, such as Zoom; travel software, such as Concur; collaboration tools, such as Slack, Teams, or Asana; Calendly or Google Calendar to manage multiple schedules; Expensify for expense management, and Trello for project management. Successful candidates for executive assistant positions have used many, if not all, of these applications.
My point is that the role of an executive assistant is a professional role for which much is expected, and it’s not necessarily an easier life. There are professional associations for executive assistants such as the Executive Assistants Organization for networking and career advancement that will provide greater insight into what this career entails.
When you’re considering a career pivot, the primary issue isn’t whether or not you’re capable of carrying out the responsibilities, but rather how many people who already have the required experience and skills you’d be competing against.
Do you want to be an executive assistant? Check out these samples of resumes I’ve written for executive assistants.