As a proud, former Administrative Professional and Executive Assistant, I pride myself on providing real-world career training and advice for the admin community. A question I hear frequently is this: “How do I move from being an Administrative Assistant to becoming an Executive Assistant?” In this article, I’m going to offer my take on this.
But first, if you haven’t read my article on the difference between these roles, start there: Administrative Assistant vs. Executive Assistant: What’s the Difference?
In order to go from an admin to EA, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, remember that EA roles are typically much harder to come by than an Admin Assistant role because (1) it’s a higher-level position which generally requires extensive professional experience and (2) many Executive/Assistant teams have long-established partnerships, so there are predictably fewer openings.
That being said, it is a very natural career progression to move from an AA to an EA. So, if that’s the direction you’re being called to, here are some things you can do to position yourself for success.
Develop Strong Relationships with Executives
It’s never too early to start building relationships with executive leaders, both inside and outside your organization. The EA role is often filled through either internal promotion or word-of-mouth referral. The more executives who know, like, and trust you, the more opportunities you will have. Be sure to share your career aspirations with them so they keep you in mind when EA positions become available.
Demonstrate Exceptional Performance
It should go without saying, but your performance in your current role plays a big part in building your reputation. Executive Assistants must be experts when it comes to the basic administrative functions—organization, time management, technology, communication, client service, etc. As John D. Rockefeller once said, “The secret to success is to do the common things uncommonly well.”
Demonstrate Exceptional Self-Presentation
Executive Assistants are often viewed as extensions of the executives they support. They may attend meetings on their behalf or deliver messages for them. It is, therefore, critical that you demonstrate exceptional self- presentation. Show that you can remain poised and composed under pressure, and that you can communicate with grace and clarity, even in difficult, complex situations.
Demonstrate the Ability to Make Things Happen
Executive Assistants must be able to make seemingly impossible things happen, often without any instruction or support. Show that you are capable of taking initiative and figuring things out on your own. When you see problems, get creative and find solutions. Whenever possible, implement them and then report the positive impact. Alternatively, identify the solution and then advocate for it with a well-reasoned business case. These kinds of things might not be listed in your job description, but they will help you stand out and demonstrate your capacity for higher-level work.
Demonstrate the Ability to Work Across Teams
Executive Assistants often have to work cross-functionally, meaning that they must collaborate with people from teams across the organization. Show that you are capable of working productively with people from all backgrounds—whether they’re janitors, engineers or graphic artists. Ask questions to learn more about what others do within your organization and how different departments operate.
Continuously Seek Feedback & Show Improvement
When looking for people to promote, most managers aren’t seeking perfection. Instead, they want people who show they are capable of taking critique and using it to grow. Even better, they want people who actively search out feedback to support their development. Make it a habit to regularly check in with your manager to discuss your performance and identify areas for improvement. Use that information to guide your development path. Take note of your growth and be sure to report back, so your manager knows the feedback was well received.
Obtain Additional Training and/or a Professional Certification
To support your growth from Administrative Assistant to Executive Assistant, you may want to consider obtaining additional training and/or a professional certification. This can help expand your skillset, enhance credibility and demonstrate investment in your career.
Finally, if you’re an administrative professional and you’re interested in advancing your career, but not sure that the EA path is for you, take heart. There are plenty of other opportunities for career advancement as an admin. In fact, I created a whole video on the topic of Career Growth Opportunities for Admins, and it’s available in the Career Success Library. If you’re not yet a member, you can learn more and sign up here.