5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Becoming An Executive Assistant

Forget what you’ve seen on TV, in the movies, or read in magazines.  Receptionists, administrative, personal + executive assistants, and other support functions are the heart and soul of a company.  Sure, you will deal with tons of paperwork, answer phones all day long, and file away company documentation, but that’s not all, that’s not even a glimpse of what this role entails. Here are five things they don’t tell you about becoming an assistant.

They Will Expect You To Know It All

Administrators are expected to have answers.  As part of the support personnel, your job is to understand the ins and outs of the company, its mission and values, the person you directly support, and the nuances of other supervisors with whom you may come in contact on a daily basis.  While it may not be explicitly written on your administrative job description, understanding certain corporate governance will make you better at your job in the long run, so start studying, ask questions, take notes, and get ready to deliver when you’re called upon.

You Will Work Hard and Then Work Even Harder

Administrative professionals, specifically office managers and administrative assistants, but especially executive and personal assistants, work hard.  Really hard.  And just when you think the day is over, something else comes up.  In fact, many assistants follow their boss’s schedules, which could mean frequent 5AM wake up calls, late night meetings, and working during all kinds of random hours, particularly if the boss is in a different time zone.  Unlike most other positions within an office, an assistant’s job is rarely 9-to-5, it’s as-early-as-you-can-get-here until as-late-as-we-need-you-to-stay.

All the World’s a Stage

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges an administrative professional faces day to day is putting on a brave face for the world.  Successful administrators do this day in and day out seamlessly, keeping up appearances and maintaining an aura of complete control and poise at all times, no matter what is going on inside or outside of the office.  As an administrative assistant, receptionist, office manager, or a personal / executive assistant, you will often face challenges that are out of your comfort zone, deal with individuals who may “grind your gears,” or have to clean up messes that are seemingly un-clean-upable.  Administrators are amazing problem solvers for this reason, and they are often relied upon to deal with confidential information, or handle sensitive matters with discretion.

You Will Constantly Work Beyond Your Job Description

Administrative assistants perform the tasks required of them as per their job descriptions.  The truth is, being an administrative assistant is so much more than just emailing and filing documents.  Admins morph into whatever role they need to be in order to make their boss, and, ultimately, the company successful. Expert assistants understand the unspoken needs and characteristics of the people with whom they work. They have high levels of emotional intelligence: They respond to subtle cues and react with situational appropriateness. They pay close attention to shifts in an executive’s behavior and temperament and understand that timing and judgment are the foundation of a smooth working relationship. A good assistant quickly learns what an executive needs, what his or her strengths and weaknesses are, what might trigger anger or stress, and how to best accommodate his or her personal style. Good matches are hard to come by: That’s the reason so many good assistants follow an executive from job to job.

Simply put, the best executive assistants are indispensable. Microsoft will never develop software that can calm a hysterical sales manager, avert a crisis by redrafting a poorly worded e-mail, smooth a customer’s ruffled feathers, and solve a looming HR issue—all within a single hour, and all without interrupting the manager to whom such problems might otherwise have proven a distraction. Executive assistants give companies and managers a human face. They’re troubleshooters, translators, help desk attendants, diplomats, human databases, travel consultants, amateur psychologists, and ambassadors to the inside and outside world.

It Will Be A Rewarding Experience

Being an administrative professional, no matter where you are in your career —be it starting out on reception or starting your path as an EA, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever have in your career.  There is no limit to the types of people you will meet on your journey, the comradery you will have with other admin professionals, the skills you will acquire (both technical and soft skills), or the experiences you will have.  There are so few positions that come with as many perks as administration has: expensed meals, travel opportunities, event planning opportunities, professional development, you’ll be valued as an “honorary” member of the executive team. These are just some of the perks you will enjoy in your admin career.  Sure, you will work with some difficult people along the way, but you will also work with some incredibly kind people.  You might feel completely unappreciated one day and yet everyone will be eternally grateful.

The best part? No two days are alike.  You will never be bored as an administrative assistant, and you will never be hungry for more. Administrators simply do it all, know it all and have incredible professional opportunities for growth that are simply not offered elsewhere.