Executive Assistant

Where your EA skills could take you next

An executive assistant (EA) is a multi-talented and highly valued member of staff.

They're coordinators, critical analysts, advisors and technical experts as well as, in many instances, the glue that holds an organisation together.

With such a variety of experience under your belt, and senior level insight into your industry, this role is the perfect springboard to take your career in just about any direction you want. That may be within the EA sphere itself, where opportunities abound, but the variety of skills you've gained can also easily lead you into different areas. 

We'll give you some points on what to consider, as well as honing in on some popular career progression routes for executive assistants.

The varied skills you gain as an EA means you have many options when choosing your next steps.

Defining your next steps

Your ability to turn your hand to any task will have served you well in the EA role, and having such wide-ranging ability is great. However, it's a good idea to work out where your strengths and interests lie.

In other words, you'll want to move from being a generalist to a specialist. It's likely that some of your skillsets will have been called upon more than others in your EA role, or that you enjoyed some elements of the job more. For example, perhaps you're experienced with automation technology and customer relationship management (CRM) software. As more and more businesses adopt these time and money saving systems, people with existing operational knowledge will become increasingly desirable.

Once you've established this, you can start thinking about where you want to take your skills.

What career paths exist for EAs?

These are some natural and common career moves that EAs take:

1. Business strategy

As an EA you'll have learnt a lot about how top-level decisions are made in business, and likely given your own feedback on options presented by your executive or manager.

EAs also tend to have a strong understanding and command of a business' overall goals. This is key to having effective oversight on the workings of different departments and ensuring they're pushing towards a unified objective.

As more businesses make cuts to middle management in the hope of streamlining their operations, there are opportunities for strategically minded personnel to come into leading roles.

2. Project management

Project management roles will draw on many of the skills you've developed in your EA role. The ability to coordinate and oversee through strong interpersonal skills, as well as organisational abilities regarding deadlines, budgeting and negotiation are core attributes that EAs can bring to project management positions.

Project management can be rewarding as you take ownership of an entire project and see it through to fruition.

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The critical analysis that often plays a part in being an EA will set you up well for strategic positions.

3. Marketing

So much of marketing comes down to understanding and reacting to changing trends in your industry. As we've already discussed, EAs will likely have acted as critical sounding boards for high level decision-makers, giving them invaluable expertise as to the goings-on in their fields. When you combine this with practical knowledge of technology such as CRMs, you've got great foundations to build on if marketing is an attractive prospect for you.

4. HR specialists

If you believe your strengths and interests lie more in the personnel side of being an EA, you might want to consider the popular move to HR specialism. As well as taking the lead at every stage of the recruitment cycle, you'd also be integrally involved with employee relations and the development and maintenance of company culture.  

This role would give you creative power to implement new initiatives in your workplace - for example, improving staff upskilling opportunities. 

5. Office managers

For those who enjoy the variety that comes with EA life, but fancy a change in responsibilities, an officer manager position could be the perfect fit.

Instead of centering your day around supporting one executive, here you'd take responsibility for the office as a whole. Depending on the size of the enterprise, your duties are likely to include facilities management and purchasing, inducting new members of staff, overseeing building safety checks and payroll. 

You're often seen as the beating heart of your office, as your work ensures that every member of staff is able to do their job.

Some EAs go on to take the top job at their company.

6. Executive roles 

With so much experience enabling executives to do their jobs, it's no surprise that EAs sometimes move into the top job themselves. These positions are often seen as training grounds for future leaders.

One high profile example of this is Urusla Burns whose internship at Xerox led to an EA role, and then, eventually, to Chairman and CEO.

Hopefully these examples have shown you the sheer breadth of the opportunities for EAs looking for a change in direction. If you're looking for help in narrowing down where you want to go next, the expert team at AccountAbility is on hand to discuss your options. Get in touch with us today!