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Executive assistants make a career of juggling tasks for higher-ups, and hopefully those higher-ups are nothing like the "dragon lady" in "The Devil Wears Prada." Executive assistants may find themselves in servitude of their CEO or boss, but they may also find themselves a proverbial and literal seat at the table on their boss’s behalf. In either case, executive assistants must be prepared for anything. "There are amazing possibilities in this profession," says Stacy Leitner, executive assistant to the city manager of Rancho Cordova in California. "You can make minimum wage or six figures. You can work in any industry – in government, education, retail, hospitality and recreation. With the right skill set and industry, it can be very lucrative." Basic responsibilities include managing the boss's calendar, coordinating meetings and taking messages, but executive assistants are also tasked with providing high-level administrative support for the company and its top executives. An executive assistant's role may also include analyzing documents, preparing research reports and occasionally supervising clerical staff members. As such, executive assistants function as an integral and indispensable part of the office.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects this profession to lose 10,500 jobs, or decline by 1 percent, by the year 2022. This is largely due to companies replacing executive assistants with administrative assistants, who earn an average of $16,600 less per year and may support more than one manager in an organization. In addition, many managers these days handle tasks that were previously in the realm of executive assistants, such as scheduling their own travel and meetings.
In 2012, executive assistants earned a median salary of $47,500, according to the BLS. The highest earners made about $73,530, while the lowest earners took home approximately $31,310. The highest-paid executive assistants worked in the metropolitan areas of Nassau, N.Y., New York City and San Francisco.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is generally acceptable, but a degree, certifications and experience will give you an advantage over the competition and may increase your paycheck. Leitner says that although a college degree is not required for the job, applicants should commit to continued learning. Certifications include Certified Administrative Professional and the Organizational Management Certificate. There are also multiple technical certifications available as well as certifications in office skills proficiency, according to Leitner. "You need to be a lifelong learner," she says. "Certifications help you to develop and embrace technology." She adds that executive assistants should have a strong grasp of grammar, be highly organized and technologically savvy, and have solid writing, time management, problem-solving and communication skills.
The application and hiring process may begin with a networking conversation and the submission of an online application. For Leitner's job, the process from online application to hiring took six months. "I had an interview with [a human resources] representative and the person I was replacing, then I had an interview with the CEO I would be working for and then I had a more informal conversation with the HR director and the outgoing executive assistant," Leitner says. Ideal candidates should be able to cultivate relationships, be more extroverted than introverted, have a nurturing personality and be passionate about their career, she says. "It's not an 8-to-5 job – you may have to stay late, have interruptions in the middle of the night and early in the morning. You have to be able to handle that," she says. Appearance, a positive attitude, willingness to learn and integrity are also key qualities for aspiring executive assistants.
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Last updated by Evan Taylor.