The Secretarial profession is being taken more seriously, not just by candidates, but also by employers. With the increased level of appreciation and acknowledgement of a good Executive Assistant’s (EA) importance here in Hong Kong, there are still a lot of questions raised around this topic – from the candidates’ side, they want to know whether they’d be a good fit in this profession; whilst from the boss’ side, they simply want to know what they should be looking for!After speaking with countless top-notch secretarial candidates and employers that have had the pleasure of having one working for them, here is a clear observation: Being an EA is not easy as you might think. The fact that someone knows how to type 70 WPM or take notes in shorthand doesn’t naturally make them the boss’ favorite person. Since an EA’s role and importance are being emphasised more and more in the workplace, what are we looking for in a candidate exactly?
One very important component of the EA role is that it’s all about “people” and how you look after them.
A great EA is not just good at looking after people, but they really enjoy doing so. They enjoy interacting with the team, taking care of their needs from things as tedious as making sure the boss has had lunch, to as complicated as helping him/her to organise sophisticated business meetings and conferences overseas. It is when they know that they have contributed to the team and made their boss’ life easier that they feel great satisfaction about their work. It is also only when one is people-oriented by nature, that he/she will be willing to always think a few steps ahead for the team and/or their boss.
By this I don’t just mean communicating with the boss. An EA needs to be dealing with more parties than you could ever imagine: the boss’ clients, the boss’ clients’ EAs, the boss’ co-workers and subordinates, other departments’ colleagues, other EA colleagues within the firm, vendors of all kinds…etc. It would make an EA’s life so much easier if the counterparts liked working with them, instead of the other way round.
In addition, the more senior an EA’s boss is, the more people will look up to them, given that the EA represents their boss’ image, and indeed that of the company, when dealing with other parties on his/her behalf. The best EAs are always aware of the importance of branding and reputation when they are communicating with other parties.
Mature Mindset with High EQ
One fact that we will all have to accept is that everyone has their low times. A boss or a teammate can be a bit fussy or grumpy when something is not going smoothly in the business. When this happens, a great EA is always understanding and patient – they don’t take things personally, and will not allow others’ negativity to affect their working attitude or quality. They remain poised, calm and on top of the situation at all times.
This, of course, should not be a one-way expectation and the EA should be appreciated at some point afterward, once everyone has calmed down. Everybody needs positive reinforcement and encouragement, but having a high level of EQ in order to recognise how to react to others’ emotions definitely helps the EA to get through the toughest of days – both theirs and their boss’!
Pro-activeness & Good at Managing Expectations
Sometimes bosses can be frustrated with their EA or micro-manage them, not because they are disappointed with what their EAs have done, but by what they haven’t – they have no idea what their EAs have been working on and what the progress is. It is the sense of insecurity and lack of trust that flaws a working relationship between the boss and the EA.
A great EA always keeps themselves ahead of their boss. They take the initiative to update their boss regularly on work progress, pre-empt possible obstacles with solutions, and will not be afraid to speak up if their boss has been putting too much on their plate without realising it. They offer alternative timelines for different tasks to be finished and seek their boss’ consent. In that case, the boss knows exactly when the work will be delivered, and he/she won’t have to keep asking!
There are obviously many other soft skills that are crucial for an EA to stand out from others. What are your thoughts? Share them with us now!