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11 Helpful Tips for Executive Assistants

The executive assistant encompasses many positions within an organization: office manager, human resources assistant, bookkeeper, and event planner. They are able to position themselves as an all-knowing wizard of all things related to the office. That title is hard-earned, of course, through constant learning and self-improvement. Following are 11 helpful tips for executive assistants to make the workday smoother and seem as effortless as possible.

1. Manage your supervisor or team’s calendar in a logical way

In other words, manage their calendar the way you’d manage your own. You are the first line of defense, the bouncer, the gate through which nothing passes without your say-so. Protect their time by asking questions prior to scheduling meetings, ensuring that you’ve reserved the correct amount of time and that they’ll be able to approach the meeting proactively. Equally important: don’t pile meetings one on top of the other unless you’ve been specifically instructed to do so. In short, be sure to schedule time for your manager to breathe and have a glass of water.

2. Find unique event venues on Peerspace for off-sites and celebrations

Peerspace is the ideal place to start when looking for a cool location for a seminar, launch party, or brainstorming session. One of the most helpful tips for executive assistants is to know everything! By presenting yourself as the go-to person for all things related to event planning and logistics, you’ll shine as one who anticipates a need and fulfills it. That will carry over into non-event tasks, as well!

3. Always carry a pen

Congratulations! In addition to being the gatekeeper, the coordinator, the cheerleader, and the mom, you’re also the scribe. If something needs to be written down — meeting minutes, phone messages, a to-do list — you’re the one who should do it. A valuable tip for a successful executive assistant: never walk into a meeting or an impromptu chat with a team member without a pen and pad in hand.

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4. Take your time, no matter what the task

Nothing is so simple that you shouldn’t double and triple check. Re-read every email. Put away files immediately. Review every piece of data entry, even if it’s entering a bill you’ve typed 100 times. If you cut corners, you will inevitably be the one who has to dig for that bank statement or spend an hour reconciling the bank statement because your numbering was off. Everyone makes mistakes!

5. Ask lots of questions

It’s a cliche but it’s true: if you don’t understand a process or task, chances are someone else doesn’t understand, either. Everyone has gone through the learning process. They may also have been stuck on something similar and can offer a work-around. An extra winning tip for a new executive assistant: if you’re new to the office, you may be able to offer a fresh perspective as to how to make a process more streamlined. On another note, don’t be afraid to tell your manager or colleague that you’re in over your head. Asking for (and accepting) help is a sign of strength and professionalism!

6. Create your own training manual

You may think you’re going to remember every password and entry code, as well as the steps to every new skill you learn. You won’t — and that’s okay! Include the steps for every process and procedure as you learn them. As above, asking questions is never a bad idea, and you should set yourself up for success by creating a tool to find your own answers. It’s also a great, tangible piece of evidence to present at your first performance review, representing initiative, creativity, and attention to detail.

7. Avoid discussing your personal life

And the same applies to you: refrain from inquiring too intensely about your coworkers’ lives. Pets, kids, and highlights of the weekend’s football game are fine. A fight with your spouse or the results of a blood test probably are not appropriate. There are places in your life for two types of people: your actual friends and coworkers with whom you are friendly. That said, you can have empathy for coworkers and practice confidentiality when people do decide to open up. It’s okay to offer access to resources that may help a colleague going through a rough time.

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8. Get to know your colleagues on a surface-level

Keep track of what everyone in the office likes to have for lunch or if they prefer coffee or tea. You’ll want to be prepared when the manager wants to buy lunch or you’re making reservations for the office holiday outing. Along the same lines, make sure you know when everyone’s birthday falls on the calendar, and make absolutely certain to celebrate them in some small way. Be aware of food sensitivities and other general dietary preferences. 

9. Maintain your schedule in a reasonable way

Arrive a few minutes before your scheduled start time and continue doing work until the office closes. None of this racing in on two wheels and darting out the door at closing time like you’re on fire. There’s also no need to arrive earlier or stay later than anyone else just for the sake of doing so. If you’re in the right kind of environment, being reliable and consistent is more valuable than being seen living in the office. Obviously, if there are times when “all hands on deck” are required, roll up your sleeves and get the job done!

10. Keep in mind that confidentiality is crucial

Whether you work in a doctor’s office, a school, an accounting firm, or a real estate office, do not spill juicy details about your clients to your family or friends. Even if you don’t name names, gossiping about the people who trust you with their secrets will ultimately come back to bite you.

11. Be humble and patient with yourself

Become a positive force among your coworkers. You’re learning new skills every day, and the curve is going to be dramatic. Show them you want to learn and that you’re there to help. Make them grateful to have you!

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