When I meet new people, they ask me what do I do for a living. Over the years, I have learned to choose the answer depending on the person in front of me. 

If a newly met suit-and-tie person asks me this question, I share that I am an Executive Assistant to the CEO. And more often than not, I see their eyes light up with recognition. So I know that no further explanation is necessary – the person in front of me is very much aware of what does it mean to be an EA.

I used to struggle to explain what I do to people outside of the white-collar world. Lately, I don’t feel the urge to explain to them what being an EA means anymore. I state that I work as an office employee.

Funny, but some acquaintances have not the slightest idea about what my job is. Some of them are even patronising me. I suddenly find myself listening to a person trying to explain to me how does strategic planning work or what does the project management mean. Some even suggest that, with a little effort, I will develop a career and stop being just a secretary, welcoming visitors and bringing coffee. It makes me smile 🙂

When I meet my fellow EAs, I see that I am not the only one facing the same issue. We are all in this together. 

For all of those who think Executive Assistants are only bringing coffee and sit still making the meeting room look pretty – welcome to The Wonderful Life and Adventures of an Executive Assistant. I believe Mr Defoe would not mind my loose interpretation of his book title.

So who the heck are Executive Assistants?

There is a bunch of names for various administrative employees – receptionists, secretaries, team assistants, administrative and staff assistants, personal, executive and strategic management assistants. If you are not familiar with the work they do, they are pretty much interchangeable for you. Even if you encounter an Executive or Strategic Management assistant (I’ll stick to EA further on), you’d most probably expect this to be just a fancy name for a secretary. 

There is very little chance you would trust the assistant in front of you to be in full control of the CEO’s life. You might find it hard to imagine that this person decides which meetings CEO will attend, prepares all speeches, reports and presentations, acts as a sparring partner and acts as a point of reference for practically everything. 

I think it’s the assistant part which plays us here. We look at assistants as at juniors, someone, who just started with their career. We tend to want to talk to a manager because a manager certainly has more experience than an assistant. We think a manager is better equipped to help us.

What if I told you that you are wrong? What if I told you that being an Executive Assistant means you are managing your manager – planning, prioritising, organising, drafting, checking, finalising and sometimes even executing every facet of manager’s daily work? 

And some of us deal not only with work but also with yachts, cars, dogs, nannies, holiday houses abroad, dietary requirements of family members, gifts for partners and spouses, reading lists, dry cleaning, groceries, landlords, medical prescriptions and ringtone preferences. Making sure the kids are timely picked up from the nursery, keeping track of next week’s schedule and drafting a business proposal for funding at the same time and with the same level of quality is not something everyone can do.

The retinue plays the king

attributed to Niccolò Machiavelli

To be continued..