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How to Master the 9 Most Common Executive Assistant Duties

Master the most common executive assistant duties

Congratulations on becoming an Executive Assistant (EA)! (If you’re still looking for a gig, congrats to future you.) Are you ready to nail all your Executive Assistant duties with grace and poise? Are you ready to make your managers weep, in awe of your excellence? Okay; maybe we’re getting a bit carried away, but when did a little ambition ever hurt anyone?

Feed your own EA ambition with our guide to understanding and mastering the most common Executive Assistant duties.

Executive Assistant Duties

The responsibilities below are all from our 2018 State of the Executive Assistant report (SOTEAR), which includes direct feedback from 417 Executive Assistants working in 34 different industries in the United States.

We’ve grouped the responsibilities from most common—duties the highest percentage of respondents report doing—to the least common. This way, you can work on mastering the common duties, things you’ll likely face in any Executive Assistant role, and then work your way down from there.

Managing Calendars and Scheduling

96% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include calendar management

Nail it: Master scheduling and calendar management by staying organized.

If you remember only one thing: Develop a system for organizing information, and stay on top of information as it arrives. For example, as soon as you receive a meeting request for your executive, process and record it so your system keeps working (and you don’t accidentally double book time slots, forget about important events, etc.).

Why is organization the key to scheduling and calendar management?

We’re going to break all the rules here and answer with question. What do these three responsibilities have in common?

  • Working with multiple people and timelines to put together schedules
  • Sending calendar updates that make sense
  • Never double-booking an important client

They probably have a lot in common, but what we’re going for is that they all require knowing and processing a lot of information, including dates, times, names, and more. The best way to excel at processing information is to first keep the information organized. Someone would never be able to take on any of these tasks if they had not already developed some sort of system for recording and organizing schedules and calendars.

Commit to a process for calendar management and scheduling and stick to it. We pulled together some tips specifically about this. They include:

  • Color-coding
  • Blocking off work time just to manage calendars and schedules
  • Using helpful calendaring tools

Travel Coordinating

92% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include travel planning

Nail it: When it comes to travel coordination, efficiency and consistency are key.

If you remember only one thing: Stop reinventing the wheel (or in this case, the itinerary) every time you need to coordinate travel. Use templates instead.

Templates make travel planning faster, more efficient, and more consistent. This is a win for both the planner and the traveler.

You can also establish a go-to process to follow every time you need to plan a trip. For example, you might consider:

  • Selecting preferred travel vendors to use for each trip
  • Creating checklists to make sure you don’t miss any details
  • Establishing timelines so you know when to do what

Event Planning

90% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include event planning

Nail it: Let your audience teach you how to be an amazing event planner.

If you remember only one thing: Boost your event-planning skills by asking for feedback from people who attend your events.

Requesting feedback from event attendees works because, as Bill Gates once said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Attendees’ feedback is the only way to shed light on some of the burning questions you’re sure to have when planning events, questions such as:

  • Did I get enough food?
  • Was the space too cramped?
  • Was the music too loud?
  • Was the speaker worthwhile?
  • Were those chairs too close together?
  • Was the format boring?

The more questions you ask, the more you’ll learn, and the better your events will get.

Secretarial Duties, including handling phone calls, forwarding, etc.

73% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include talking on the phone

Nail it: Communications skills will help with all your secretarial duties.

If you remember only one thing: Constantly strive to improve your communications skills; this will make every phone call and every interaction smoother and more productive.

If the golden rule of life in general is “treat others as you wish to be treated,” then the golden rule of communications is “talk to others as you wish they would talk to you.” That means practicing some simple empathy. When you’re on the phone with someone, ask yourself:

  • What does this person need?
  • How is this person feeling?
  • What can I do to help this person?

You’ll find the answer to most of these questions simply by listening.

Personal Assistant Duties

71% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include some personal assistant work

Nail it: Bosses love personal assistants who anticipate needs and problems.

If you remember only one thing: Pay attention to the past and visualize the future.

Consider things that have happened in the past to made informed guesses about the future. You might not always be correct, but you’ll get better each time you try to anticipate the future.  

For example, imagine these events have already happened.

  • A particular client cancelled a meeting your boss was excited about.
  • The same client called you out of the blue because she was just “passing through town.” You had to set up an impromptu meeting.
  • The impromptu meeting didn’t go well because your boss likes to be prepared.

In this situation, you could demonstrate anticipation skills by scheduling monthly check-in calls or emails with this particular client. You can ask her if she’s coming to town any time soon or double confirm she’ll be attending any existing meetings on the calendar.

Field Tech Requests

58% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include tech/IT work

Nail it: Accept the truth that Executive Assistants end up handling a lot of tech troubleshooting.

If you remember only one thing: Be prepared for tech mishaps.

A few technology difficulties will probably catch you off guard when you’re new to the job, but that’s okay. Start tracking the requests and problems people bring to you. Use your “research” to uncover trends, such as the top ten problems. Record how you’ve successfully solved each problem and turn your solutions into a little instruction sheet. When anyone comes to you with one of the problems, then you can simply email the instruction sheet. (You might even post it on the company website or intranet if that’s an option!)

Additional tips:

  • Find a go-to online resource to reference when someone stumps you. For example, you might look up the makers of your main office electronics. Write down the customer service hotlines or online help links so you know where to look for answers when problems come up.
  • Ask anyone in the office with computer skills to be on your contact list. This simply means they’re okay with you giving them a ring if you need help with a problem that matches their expertise  

Operations Duties, including perks, parking, and maintenance

56% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Get employee feedback

Nail it: Let employees guide your operations strategy.

If you remember only one thing: When in doubt, talk to employees.

Good Operations Managers know they can learn a lot just by talking to employees. Executive Assistants who want to do a good job managing perks can also talk to employees to inform their strategies.

Human Resources Duties, including onboarding/offboarding)

51% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include onboarding

Nail it: Make the most of your first and last interactions with employees.

If you remember only one thing: Onboarding and offboarding are both learning moments.

Onboarding presents a learning moment for employees.

This means, as recommended by HR Technologist, that you should reinforce and make clear your company culture. Start onboarding sessions by explaining what the company culture means to you. Consider telling a story about a situation or event when your company’s culture manifested in real life.  

Offboarding present a learning moment for your company.

This means that you should find out how departing employees feel about the company. What did they like/dislike? Why are they leaving? Learn what you can in this moment; departing employees have no reason not to be honest.

Office Design/Layout Tasks

46% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include office design

Nail it: Have fun!

If you remember only one thing: Every office requires different design needs. If you consider the unique aspects of your company and have fun as you planning designs and layouts, then you’ll be able to create an office design that everyone loves.

Check out some office decor ideas.

Payroll

16% of Executive Assistants report doing this

Executive assistant duties include payroll

Nail it: Choose a system that works with your schedule.

If you remember only one thing: Employees need to get paid; make sure they get their paychecks by finding a payroll system that works with your schedule.

Handling payroll is kind of like buying groceries, cleaning the house, or really doing any other chore; it’s never finished. You’re never just “done” with payroll. You have to handle it over and over again, and you can’t simply “knock out a month’s worth” in a day if you’re going on vacation. That said, be realistic about your schedule needs if you’re going to be managing payroll.

As an Executive Assistant, you might be traveling a lot. If that’s the case, do what the Namely blog recommends and find a cloud-based payroll system you can access from anywhere at any time.

Tip: If you’re like most EAs and you expect to have a busy schedule, then opt for an automated payroll system that will take some of the repetitive stress of handling payroll off your plate.

What do you think about these Executive Assistant duties? Let us know in the comments below!