All too often, individuals think that a CEO executive assistant merely carries out administrative tasks. These people misunderstand the complexity and importance the role has these days.
During the Mad Men era, heads of companies asked their secretaries for advice on what birthday gift to buy their wife or what shade of mauve would go best in the boardroom. In today's world, a CEO will ask their executive assistant for advice on more consequential matters. These are things like an upcoming merger, why revenues might be lagging in a particular company division or ways to trim the fat in the accounting department.
A CEO executive assistant might do some of the work an administrative assistant typically would do, such as typing up memos, making phone calls for the chief executive, or scheduling conferences and events. Still, there's so much more than this in a CEO executive assistant's job description.
In some fields, CEO executive assistants require only a high school diploma and a vocational school certificate. However, they'll typically need years of experience before they can start working in the C-suite.
In addition, enterprises are increasingly looking for CEO executive assistants who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of them might even have master's degrees.
How much do executive assistants to CEOs make?
As of November 2021, the average salary for an executive assistant to a CEO is $67,179.
How the role has changed over the years
An executive assistant to the CEO is much like an air traffic controller if you look at people, systems, and schedules as airplanes. They help reduce the inherent complexities of the office environment, making the chief executive's job easier.
In today's bold new business landscape, CEO executive assistants do much more to support the chief executive other than merely carrying out a digital version of the endless paper shuffling that secretaries of yore were famous for. They're conducting mission-critical corporate research, offering valuable advice on issues that directly affect the enterprise, and even filling in for their bosses at meetings.
In many companies, administrative assistants handle much of the routine correspondence. However, they often leave confidential and sensitive documents for the CEO executive assistant to handle.
CEOs see them not only as support but also as essential business partners helping them carry out the organization's strategic initiatives.
One of the more dramatic changes is that CEO executive assistants now attend and participate in crucial tactical meetings. This is a considerable expansion of the executive assistant's traditional role.
Continues to provide administrative support
An executive assistant to a CEO is a long-term collaborative partner.
However, CEO executive assistants still provide high-level administrative support to the CEO, including preparing reports, handling correspondence, and scheduling meetings.
At some enterprises, the CEO executive assistant job has become so complex that these employees have their own assistants for more traditional secretarial tasks. This frees up the CEO's assistant for more high-level work. This is stuff like organizing and editing PowerPoints for sales presentations, doing research to prepare for an upcoming merger, or helping to write up an analysis of competitive threats.
When the CEO travels for business, the executive assistant lower in the hierarchy will work on things in the office. The CEO's administrative assistant flies with them to continue to provide support even when away from corporate headquarters.
5 skills a CEO executive assistant needs to have
When you commence your search for an executive assistant to your CEO, it's crucial to know which hard skills you want in a candidate. For example, somebody who's detail-oriented, organized, and has good communication skills. However, it's essential to also hire for soft skills, such as the ability to anticipate needs.
Here are 5 skills a CEO executive assistant should have:
The ability to act as CEO surrogate
The CEO might not even have to show up at some meetings that are less critical in nature. Instead, they can send a highly competent executive assistant to be their surrogate.
The confidence to go along with being highly skilled
An executive assistant must be confident enough in their abilities to work alongside a CEO with lots of important responsibilities. Because many CEOs are looking for a collaborative partner rather than merely a secretary, they must have the self-assurance that goes along with their top-notch skills.
The ability to anticipate needs and preferences
An executive assistant to your CEO should have an exceptional ability for anticipating the needs and preferences of the chief executive. This means they're not constantly relying on the leader's direction for every little step they need to make.
A good executive assistant sees in advance what a CEO requires and plans accordingly. Whatever it is, they've already seen the need and addressed it.
For example, knowing enough not to schedule an early sales call the morning after a long week of exhausting travel. They would also be tuned in enough to the CEO to send a reminder email the day before an appointment instead of relying on the CEO's calendar invitation alone.
This means they're learning to think like your CEO and how they process information. This helps them know how to speak and act on the CEO's behalf, allowing them to serve as the chief executive's surrogate at meetings.
To develop this quality, it helps if your CEO communicates some of this stuff to the executive assistant. This should include sharing preferences on how work should be done and how the CEO makes decisions.
However, the CEO can't merely say, "This is what I would do," and leave it at that. The CEO needs to teach the executive assistant how they think in meticulous detail.
Executive assistants capable of cultivating this skill have the potential for empathy, critical thinking, and a desire to understand others. They will document processes as they learn them for future reference, which helps them internalize the chief executive's preferences.
Every business has an endless number of things that must be scheduled so that it can run efficiently. This includes things like appointments, meetings, deadlines, presentations, and Zoom calls with investors and shareholders.
That's why a rockstar executive assistant to the CEO needs to have impeccable scheduling skills. That way, they can strategically organize meetings, events, and tasks to optimize the CEO's time and keep productivity at high levels. By doing this, they play the role of what some call a "calendar czar," preventing the CEO from getting so overwhelmed and frazzled that it interferes with their essential job responsibilities.
An executive assistant knows what the CEO is dealing with and what's critical to their success. They keep the CEO focused on high-priority activities so they can ignore much of the rest.
A CEO executive assistant keeps track of the busy chief executive's calendar. However, besides just scheduling people into open slots, they serve as the supreme gatekeeper.
Because of all the people vying for the CEO's attention, the executive assistant must zero in with laser-sharp precision on which of these people the CEO wants to see and which ones they don't. CEOs usually empower their administrative assistants to winnow down this massive number by giving them criteria for making these tough decisions.
A CEO trusts that their executive assistant will be able to perform effective scheduling triage. In other words, that they'll have the keen business acumen and judgment to make most of the demands on their time go away and keep only the essential ones.
Executive assistants give CEOs helpful reminders of important meetings and events they must attend. The executive assistant also ensures the chief executive is prepared with all the right documents and information they'll need for the meeting.
Proficiency at creating systemized processes
Often, office procedures are woefully inefficient, resulting in a lot of wasted time, effort, and money. Having a set of highly systemized procedures and processes often helps. Good CEO executive assistants are adept at creating them, thus boosting organizational effectiveness.
They're good at respecting confidentiality
A CEO executive assistant has access to all kinds of personal information. That's why they need to have integrity and a well-developed sense of discretion. It's also crucial that they can recognize when an outsider with less than benevolent intentions is trying to gain insider access or influence, so they can warn the CEO.
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