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Executive Assistant


Executive assistants organize and control the day-to-day functions for their employer, and are usually senior clerical staff in an organization working directly for higher management officials, such as presidents, vice presidents and Chief Executive Officers. They are the true supporting backbones of senior management officials and without them; most executives would be in complete disarray. Acting as the "right hand," they ensure that the information their employer receives is timely, accurate and relevant. They will review incoming mail and prepare outgoing correspondence.

Performing administrative duties is hardly the bulk of their job. Executive assistants co-ordinate administrative procedures, public relations activities and research and analysis functions for members of legislative assemblies, ministers, deputy ministers, corporate officials and executives, committees and boards of directors. Being at the top of the clerical hierarchy, their jobs are of a more personal, interactive nature.

In the last decade, the role of the executive assistant has drastically evolved due to technological advancements. Computers have replaced and simplified some of the once-traditional tasks of the assistant. This has allowed executive assistants to take on more challenging projects and lead them to a wider range of responsibilities once reserved for managerial and professional staff. Functions such as training new staff members, conducting research on the Internet and operating new office programs such as spreadsheets and multimedia presentations are good examples of some newer duties. They also perform a variety of administrative duties such as scheduling meetings and appointments, booking travel plans, organizing and maintaining paper and electronic files, managing projects, conducting research and providing information to managers and clients via the telephone and e-mail. Acting as the right hand to a senior executive, they are pretty much in charge of organizing their employer's lives.

Interests and Skills

Executive assistants have good oral and written communication skills because they constantly interact with many people on the phone and in person. They have good interpersonal skills, excellent organizational and time management skills, and have the ability to work independently or as part of a team. They should also enjoy using computer applications, and get comfortable with word processing and spreadsheets. Skills with numbers and bookkeeping can also be an added skill to help finding a job, and executive assistants have the ability to compile and organize large amounts of information.

Typical Tasks

Establishing and coordinating administrative policies and procedures for officials, committees and boards of directors

Analyzing incoming and outgoing memoranda, submissions and reports and prepare and coordinate the preparation and submission of summary briefs and reports to the executive, committees and boards of directors

Preparing agendas and making arrangements for committee, board and other meetings

Conducting research, compiling data, and preparing papers for consideration and presentation by the executive, committees and boards of directors

Meeting with individuals, special interest groups and others on behalf of the executive, committees and boards of directors to discuss issues and assess and recommend various courses of action

Executive assistants almost always work in office environments. A standard, 40-hour workweek is the norm for executive assistants unless they work part time. In some cases, longer hours may be required to meet deadlines, or when a boss works extremely long hours. A typical day often involves sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer, or talking on the phone. Some executive assistants travel to meetings and promotional functions with their employer.

Workplaces, Employers and Industries

Executive assistants are employed in every sector of the working world. They usually work in offices, assisting professionals in schools, hospitals, law offices, business services, government services, medical and social services, wholesale traders, retailers, communications companies and so on . . .

Educational Paths

A university degree or college diploma is not absolute, however, a high school diploma is an absolute requirement often along with an undergraduate degree in public administration, political science or a related discipline. Community colleges offer diplomas and certificates in administrative or secretarial skills, which can also be very beneficial and give you a competitive edge when searching for a job. Many specialized executive assistants also have related administrative experience

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