Working as an administrative assistant is a common step on the Executive Assistant career path. An administrative role allows you to gain the necessary experience to become an EA.
But the step up from administrative assistant to executive assistant isn’t as simple as just waiting for a higher-level position to become available. It requires hard work and the right know-how.
We’ll explain everything you need to know about moving from administrative assistant to executive assistant in this post.
Key Differences Between an Executive Assistant and an Administrative Assistant
The roles of an executive assistant and an administrative assistant are similar. Many of their duties overlap. Both roles perform clerical and administrative tasks to help a workplace run smoothly. Because of the overlap, people often confuse the roles. But there are key differences between an executive assistant and an administrative assistant.
An administrative assistant provides support to all company employees or one department. An EA supports a single executive or a few senior company employees. For example, as an administrative assistant, you might manage the general company email account. As an EA, you would manage correspondence for one specific executive.
An executive assistant is also a higher-level position than an administrative assistant. As an EA, an executive expects you to help with crucial business-related tasks. These tasks include managing projects and client relations. Executives trust EAs with more confidential information. They also expect EAs to have greater business insight.
The Executive Assistant Career Path
So, how do you become an executive assistant? While there’s no one career path, we’ve addressed common components below.
Start with Education
Education is the first step on the executive assistant career path. EAs need a high school diploma or General Education Development certificate at a minimum.
On top of completion of high school education, EAs also can pursue:
- Vocational Training. You can do additional vocational training by attending community colleges or technical school courses. Word processing, spreadsheet management, and database software use are all critical skills to master.
- Associates Degree. More companies now require executive assistants to have an associate’s degree as a minimum. An associate’s degree in a field such as business administration is most beneficial.
- LifeSquire Academy. Here at LifeSquire, we offer a professional online training program for current and aspiring assistants. LifeSquire Academy includes practical skills such as time management and organization, role etiquette, how to deal with difficult bosses, and setting professional boundaries.
- Industry-Specific Education. Some industries also may require specific industry knowledge. For example, medical and legal secretaries need to complete additional industry-specific training to learn the correct terminology for their roles.
There is no dedicated degree for executive assistants. But earning a bachelor’s degree helps you to stand out from the crowd. Many companies now prefer that executive assistants have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s is essential in an increasingly competitive job market.
A degree in the field you want to work in — politics, law, accounting, medicine, etc. — is most beneficial. If you don’t know which field you want to go into, a bachelor’s degree in business administration is ideal.
Gain Administrative Experience
Administrative experience in a lower-level position is crucial for becoming an EA. Most EA jobs require candidates to have several years of related work experience.
Roles like receptionist, secretary, or administrative assistant are all great starting points. These roles are where you get the on-the-job training that helps you later on in your career.
Earn Professional Certification
Earning professional certification is another way to demonstrate competency to employers. Voluntary qualifications help to improve your knowledge, skills, and credibility.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers two certifications that benefit potential executive assistants:
- Certified Professional Secretary
- Certified Administrative Professional
The American Society of Administrative Professionals also offers the Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence.
You can earn many professional certifications while working as an administrative assistant. Your employer may even suggest them and pay for them.
Moving from an Assistant to an Executive Assistant
It’s common for companies to promote their administrative assistant to an executive assistant. But advancing from an administrative assistant to an EA is becoming a competitive career path. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to get noticed and increase your chances of promotion.
Develop Strong Relationships with Executives
Start building relationships with senior employees as early as possible in your career. Establishing a positive rapport with members of the executive team ensures your name is front of mind when an EA role becomes available.
Share Career Aspirations
Let members of the executive team know early on in your career that you want to advance to an EA position. Putting it out there will encourage them to keep you in mind for EA positions that open up.
Build Your Reputation
It’s not enough to let people know that you want to advance to an EA position. You also need to prove that you’re competent and determined.
Make yourself known as the go-to person around the office. Go out of your way to demonstrate your communication, organization, and time management skills. High performance is the No. 1 way to build your reputation.
It’s good to demonstrate a high level of competency. However, it’s also essential to let managers know you are open to feedback and want to improve.
Actively seek out feedback and critiques. Use them to grow into your role. Be sure to let your manager know when you’ve made improvements in response to their feedback so they know you’re using their advice.
Show Poise Under Pressure
Great executive assistants remain composed under pressure. Prove that you can stay calm and suggest helpful solutions during high-pressure situations. This ability will put you in excellent standing for an executive assistant position.
Deal with Ambiguity
The role of an executive assistant can come with a lot of ambiguity. When working with a busy and often highly stressed executive, you’ll need to predict their needs. You need to think ahead without a lot of guidance. Show you’re suited for an EA role by proving that you can take initiative. Show resourcefulness without instruction.
Similarly, to advance on the executive assistant career path, you need to show that you’re a solution-oriented person. Executives often rely on their EA to make suggestions and find creative solutions to their problems.
Work Well Across Teams
Although you may work predominantly for one executive, executive assistants also need to work well across teams. EAs often have to communicate and collaborate with people across the organization. Prove that you’re aware of how all of the different departments operate. Create positive relationships with employees at every level of the company hierarchy.
Follow the Executive Assistant Career Path with LifeSquire
At LifeSquire, we’re looking for hardworking executive assistants to join our candidate pool. We also want to help those interested in advancing on the executive assistant career path through LifeSquire Academy.
Contact us today for help advancing your executive assistant career path.