How to Become An Executive Assistant with Zero Experience

Executive Assistant Career

So you want to become an Executive Assistant (EA), but you don’t have any directly related experience…

Don’t worry—there are ways to become an Executive Assistant even if you’re fresh out of school or looking to make a major career switch. Here’s everything you need to know about breaking into an Executive Assistant role.

An Executive Assistant Explainer

Role Summary

According to our State of the Executive Assistant Report, “The average Executive Assistant has to be a professional problem solver, a master of organization, a trusted confidant, and a strategic advisor – all rolled into one.”

Executive assistants wear many hats

In other words, Executive Assistants wear a lot of hats, and as a result, they enjoy some of the most diverse, exciting, and challenging careers available in the modern workforce. Students and professionals from a range of backgrounds and with a range of skills and interests flock to Executive Assistant positions.

While serving in an EA role, any motivated professional has the opportunity to run businesses and office operations behind the scenes. An Executive Assistant makes key decisions, has a major voice in office operations and politics, and often contributes to a business’s strategic direction for years.

Specific Responsibilities

So what specific things do Executive Assistants do to add up to the summary above? Here are some, but certainly not all, of a typical Executive Assistant’s responsibilities:

  • Calendaring
  • Scheduling
  • Organizing
  • IT troubleshooting
  • Providing strategic counsel
  • Managing perks
  • Implementing processes
  • Managing payroll
  • Designing office layouts
  • Onboarding/offboarding
  • Handling communications
  • Coordinating travel
  • Planning events

Key Skills

Most Executive Assistants possess some, if not all, of these key skills:

  • Dogged resourcefulness to get the impossible done
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure and handle anything that comes along
  • Tech prowess to correct IT problems and find solutions
  • Big-picture thinking to become trusted confidants and counsel for executives
  • Ruthless prioritization to get the important things done
  • Ironclad discretion to deal with delicate information
  • Impeccable organization to keep tangible items (supplies, etc.) and work processes in working order
  • Capacity to multitask strategically to get important things done
  • Supernatural anticipation to act on issues before they become full blown problems
  • Emotional intelligence to work effectively with others
  • Expert-level communication to get key points across in all situations
  • Speed and decisiveness to do the right thing at the right time
  • A sense of humor that always puts things in perspective
  • The ability to network to build and maintain a strong support group
  • Negotiating skills to make things happen as if by magic
  • Analytical skills to make decisions in all situations

Salary

According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Executive Assistants earn an hourly wage of $57,410 (mean).

Executive Assistants work long hours

Hours

According to most reports, Executive Assistants work long, and often odd, hours. These positions don’t necessarily come with a clock-in-and-clock-out mentality. Executive Assistants have to be ready and willing to step up whenever duty calls.

How to Become an Executive Assistant When You’re New to the Field or Switching Roles

Budding Executive Assistants with little prior experience can find plenty of ways to develop the skills they need to succeed, whether they’re starting from scratch or trying to leverage experience from previous positions.

In general, aspiring EAs can began their careers by embodying a service-oriented mentality at all times. That involves:

  • Constantly seeking opportunities to provide assistance and pitching in without hesitation
  • Always questioning processes and asking how they might be improved
  • Responding quickly and helpfully to every request
  • Networking with anyone and everyone by asking associates what they do at the company, what department they work in, what career goals they have, and more

Now let’s get into more specific to-do items for EA hopefuls. Aspiring Executive Assistants can explore a variety of networking, training, and development opportunities where they can quickly build an assortment of skills that would otherwise take years of on-the-job experience to gain. Here are some resources and ideas to get you started!

Budding executive assistants should volunteer

Volunteer to Gain Experience

The job search experts at ZipRecruiter recommend volunteering to build up some experience. Many organizations, especially nonprofits, need administrative help from organized and motivated individuals. You can search for volunteer opportunities on online aggregators, including VolunteerMatch, Catchafire, and Idealist.

If your career is brand-new…

Look for opportunities that include a well-rounded list of responsibilities. This way, you can pick up skills in as many key areas as possible.

If you’re hoping to switch roles…

Look for opportunities that fill in some gaps in your experience. For example, if you’re already a master at creating presentations, but you have no experience in calendaring or planning business travel, then try to find volunteer opportunities where you’ll be managing schedules and travel plans.

