Executive Assistants and Special Projects
So you’re tired of being referred to as a true-blue “traditional” EA. You want something more because you know you’re capable of more – you have the time, you have the passion, you have the strengths, all you have to do now is pop the question to your Executive.
Maybe you’ve played out the scenario multiple times in your head or perhaps you’re stumped trying to find the right words. Some of you may be worried about offending your boss, or you’re just flat-out scared of rejection. It’s normal to second-guess yourself, or to ask yourself whether it’s the right time, or wonder if you’ve truly earned this next step in your career. You might even be wondering if your Executive trusts or values you enough.
Here’s the good news: we wrote this blog for people exactly like you. Yup, this is for all the Executive Assistants sitting in the same hot seat you’re in. And we’re making it simple by breaking down our advice to five main points.
1. Take a Step Back
Before you add more to your workload, do yourself a favor and take a step back to evaluate your current role. Refresh yourself with the original job description that you were given – you should be able to check off anything and everything on that list before you go asking for more. If so, think about the ways in which you’ve gone above and beyond the tasks you’ve been given. Next, think about the industry you’re in and the organizational structure you’re a part of. Are there special projects for you to work on? Does your Executive need additional help? Will you be able to continue doing your current job while adding to it? These are good questions to ask yourself before moving forward.
2. Be Confident
You’ll need to channel your emotional intelligence for this one because too much confidence will kill your chances and not enough confidence will too. My mother-in-law once taught me that you don’t want to be passive and you don’t want to be aggressive, which leaves being assertive as the happy medium. This advice rings true in just about every social situation, both personally and professionally. Whether you’re asking your boss for a promotion or you’re asking the waiter to reheat your meal, assert yourself. Put simply, asserting yourself is just a way of being your own advocate in a polite and respectful way. When you address the situation with confidence, your boss will likely be impressed with your thoughtfulness and preparation, which means you win!
3. It’s All in the Details
When your wedding coordinator or 5th grade art teacher told you “it’s all in the details,” you probably didn’t think they were imparting a greater life lesson. Believe it or not, they were. Your boss wants to know that you’ve prepared for this conversation. You’ve strategized and you’ve done it thoughtfully. When you present this idea to your Executive, be sure to back yourself up with the data, the plan and the details – you probably won’t go through all the nitty-gritty, but it’s there just in case. After the high-level conversation, you can share your pretty spreadsheet with your boss and voila, you’re already three steps ahead of the game.
4. Call It Out
The worst thing you can do is say, “I’m ready to take on more!” without having the slightest clue what that actually looks like. You need to call it out and be specific. Is there a cross-functional team you're hoping to help out? Are you wanting to play to your strengths by diving into a specific area of the business? Are you just bored and wish you had a more significant workload? Have you been brainstorming how you can solve a specific problem? When you can confidently answer the question, “What exactly would you like to take on?” you’re ready to chat with the decision maker.
5. Timing is Everything
Despite the cliché, timing really is everything. Asking the minute you’ve fully ramped up on your current role is not the right timing – remember, your co-workers have taken time out of their day to train and onboard you. Bringing up the conversation before you’ve mapped out the details and prepared for pushback is also not the right timing – don't jump the gun and embarrass yourself. However, chances are, if you’re reading this article then you’re nearing the right timing. And for those of you who have already spoken with your significant other or best friend about what you’re going to say, you’re on the right track. For the EAs who have mapped out and color-coded the spreadsheet you’re going to present to your boss, you’re even closer. And for the rest of you who have Googled every article to give you the validation you need to schedule that precious one-on-one time with your boss, it’s time. Go and ask for it!