by Courtney Scott
Ask three different people what an executive assistant does, and you’re likely to get three very different answers. Ask USA Today and you will unequivocally be educated on the new “power job”. In short, the role of the executive assistant has evolved into a highly adaptable executive partner. EAs are more valuable now than ever, which means our responsibilities and reach are greater or at least acknowledged more than our professional ancestors. There is a demand for the new mega assistant – a sort of hybrid between professional assistant, personal assistant, senior advisor, and chief of staff. In market hotspots, EA compensation packages pull in six figures. While we are far from that kind of compensation as a market norm, we should always be thinking about how we can add more value which will likely lead to higher compensation and more equity in leadership. This is where “mega” comes in to play as we cultivate our own development and career path. We must think big and we must take massive action to get there.
Adopting the perspective and practices of an executive partner is crucial to achieving mega-assistant status. We no longer operate in a world where “adequate” or “average” is acceptable, if it ever was. Being an irreplaceable assistant should be the goal – to truly do the work that no one else can or will do (with healthy boundaries, of course!). We are no longer just a supportive role. Our roles are strategic to the leaders we support, and overall to the businesses which employ us. Providing counsel, tech expertise, business analysis, event management, and oversight to our leader’s directs are now recognized as highly sought-after functions of the EA. We still hold on to the management of all the obvious tactical accoutrement that our traditional predecessors were known for: prioritize, stay in constant communication, manage meetings, coordinate travel, etc. But that bucket of “etc.” has grown phenomenally over the last 10-15 years. We are partners, even if we aren’t compensated as such, and the scope of that partnership has grown exponentially.
When we view our relationship within the org and beside our executive as a partnership and have a strong, healthy commitment to our executives, we are recognizing that our role is not just a stint and it isn’t just a job. It’s a commitment to help drive our executives to greatness, and therefore driving ourselves to the same greatness. It requires loyalty, respect, and friendship – we are their biggest cheerleader and their most loyal general, standing side by side with them in an external exhibit of solidarity. There will be closed door debates, disagreements, and incredibly candid conversations, and not all of them pretty. But that external solidarity is what our organizations must see to drive our executives to success both inside the org and out.
Imagine the anatomy of the strategic partner is three-part and comprised of a brain, a heart, and a soul. With that in mind, it’s the heart and the soul of the EA that drives us into mega-assistant status. The heart is our drive to excellence and our ambition as a partner. Our soul is our wisdom and what governs our business acumen. In many ways, this anatomy is used to craft our role into art – we cultivate artistic proofs of ethos, pathos, and logos, which govern even if subconsciously our business rhetoric. Who knew so much psychology goes into this role! This careful and deliberate cultivation is why it is so difficult to nail down an exact JD of an Executive Assistant – but also why the right fit for an executive is so valuable.
While executing in this role is an art form of sorts and liberties will be taken, there are a few absolutes to consider on the path to successful mega status:
- It is critical to self-audit on a regular cadence, evaluate areas that growth is needed, and be self-aware – short comings serve a purpose!
- Be loyal and trust your leader. If you can’t, you should reevaluate your employment options.
- Be accountable – it’s harder for people to throw you under the bus (and they will!) if you’ve already called yourself out.
- Be highly adaptable. Businesses change and evolve on a daily basis. You must be fluid to keep up and stay competitive.
- If you want to be irreplaceable, then act irreplaceable. Do what others can’t or won’t – with appropriate boundaries.
Drive your own development. Create your own seat at the executive table. Exhibit integrity and partnership, and do so gracefully yet powerfully. Finally, be deliberate in your walk as an EA. You are the architect of your professional journey to becoming a mega-assistant.