Upon examining my network, I determined that it is somewhat lacking, but was still a useful exercise. Most of my contacts are from high school and sports. My information brokers seem to be friends, teachers/professors, coaches, and family. One connection that I did make in high school that I thought might be most useful in my career plans to be an Executive Assistant were the Administrative personnel that worked in the main office of my high school.
I had developed a casual friendship with one of the women there. I called the school, and told her of my career plans. She suggested I talk to a friend of hers, Susan, who is an Executive Assistant for a large local printing company. I called Susan and set up a phone interview with her. I found the interview to be very enlightening.
I chose Susan because she is currently working in the same job I wish to eventually hold. I thought that her insight might give me a better handle on what to expect, as well as an idea of how I can progress to the same level. During the interview, she patiently answered all of the questions I had about her job and her method of advancement. She also discussed many points that I had not considered, such as where to go from being an Executive Assistant and how important it is to maintain confidentiality of the CEO’s mail.
Here are the interview questions I asked her as well as a synopsis of her answers:
Q: How did you get your first Executive Assistant position?
A: She started working for a temp agency as a receptionist in a small office, straight out of high school. She took classes at night to earn her bachelor’s degree in English and eventually took a fulltime position as Administrative Assistant for the same company. Realizing that she enjoys the work, and that it pays well, she continued working as an Administrative Assistant/Receptionist after she graduated. However, she wanted advancement, so when a friend told her about a more senior-level Administrative Assistant position, she applied and got the job. She eventually became the Executive Assistant when it came open.
Q: What educational background or related experience might be helpful for this job?
A: Definitely computer and communications classes. It is important to keep up on all the latest software and equipment. Dealing with people in a diplomatic way is extremely important.
Q: What are the daily duties of your job?
A: Her primary responsibility is to relieve the executive of administrative functions. That includes clerical and administrative responsibilities, such as handling correspondence and opening mail. That also can include handling conflict and managing the executive’s schedule. It also requires sensitivity and confidentiality. You may also have to manage others in their clerical work, such as clerks and receptionists, as well as cover their breaks.
Q: What are the working conditions?
A: As an Executive Assistant, her working conditions are much better than they were as an Administrative Assistant. She also believes that the position earns more respect from her peers and others in the company.
Q: What are the toughest problems you deal with?
A: Her toughest problem is dealing with others that insist on dealing directly with the executive when she has to field his calls and visitors.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about this work, besides the money?
A: The most rewarding part of her job is the respect she has earned from the executive. He treats her fairly and has confidence in her work. He doesn’t look over her shoulder, because he trusts her.
Q: What salary level would a new person start with?
A: An Executive Assistant position requires prior experience. Administrative Assistant positions can start pretty low, depending upon where you work. After four years or so, if you can get an Executive Assistant position, you could be making $50,000.
Q: What are your long term goals?
A: She hadn’t really thought about that. She doesn’t define herself by the work that she does, so all of her goals are based on who she is outside of work. If she HAD to, she would say that she would like to work for a different, more prestigious company, maybe a law firm.
Q: When the time comes, how would I go about finding a job in this field?
A: She suggested that I start as a temp now. It worked for her. It is a good way of getting some experience while you are in college, and you can meet some good people that can help you find a job later, after you graduate. I suggested to her that she read the article I read for class, and she said she would be interested in that. I will send it to her.
Q: What types of employers hire people in this line of work?
A: Administrative people are needed in all companies, profit and non-profit. She says you just have to choose the industry you are passionate about.
Q: When I am ready to apply for a job, who should I contact?
A: If you work for a temp agency, they will place you in a company. If you apply for a job, you should talk to the people you know to see if anyone is looking. Otherwise, you can use job boards like Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com. They hire a lot of people that way.
Q: What do you think of my resume?
A: She says that I should use a functional resume that highlights my education first and my skills next. That way attention is not drawn to the fact that I have limited experience. Then I should switch to a chronological resume after I have some experience. She told me not to use an Objective unless I know exactly what job I want. Otherwise, I may remove myself from the running for some good jobs that I might be interested in without even knowing it.
Q: Can you name a few people you think I should talk to?
A: She suggested I contact a couple of the people she works with. They do clerical and accounting work, but she thought that might be another avenue I would be interested in.
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