Last week at a networking event I was called an “office girl” and a “very powerful person” within about 10 minutes by two different people. Yes, I am female. And yes, I work in an office. But that’s about the extent of my identification with the label “office girl.” I mean, what is an office girl, anyway? While that devaluation of my chosen profession always gets to me a little, I’ve been called worse. However, it did get me thinking about why that one individual called me a “very powerful person” in the first place. Did I really live up to that moniker? And how do career Executive Assistants continue to grow in their role and earn that title?
Here’s what I know: Great Executive Assistants are leaders, invaluable resources, and influencers (aka powerful people). But to be seen as such, we must provide exceptional value, not just to our Executive, but to the organization at large. We must go above and beyond the traditional EA responsibilities and think outside the box.
Below are five ways Executive Assistants can add value to their company:
- Keep information, the right information, flowing. Executive Assistants are in a unique position where they have the privilege of learning from and interacting daily with the top Executives in the organization. A large part of an Executive Assistant’s role is to act as a gatekeeper. Yet, gatekeepers are not meant to keep people out; rather they should let the right people in at the right time. Control the flow of information, do not stop it. You can either hoard information and use your position of power as a crutch, or you can share what you learn with your co-workers and be seen as a leader, a resource, and an influencer at all levels of your organization. Information should flow up, down, and sideways throughout the company – and it often hinges on the successful communication skills of the EA. That does not mean you should be an open book. Your first priority is to maintain confidentiality and the confidences of your Executive. But understanding what information can and should be shared with which team members is an important part of our roles.
- Volunteer to lead special projects. This may already be a key part of your role (as it is mine), but if not, step-up! Companies today are doing more with less and that often means with less people. But I imagine your Exec and organization are not slowing down. Often there are new projects or initiatives that the organization wants to work on, but they don’t fall into any particular category or department. That’s where you come in. Executive Assistants are problem solvers and fixers. Executive Assistants are detail-oriented, organized, perfectionistic, and the ultimate project managers. Executive Assistants do whatever it takes to get the job done. You are uniquely equipped to handle projects that are important to the CEO, but may not require a full-time hire (yet).
- Tell stories. Are you great at writing or marketing? Perhaps you could create a company newsletter, take over your Executive’s social media accounts, start a company blog, write feature articles for local publications, or pitch stories to national media outlets. Content marketing and public relations are king. If your company doesn’t have a PR or marketing department and you are great at telling stories – then that’s your niche! Positive, free media mentions for your organization will definitely set you apart.
- Create or join a committee. Are you passionate about wellness or company culture? Then create or join a committee that focuses on those issues and share your insights. Better yet, listen. As an influential person in the organization, you may be looked to for all the answers. Instead, ask questions and get other’s to share their ideas. The most powerful person in the room is not the one who talks the most, but the one who can take all opinions and information and make a decision that best serves the company.
- Draw on your strengths and share your knowledge throughout the organization. What can you do better than anyone else? The ultimate mark of a leader and an influencer is to teach. Find opportunities to share your knowledge with your co-workers. Could you hold a seminar about event planning with the other administrative staff in your company? Perhaps you could train department managers on a new software the company is rolling out. Start and lead a monthly book club. Or hold a class about managing up for Executive Assistants.
Executive Assistants are powerful people. But that title is not just given. It is earned by providing extensive value not just to your Exec, but to the whole organization. Above are just a few examples of how one can add value – there are hundreds more. But it is the rockstar EA, the very powerful EA, that actually does them.
How do you go above and beyond in your role and add value to your company? Share in the comments below!