Looking for a Career that Brings you Joy? – Consider Becoming an Executive Assistant

If you asked me 17 years ago if I was going to be an Executive Assistant or EA at the #2 company in the world, I would have told you that you were crazy. Yet, here I am and I couldn’t be happier in my career. I fell into this career while working at a regional sports network waiting for my opportunity to get in front of the camera. As I continued to work as an Administrative Assistant supporting the Senior Vice President of the network, I learned I had a knack for the job and actually really liked the work. When I realized I didn’t want to go into broadcasting and pursue a career as an Executive Assistant, I decided to pursue a new job at a larger company. This brought me to Amazon. I have been at Amazon for over 10 years and it was the best move I could have made. My friends laugh when I say this but if I were to win the Powerball, I would still work at the same job. But as the saying goes, “when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”.

Today I’m sharing an interview I had with a mentee about the job of being an Executive Assistant and why it brings me joy. 

What does an Executive Assistant do?

This question is the #1 question I get from my family and friends. Besides answering with the obvious, “I’m the assistant to an Executive”, my job’s basic job description is: 

Managing complex calendars, planning and organizing events of all sizes, coordinating domestic and international travel, submitting expense reports, and assisting with meeting agendas. Establish working relationships inside and outside of the organization, including, but not limited to, building the organization and hiring other Executive Assistants and team member skill building initiatives across the organization. Possess strong organizational, communication, and interpersonal skills, a demonstrated ability to design and improve processes, the ability to prioritize and handle multiple assignments at any given time, and is able to complete complex tasks quickly and react with appropriate urgency to situations that require a quick turnaround. The ability to maintain a high level of discretion in handling confidential information, professionalism in dealing with senior executives, and planning ahead are also critical to an EA’s success. 

But, my job is more than just a job description. I anticipate the needs of my executive by being an excellent listener. I anticipate their needs based on reading their mood and knowing their schedule and routines. I’m also a magician. I do things and make things happen but no one knows how I do it or when it happened. Sometimes their coffee came out of nowhere but it was exactly what they needed at that time.

Why do you love being an Executive Assistant? 

What I love about being an EA, is the relationship and partnership you develop with your executive. Being an EA, you really are the extension of your Executive. I have a lot of responsibilities that normally my executive would do but can’t because they are in a meeting making high level decisions. I love to make their lives easier. Most of the time I know my executive better than they know themselves. 

Another thing I love about my role as an EA is that I am able to do a little bit of everything. Not only do I manage their calendar, coordinate their travel but I also send emails and make calls on their behalf, attend leadership meetings, draft notes and coordinate events. I’m also the go to for my team. I know all the answers, as my old team likes to joke “I know where all the bodies are buried.” It’s fun being the “go to”. 

How has your Career at Amazon Evolved?

When I started at Amazon I was an entry level EA. Meaning in the minds of Amazon, I only had 3-5 years experience when I actually had over 7 years and because I care so much about my job as an EA, I demonstrated my value and got promoted after my first year. Then my Executive left Amazon after my second year, so I transitioned to a new Executive because I wanted to stay at Amazon. After this transition, I really invested my time building my relationship with my new Executive and the org. After a year and a half with the Executive and the team were family. After another year and half I got promoted to highest level for an EA at Amazon. Then in January of this year, I moved to be an EA in a C-Suite office. Prior to this move, I was with my Executive and team for 6+ years. Sometimes career opportunities open up and you have to jump on it. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that I got this opportunity because of the time, care and investment I put into being an EA.

What is your biggest piece of advice for anyone interested in being an Executive Assistant?

I think it is important to be incredibly organized. You have to balance a lot of responsibilities all at the same time. If you are not organized, things can slip through the cracks. Best way to be organized is to create a system that works for you. I like to write everything down in my journal including my to do list, notes from conversations. I also use tools provided via Outlook to ensure that I manage my inbox priorities. 

I also think it is important to be a good listener. When you listen, you can hear a lot that is not actually spoken. People can say a lot if you just listen. One of the skills I have worked hard to do is to be a good listener. To do that you have to be focused so I have become a strong practitioner in meditation. Meditation has been important in my career development, so if you can be easily distracted I recommend learning to meditate. 

Finally, CARE! To be a successful EA, you should really care about your Executive, the team/organization your Executive runs and your team of fellow EAs. This career is about nurturing and supporting people, so caring is critical to be successful. Honestly, it is so obvious when an EA cares and when they don’t.

If someone is interested in becoming an Executive Assistant, how do they get started? 

Get started by applying for beginner/entry level Executive Assistant roles to build experience. Once you start, make sure you start building a relationship with your executive. Get to know them! Know their likes, dislikes, learn how they think and operate. Also, being an EA is about loyalty so make sure to stay in your role for at least three years. This is important because your first year is all about learning and building trust/relationship, then your second year you are now establishing yourself with your Executive, leadership team and the organization. Then your third year you are running the show. 

Things Cannot be rosy All the Time… There have to be some downside to being an EA. Can you share some aspects of the role that can give you a bad day?

You’re right, being an EA does have some moments that can cause you to go, “why am I here?” Sometimes your Executive can take their bad days out on you. I do have to remind myself that it is not me, but it is hard not to take it personally. Also, there really isn’t an off button. Being an EA does mean you have to be available at all hours of the day, even on vacation. The reason being is there are times my Executive thinks of something they need and they let me know. It doesn’t mean I don’t get a break it just means that sometimes I’m interrupted because its our job to be needed. Personally I don’t mind, but I can understand it bothering some who are in this role. Another element of being an EA that are not glamorous and a bit annoying are the mundane tasks of cat herding Executives for a meeting, chasing down people for a deadline or spending hours on the phone with an airline. Definitely can cause me to beat my head against the wall. Yet at the end of the day, I still love what I do because these moments are not everyday.

Conclusion

Although, I stumbled into this career being an EA, it was an amazing choice… Almost a calling. I honestly can go on and on about why being an EA brings me so much joy but I don’t think you want to be here all day. If you do want to learn more feel free to reach out to me via the contact page or leave a comment below.

Until next time have a joy filled day.

Similar Posts

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *