3 min read

From Redundancy to Becoming an EA (and all from a bar in Prague)!

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At 34 years old, I was about to be made redundant, as we moved our Helpdesk to overseas.

Sitting in a bar in Prague (with the EMEA Director) he took a call from his current Executive Assistant who was resigning. As he finished the call, he looked at me and said you could do that (instead of being made redundant).

As a mother of a 4-year-old (and a part time worker), we worked through the T’s and C’s and concluded it was workable and I have never looked back. It was honestly the best career decision I have ever made!

That said, it was not easy, and it took me at least six months to navigate around the role, understand and develop a way sustainable way to work well with the Director (and another) whilst learning best practices and creating a network for my new professional identity.

That is really important, have a network around you! Strive to identify and gravitate towards like-minded people (that you trust) with different experiences so that you can learn from each other. As best as you can, find the time to join professional networking groups and attend EA functions, essentially my advice is to generally be a bit ‘nosey’.

When I started in the role it was quite an old fashioned ‘secretarial’ function with the stereotypical tasks of taking minutes, making tea, opening post and greeting visitors whilst managing the diary. Now, the Executive Assistant of today is very different! They are a gate keeper, a decision maker, a financial ambassador and amongst many other things, a confident and mentor to ALL those around you.

The role has progressed, there is no denying that, and as reflect on my career of 17 years, I am proud to say I am an Executive Assistant.

So how do you start?

In my opinion, it takes at least eight months to get used to how an Executive works, how they like their diary to look (yes look), and what their expectations are of you and your role.

A good EA is absolutely invaluable to any Executive, and you need to believe that. You are a team, a partnership, and create a relationship of trust that only you two have. It is you that they will confide in, it is you that will notice when they are stressed, and it is you who will know what they need in ALL capacities.  

The role is extensive beyond what any of us could have imagined, and there are now a range of opportunities within the role itself. From being an EA to CEO, to being an EA to a middleweight Manager, you can build and carve out a role around and in a company, whilst enhancing your skill set and professional credentials.

The possibilities are endless if you are prepared to see them and identify your own USP. I certainly know what mine is!

I personally (and particularly) enjoyed working with Executives that others deemed to be difficult. I remember being a little too direct (snapping) at a Director of mine and saying, ‘how many hands do you think I have?’ I thought my career was over – quite the opposite! It opened the door to a ‘needed’ conversation and gave us a chance to reset expectation levels (on both sides), and improved the mutual respect that we had for each other’s profession.

As an Executive Assistant you have an overarching view across everything and if you embrace that privilege I truly believe your future career prospects (if you want them) are vaster than most comparable roles.

Fast forward to 2023, and I’m now a Business Manager (in the Public Sector) but the principles are similar with the Managing Director’s EA working as part of my team and sometimes I miss it.

So, I ask myself, would I go back to being an EA? 100% I would!