The Path to Becoming a Senior Executive Assistant: What You Need to Know

If you find yourself a promotion away from a Senior Executive Assistant or have the ambition to get there, this article will illuminate the way forward. Based on insights from a recent Future Assistant Global Summit session presented by Peggy Vasquez, a renowned author and keynote speaker, we delve into the critical skills that differentiate an Executive Assistant (EA) from a Senior Executive Assistant.

The Evolution of an Assistant

As Peggy Vasquez notes, the competencies that have propelled your career to its current point as an EA are not the same ones that will ensure success at the senior Executive level. The early stages of the Assistant career often centre around implementation. At this juncture, the focus is on technical prowess and developing a niche expertise. This is foundational and pivotal for an EA’s success. However, as Peggy highlighted, implementation, while essential, represents the lowest value tier in the professional arena, with some of these tasks potentially being replaced by AI in the future.

Transitioning from Implementer to Manager

The journey up the corporate ladder demands a shift in perspective. Moving from the role of an implementer, the next rung on the ladder is that of a manager. Here, the role moves away from administration. It encompasses managing processes, projects, and, at times, teams. The emphasis pivots from purely technical tasks to a blend of technical and managerial duties. For instance, in her session, Peggy shared that she found herself less involved in tasks like expense reports and more engrossed in strategic endeavours when transitioning to a Chief Executive Assistant role.

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Three Pillars of a Senior Executive Assistant

  • Communication: The ability to articulate and create alignment is paramount. Communication stands as the highest value in any industry. For those in the C-Suite, their days revolve around ceaseless communication, be it in meetings, one-on-ones, or with stakeholders. Honing your verbal, written, and non-verbal communication is indispensable. Moreover, building relationships, resolving conflicts, and actively listening become the role’s cornerstones.
  • Strategic and Critical Thinking: The Senior Executive Assistant role demands a birds-eye view. Instead of being confined to the immediate, Assistants must cultivate the ability to see the broader picture, anticipate future trends, and piece together the organisational jigsaw. It’s about not just executing tasks but understanding their strategic relevance. It’s not about merely typing an agenda but developing it.
  • Leadership and Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence (EI) encompasses understanding and managing one’s emotions and deciphering those of others. In a high-stress, high-stakes environment, maintaining emotional equilibrium is essential. EI and leadership skills are vital in the C-Suite, fostering a positive culture, making informed decisions, and leading by example.

The Road Ahead

Evolving from an Executive Assistant to a Senior Executive Assistant is more than just a title change. It’s a profound shift in responsibilities, approach, and skills. As Peggy underlines, one must let go of certain tasks, no matter how adeptly they’ve been performed in the past, to embrace the strategic facets of the new role.