Top executives such as CEOs, company vice-presidents and operations managers, handle their organizations with the help of executive administrative support. Often called executive secretaries, executive administrators or executive assistants, these professionals handle the information needs of and administrative details for their bosses. Because of their contact with an organization’s top employees, they can perform many higher-level tasks, such as attending important meetings and conducting vital research.
Because they deal with managers, executives, technical staff and clerks at all levels of the organization, as well as clients, executive administrators need excellent interpersonal skills. They must listen actively to instructions from their bosses, explain information verbally to subordinates and write reports that general employees understand. Their social perceptiveness helps them glean information from people and motivate others to action. Good organizational and time-management skills are needed because they juggle several tasks at the same time and may work for more than one executive. Executive administrators must have effective computer skills for using software to process, organize and present data effectively.
Executive administrators act as gatekeepers for their executives by screening their phone calls and letters, and taking messages. Company visitors must be passed through them so they can decide whether to allow access to key executives. They also make travel arrangements, plan meetings and attend them to record minutes, and compile data that their bosses request. They proofread and write correspondence and other business documents by executives, and distribute memos or other written communications. As part of their expertise, they can operate such varied office equipment as computers, copiers, fax machines and phone systems.
In large organizations, executive administrators may be in charge of other secretaries, assistants and clerks, so they can add management tasks to their job description. They post job descriptions, and then interview and check the qualifications of candidates. They then hire, train and motivate subordinate administrators. They also assign tasks and schedules, allocate office space and supplies, and monitor work progress and quality. Executive administrators may also be responsible for raises and promotions -- as well as firing -- subordinates.
O*NET OnLine shows that 41 percent of executive administrators have some postsecondary classes but no degree, 28 percent have a high school diploma or GED, and 26 percent have an associate degree. Some administrators start in lower-level clerical positions, but with experience and additional training rise to positions of increasing responsibility until they reach executive levels. Associate degrees for executive assistants take two years to complete and are available from business schools and community colleges. A few executive secretaries go for bachelor’s degrees in business administration from universities, which takes four years. Voluntary certification is available from national organizations, which can increase job opportunities.