The 4 revelations of an Executive Assistant
Alex Merkl joined our team as an Office Manager in 2017. Months later, she was approached with an offer to become GetYourGuide’s first Executive Assistant. After a bit of deliberation, she decided to go for it. In today’s post, she outlines the revelations she’s had about the role of an Assistant since she started and how she plans to grow.
I joined GetYourGuide as an Office Manager nearly two years ago. A few months after I joined, I was approached by my manager at the time, Marcus, to take on the role of Executive Assistant to our CEO and COO. When I was initially given this opportunity to change jobs, I was a bit hesitant. With nearly 6 years of prior experience as an assistant to a partner in a corporate law firm, I was worried about going back to a job in which I hadn’t seen a lot of growth opportunities. It’s a situation I believe many assistants find themselves in: feeling like they’ve mastered their profession but unable to move forward in their career. I was concerned that going back to an Assistant role would mean reaching a plateau once more.
In the role of Office Manager, I had already become incredibly aware of the huge difference between working in a rapidly growing start-up versus the more corporate environment to which I was more accustom. So, in retrospect, it was a bit naive of me to expect that working as an Executive Assistant at GetYourGuide would be anything like my experience in the law firm.
Despite my initial hesitation, I’m glad I decided to give the Executive Assistant role a try because there have been many revelations since my transition that have made the role worthwhile and given me ample space to grow. Here are my top 4:
#1: It’s all about efficiency
Coming from a corporate work environment, I was used to my managers knowing and telling me exactly how I could best support them. Since this was a completely new position for GetYourGuide, there was no job description to inform the role nor a list of defined responsibilities or expectations. To my surprise, upon starting in the role, I was actually asked what tasks I could take on which forced me to think about the core purpose of being an Executive Assistant.
It was the first time I had to think about what I can and should do in this role and why. That’s when I had my first seemingly obvious revelation. The purpose of assistants is pretty straightforward: make sure your manager is able to use their time as efficiently as possible.
With that mindset, both my managers and I constantly find more ways to improve their efficiency by giving me more responsibilities, which brings me to my next point.
#2 The role can be shaped
Because we’re constantly evaluating which responsibilities I can take on, we get to grow and shape the role over time. Not only am I involved in defining the tasks for my role, I am also given the freedom of doing it my way. As someone who is obsessed with processes and documentation, being given the chance to lay the groundwork for this role has been one of the most exciting aspects of the job.
Sometimes even just small things can have an impact. For example, I keep track of all my managers’ trips in a spreadsheet. A few months in, I realized there were many people who would benefit from knowing in advance when the two of them would be in the office and when they would be traveling. I started sharing this information, and it proved incredibly beneficial, especially for our recruiting team. Hiring is top of mind across the organization, so even this small change made a big difference.
Being involved in and challenged to rethink my responsibilities was a fairly new concept to me, but has opened my eyes to the impact I have as an assistant.
#3 There is so much to explore
Just like many other professions, technology has already changed and will continue to change the work of Assistants over time and could one day even make them redundant.
This is something I’ve been aware of and worried about since the start of my career. What would this mean for me? When I took on the role at GetYourGuide, this was one of the first things my manager encouraged me to think about, which changed my mindset completely. Instead of being afraid my role would one day become redundant, I felt empowered to think about the other career paths that would benefit from my expertise.
In a rapidly-growing company, new departments form and different needs arise; these are all opportunities to explore new responsibilities.
So, instead of thinking of my role as a job that one day may not exist, I take the time to explore the technologies that are changing the profession and pay attention to my environment, thinking of how my skills fit in and can make an impact.
#4 There is always room for growth
As an assistant, I always felt my professional growth depended on my manager, but these revelations showed me that despite being employed to assist someone, there are still opportunities for me to take charge of my own development. Whether you work on perfecting your skills, implementing or improving processes, or even trialing a new technology, the role is not limited to the tasks your manager hands you. It’s your responsibility to reflect on your role and responsibilities and grow from there.