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Business alert: How to make the transformation from admin to executive assistant

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April 16, 2012

Contact: Elizabeth Hall, Senior Web Editor
(800) 543-2055  (703) 905-8000 

 Business Alert: How to Make the Transformation from Admin to Executive Assistant

Falls Church, Va. — In today’s business world, it’s important to separate yourself from the herd and use your skills to propel yourself to new heights. Do you think you have what it takes to make the transformation from an administrative assistant to an executive assistant? If you’re effective and execute work flawlessly with integrity and style, you might want to contact someone like Melba Duncan.

Duncan, the founder of the Duncan Group, specializes in finding top-notch assistants for top-level executives. She helps her clients find admins with the leadership, team-building and management skills to fill the elite role of “executive management assistant” (a term she uses to distinguish between the often-overused “executive assistant”).

“This is one of the most difficult jobs to put on paper,” says Duncan, author of The New Executive Assistant. “Most of the key skills necessary for executive management assistant positions don’t show up on a mechanical résumé and are impossible to detail in a job description.”

Duncan asks candidates to write a narrative “professional summary” demonstrating the step ladder of their career. Here are some of the characteristics that she’s seeking:

Broad skills. Problem-solving strategies, integrity, flexibility and the ability to stay calm during stressful situations.

Growth. Where you began, what you acquired along the way and how you put that to use later.

Interpersonal skills and emotional resilience. Etiquette, finesse and discretion. A great sense of humor is also a bonus: recognize that things may not be funny as you’re going through them but may seem hysterical on the way home.

Creative thinking. Are you a risk-taker? Are you the type of assistant who will try to stop the plane from taking off until your late-arriving boss boards it?

An executive assistant must have impeccable social skills and the ability to manage any situation. Therefore, how that person presents himself or herself to Duncan and her staff is crucial. For example:

  • Does your appearance reflect a belief that you’re a professional? “You have to want to do this work to do it well,” Duncan says, not just pick up a paycheck until “something better comes along.”
  • Do you have strong social skills? How do you greet the receptionist? Instead of grabbing any seat in a conference room, do you wait to be offered one or ask whether the other person has a preference for where you should sit?
  • Do you exercise discretion? Can you discuss your preferences for a work environment without revealing too much personal information about your colleagues in previous positions?

Duncan’s formula for success is: Your attitude + your vocabulary = your reality.

“You must have an extraordinarily positive attitude about yourself and the work you do to become an executive management assistant,” Duncan concludes.

For more information and the full article, which includes the additional characteristics that Duncan looks for in her candidates, visit

Download Business Management Daily’s FREE report on 14 Tips on Business Etiquette: Setting a professional tone with co-workers, clients and customers.

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