What does it take to be an EA?

What does it take be an EA?

I meet a lot of admin professionals who tell me they dream of becoming an EA one day. I always say, follow your dreams and go for it, however, the question asked all too often is –  What does it really take to become an EA?

I thought I’d share what I believe are the core traits and characteristics above having great administration skills, and experience at managing a busy diary –

Have Humility

To be really open to ‘other’ ways of doing things, to be teachable, and non-biased, no matter whether you think you know everything – you simply don’t!

Be Amiable

We recognise it immediately in others who are not, but do we check-in on our own pleasant and friendly scale from time to time? Being amiable is what I see as the first tick in interviewing EAs, they are generally positive, engaging, good-humoured, gracious and pleasant.


How many times have you bought something from Sephora, Mecca, Mac  or other beauty bars, and thought I really didn’t go in there to buy that! You’ve been served by someone that believes in the product, they can see that it will also benefit you and Voila you’re at the counter purchasing the product! So turn on your confidence switch, Be Decisive, Be Bold, Certain, and rock that confidence. I have not heard from any CEOs that want to work with EAs that are unsure, meek and indefinite!

Have Resilience!

Otherwise known as having elasticity…I do think it can take notching up the years of hard knocks on the belt to build this magic thing we call resilience, but repeat after me “it is never personal” it really isn’t! A lot about growing resilience is adapting some of these core traits because in order to really bounce back you need to know you’ve got your life together! Also, time moves on and we all know once you get passed it, we soon realise that it was much more about them than us – i.e wanting to over achieve or coping with deadline pressures, or dealing with incompetent peers, or missing out on a promotion or having sick parents, children or family commitments. You worry about you, and what you can control and learn to let it go, move on and…….never never take it personally!

Be Empathetic

I think we’re either born with it or wired to experience empathy, unfortunately there are many people who are not empathetic. The good news is empathy can be learned and to truly understand and appreciate what is going on your executive’s world, you need to get on the empathy train in order to properly develop a rapport and trust with them. We also teach some of the ways to develop empathy and emotional intelligence in our EA Insights Workshop (there’s one coming up – check out Workshops here)

Emotional Intelligence

It actually goes hand in hand with being empathetic, but also encompasses having social skills, a level of motivation and constantly self-regulating. It also means you know yourself and understand your feelings, why you react to situations, and monitoring those pesky feelings before they leap out! Again a trait/skill that ALL EAs need if they are going to be successful in their role.

Lastly, there is a limited amount of data out there but for all our ‘give me the stats’ folk, I’ve managed to find a recent survey conducted by Hays, which involved over 500 EAs across Australia and New Zealand asking the question of what it really takes to be an EA. Quite fascinating and I’d agree with all of them, so I’m happy to share here ☺

Key Findings 

Technical Skills

80% of EAs have formal post school qualifications. 67% said communication was in the top 3 skills needed, but several said updating their technical skills and learning the latest technology was the biggest professional challenge over the next 12 months.

33 per cent of EAs hold a Diploma and 30 per cent a Certificate. 17 per cent hold a Degree qualification or above. 21 per cent have no formal post-school qualifications, and 8 per cent have undertaken a variety of other courses or are currently studying towards a qualification.

The most highly regarded technical skills were Written skills, Verbal skills, Technical, Accountancy and Project Management.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are becoming ever more important in an EAs role. EAs are also having to become ever more commercial and are integral in their executives and company’s success. 72% said organisational skills were among the top skills needed and 42% said prioritising was in the top 3 skills. Time management is hence one of the biggest challenges in an EAs role.

Other soft skills listed were Collaboration, Efficiency, Professionalism, Problem Solving skills and Listening skills.

A Top EA holds

  • A certificate or higher qualification
  • Advanced computer software skills
  • Ability to quickly grasp the latest technology
  • Advanced written and verbal communication skills
  • Accountancy knowledge

Other Attributes 


Always meet your deadlines and complete your tasks in a timely fashion. Be professional, organised and efficient to do your job well and gain a reputation as a reliable team member who does what they say they will. If you make a mistake, say so and fix it. In this way you’ll earn and keep the trust of others.


Your attitude is your own. So identify what impacts your attitude negatively and take steps to avoid or change that behaviour. Find ways to motivate yourself at work, smile, and try to look for solutions to problems rather than focusing on the negative. Avoid complaining. Remember, as an EA you’ll be the glue that holds everything together, and you must learn to do so with a smile on your face.

Management skills

Take every opportunity to gain leadership skills. You could volunteer to manage an administration project, teach others a computer package you are familiar with, positively encourage others or offer to induct an entry-level team member.


Foster your resilience by learning to focus on your strengths and be confident in your ability to achieve what needs to be done, particularly during times of peak workload or conflicting deadlines. Learn to have faith in your own abilities and confidence in your skills.


Get to know people in other departments and keep a record of people you deal with who have been helpful – both internally and externally. Connect with them on LinkedIn and join appropriate EA or industry LinkedIn groups. Attend networking functions.

Work-life balance

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to work-life balance; it is different for each individual. So find out what works for you and make sure you can balance the demands of a busy career with your personal interests and family commitments.


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