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Understanding the Executive Assistant's Role

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Many people are under the assumption that executive assistants do little more than take dictation and make coffee all day long. This is far from true. In fact, most executive assistants basically serve as their executive's right hand, performing any and all tasks necessary to keep their executive up-to-speed and able to do his or her job as well as possible.

Executive assistant tasks can include project management, and travel and/or meeting planning -- from communicating agendas and inviting participants, to booking space and arranging for all the necessary materials to be on hand.

Executive assistants often serve as an extension of their superior by acting as the executive's ''voice.'' Handling an executive's written and verbal communication can be a chief component of the executive assistant's role, and as such it's of the utmost importance that an executive assistant be attuned to the needs, strengths, and weaknesses of the executive for whom they work.

The best kind of executive assistant has a knack for preempting their superior's wants and needs by performing necessary duties and tasks without having to be asked. Many high-level executives lack the necessary time to handle all the minutiae of a given situation. This is exactly the area where the executive assistant steps in, enabling them to really shine.

Executive assistants can help companies' top brass formulate their approaches to given problems and situations. Multi-tasking is a key component of being a strong executive assistant, as your duty is to do, say, and address any thing your superior may not have had the time to consider or tackle.

An enterprising executive assistant should always be seeking to expand his or her role by coming up with new ways to better support his or her supervisor. Good ways to round out your abilities as an executive assistant include: arming yourself with technological skills that stand to help your boss in his or her area of focus; and researching what your boss is working on so that you can offer helpful ways to assume some of that workload. One way to accomplish this is to learn the vocabulary of a given project so that you can work more independently on communications surrounding the task.

A critical aspect of the executive assistant's role, although it's rarely listed in a job description, is to ensure that the boss always appears in the best possible light. A gifted executive assistant will pull out all the stops to make his or her superior shine, whether that's through thinking ahead to print out extra copies of a report, or by being organized and detail-oriented enough to keep the executive on his or her schedule.

Although the bulk of an executive assistant's work surrounds maximizing his or her supervisor's performance level, if they do their job well the executive will (ideally) give credit where credit's due. Good executives reach leadership roles in part because they know their strengths and weaknesses. This means an executive assistant who consistently provides a supervisor with top-flight support is worth their weight in gold, and that a well-supported executive is likely to make sure that his or her assistant knows it.

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