Administrative Assistant Tips

Advice for Executive Assistants

Executive assistants and administrative assistants are very different. We discuss the different roles that administrative assistants and executive assistants play within an organization.

More than a few administrative assistants aspire to one day serve as an executive assistant.

Advice for Executive Assistants

But the role of executive assistant is much trickier than it appears. In addition to your standard administrative skillset, you will need to employ other strategies that probably don't appear on the official job description.

Although they may seem similar, there are a number of ways in which an executive assistant is different from an administrative assistant. The workload of an administrative assistant often includes office support for several individuals, while an executive assistant is usually only responsible for covering just one individual - who is an upper-level executive in the organization. Since the person you are working for is largely responsible for everything in the organization, they will be counting on you for a lot more than photocopying and faxing.


By design, executive assistants generally exist apart from the other administrative assistants in the company. Reams of confidential information will pass your desk on a daily basis, and an overly close relationship with other support staff creates the potential for the disclosure of privileged information. It's likely that you were given an executive assistant role because the company's managers believed in your ability to maintain confidentiality. Don't betray their trust by discussing their business with anyone except your supervisor.


An executive never has enough time to complete everything that needs to be done. In fact, many executives don't even have time to manage their time, and so they rely on an executive assistant for scheduling and screening. Over time, you will become adept at picking up on the things that are a priority for your supervisor as well as the things that aren't. In the meantime, ask your supervisor to provide a general outline of scheduling priorities and a brief list of those who have direct access.


From an executive's perspective, there is nothing worse than an assistant whose vocabulary does not contain the word, "No". Everyday, you will encounter demanding individuals who won't take "no" for an answer. But as an executive assistant, you serve as a firewall between the executive and the rest of the world. If you are confident that the individual is not a priority to your supervisor, stand your ground and don't take it personally when the conversation takes a turn toward the uncomfortable.


It may take a while to get used to the idea that you have more direct access to your supervisor than anyone else on the planet, including the supervisor's spouse. Why? Because the executive realizes that your primary purpose is to provide her with the information she needs to succeed. Clear and constant communication plays a vital role in the relationship between an executive and an assistant. When in doubt, don't hesitate to touch base.


The biggest mistake you can make as an executive assistant is to expect your supervisor to adapt to your work habits and patterns. The reality is that it works the other way around. Regardless of how you did things in the past, it's imperative to modify your work habits to accommodate the busy lifestyle and preferences of your supervisor, while at the same time maintaining proper boundaries between your work and personal time.

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What's your advice for executive assistants? Please add your tips below.

  • Iyke posted on 1/5/2009
    This article is great; it shows me better perspective of how to accept my job.
  • Joanna posted on 2/3/2010
    The communication part was really helpful to me. The one thing I struggled with though was the part that says "when in doubt, dont hesitate to touch base". My boss can really come down hard on me if I interrupt him for what he considers unnecessary even though if I hadn't taken the time to show him the material he would have come looking for it eventually. It's definetly a balancing act! Great article thanks!

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