Offer to Help

If you’ve noticed anyone at work who seems just a little bit too busy lately, then ask if you can take a few administrative tasks off their hands. The person doesn’t have to be an executive to help you build the skills necessary to become an Executive Assistant.

If your career is brand-new…

Start by taking on small tasks. Focus on perfecting one task before you agree to take on anything else. This way, you’ll be able to master the task without the stress of taking on too much in addition to your other responsibilities. As you help out with small tasks, you’ll also learn how long each one takes, and you’ll be prepared to determine how much extra work you can reasonable take on.

If you’re hoping to switch roles…

Try to offer assistance in the key strategic areas you’re most interested in. If you want to focus on business development strategies, then explore how you might be able to help in those areas. Consider offering assistance that truly makes lives easier. You might not be able to contribute groundbreaking ideas during strategy meetings, but you could volunteer to type (and circulate) meeting notes. That way, you’ll be present and paying attention at every meeting, gaining the knowledge you need to contribute more ideas down the road.

Take Training Courses

Accelerate your EA skill-building path with training courses. Courses allow you to build skills, often in short increments of time. Some courses even provide handy certificates you can actually use to validate your skills if you don’t have any directly related work experience.

If your career is brand-new…

Find introductory trainings that focus on foundational skills such as the options below.

Chippewa Valley Technical College Associate (Online or In-Person) Degree – Executive Assistant

This top Executive Assistant training selection is perfect for anyone trying to break into the field and gain plenty of relevant resume experience to jump-start a flourishing career. The two-year course helps students transform into well-rounded EAs who know how to manage schedules, facilitate projects, support high-level business people, create presentations, and so much more.

Hawkeye Community College – Executive Assistant AAS Degree Online Courses

This comprehensive training course helps new Executive Assistants pick up skills that might otherwise take several years of work to master, so it’s idea for anyone looking to accelerate a career. Plus, the demonstrable knowledge the course provides might even help students land desirable positions. The program includes courses such as, Introduction to Business, Applied Math, Payroll Accounting, and Business Ethics.

If you’re hoping to switch roles…

Find focused trainings to help you boost skills in isolated areas.

Eventrix Executive Assistant Course

This convenient online course helps students develop many of the soft skills necessary to be standout Executive Assistants. The program targets communication, time management, boss-related etiquette, and even tips for starting an EA career.

eCornell Critical Thinking Online Certificate Program

All jobs require critical thinking skills, but Executive Assistant jobs take demands to the next level. EAs must constantly employ critical thinking to make key decisions, communicate effectively with everyone, resolve conflicts, manage others’ emotions, and so much more. This online course will help anyone with a background in any career build essential critical thinking skills that will be helpful for an EA career.

Executive assistant conference

Attend Networking Events and Conferences

Meeting people in the field you want to work in will prepare you for your new career in many ways. You’ll learn about new resources, witness key trends, and make connections that may help you learn new skills or even find opportunities you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

If your career is brand-new…

Choose events and conferences that provide introductions to key skills (and key people) relevant to the field.

Be the Ultimate Assistant Two-Day Workshops

These multi-location workshops give hopeful, beginning, and experienced EAs plenty of information to either start or enhance their careers. The workshops are offered at multiple locations and multiple dates; so even though they’re offered only in person, these workshops offer a dates and locations that work well for Executive Assistants across the country.

The workshops focus on the classic skills found in well-rounded assistants, including communication skills, organization techniques, problem-solving strategies, and career management techniques. Plus, since these events attract motivated professionals looking to become even better at their jobs, they’re perfect for networking and bring EAs at all levels together to learn from each other.

If you’re hoping to switch roles…

Choose events and conferences that help you round out your existing skills and become a qualified candidate for any Executive Assistant position.

The Executive Leadership Support Forum

This multi-location, multi-date support forum’s planners have this to say about the potential of Executive Assistants: “We believe executive assistants can achieve greatness in their career.”

The forum brings EAs at all levels together to talk to each other, offer support, learn new skills, and more.

 

Already an Executive Assistant? Tell us how you started your career in the comments below!