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What is an EA and why do C-suite want them (hint: not a PA)

by PATRICK WHITE July 12, 2017

Whether you’re a CEO, CSO or COO, at some point you have probably wondered how effective your work life could be if you had an extra brain or could be two places at once.

Of course, there are things only you can do, but there are also speechs to write, key pieces of analysis that would be useful (but there is no one to do it), or meetings that are important but you do not really have time to attend yourself. Or even those projects and initiatives that you should be keeping a closer eye on and driving more proactively but time scales are holding you back. In short, you know the things that could help to make you a more effective leader, but you cannot be everywhere at once.

Enter the Executive Assistant, highly able, but relatively junior fast trackers, who can act as an extension of you. We've noticed these positions becoming more and more popular as managers ask about hiring these 'mini Chief of Staff'.

Who are these individuals and what does the role involve?

Typically, an EA will have 18 months to 4 years’ experience, ranging from Management Consultancy, Finance and Private Equity to top corporate grad schemes. Tact, gravitas and discretion belying their years is a must, as well as healthy dose of ambition, creative problem solving and self-sufficiency.

For the candidate the benefits are clear; exposure and mentorship to the highest levels of business, huge amounts of responsibility and an acceleration in their career.

The sort of work they can be put to is varied; for example, they can do vital ad-hoc work for a COO, as well as be their eyes and ears and a major conduit for internal communication. They can also run projects, conduct due diligence and market research for new product launches, perform competitor analysis, and ensure that change initiatives are being adhered to.

One of their more valuable functions is being a good sounding board, making sure the stakeholder is using their time well and keeping them (tactfully) accountable to their own goals and plans.

Not everyone should have an EA. The organisations that benefit most are where senior figures need space to breathe and innovate. This could be because it is a complex organisation with large numbers of stakeholders in periods of rapid growth and change. It can also be beneficial for founders who might be brilliant, innovative and inspirational, but perhaps time management and structure are not their strong points. There is no sector specificity, they can be as useful in Retail and PE, as consultancy and high growth start-ups.

Either way, the net result is free up time and mental space for the senior figure to do what they do best and can boost their effectiveness significantly. Moreover, once the candidate has been in the role for 1-2 years, they can be a valuable talent pipeline for more senior positions; high flyers with a sophisticated and intimate knowledge of your business and its leader’s objectives. 

Patrick White

Patrick White

Client Consultant & Innovation Manager


Patrick is the Innovation Lead at Freshminds, currently developing the next generation of psychometric testing. He also specialises in recruitment for the Retail & Technology within the Graduate & Early Careers Team.


Interested in finding out more about the EA role? Get in touch with Patrick to discuss how Freshminds can help. 

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