The Chief Executive Officer in an organization will be its most senior and busiest manager. He or she manages business operations, plans market strategy and is accountable to the board of directors. The CEO will usually have an executive assistant (EA) providing support services. This is very important role; the EA takes care of administrative and other duties, freeing the CEO to focus on managing the organization. Senior administrators are best suited for this position as they'll be sharing much of the pressure and long hours of the CEO's job.
The Skills an Executive Assistant Needs
A successful executive assistant needs a varied skill set. Your primary skill will be a superb organizational ability because you have to manage the CEO’s office. However, to prove yourself really valuable to senior management you'll have to be very flexible and possess outstanding problem solving skills, as Jennifer Reingold shows in her CNNMoney article on CEO executive assistants. The assistants she interviewed had duties ranging from protecting the CEO from aggressive press photographers to helping him out in a social emergency with information on correct diplomatic protocol. Also, you will need stamina and dedication because at this senior level you might be on call day and night.
The Executive Assistant’s Core Responsibilities
The core duties of the executive assistant are administrative. You'll primarily be managing the CEO’s office and organizing his or her meetings by booking facilities and meeting rooms. A key task will be ensuring they’re properly equipped; for example, with video conferencing equipment. An EA job description for a Californian public policy organization highlights the management of the CEO’s hectic schedule as another important duty. You’ll have to schedule meetings and ensure notice goes out to all attendees. An important and recurring duty will be resolving diary clashes. You could also be asked to communicate directly to the board on behalf of the CEO.
The Executive Assistant’s Secondary Duties
Communication will be ongoing in the office. As an executive assistant, you'll be screening incoming calls, making notes of essential information and prioritizing the calls to be returned by the CEO. E-mail traffic will be very heavy as well so it's good practice to prioritize a list of those replies that have to be made by the CEO personally. Replying to the non-priority mails will usually fall to the EA. Additionally, as a Retirement Community based in D.C. makes clear, their CEO's executive assistant is responsible for keeping all corporate documents including charters, laws and board meetings minutes. So you might also have to be a corporate archivist.
Background and Qualifications
CEO's executive assistant and author, Joanne Linden, has a professional profile that's typical of a successful EA. A varied experience working as CEO's assistant for start-up companies and established large corporations is important. And membership of top professional organizations like the Silicon Valley Catalysts Association (SVCA) is a great asset. However, there are professional organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) that include members across the whole country. Colleges now offer training programs for CEO executive assistants like the one hosted in the University of California’s Silicon Valley Extension.