Securing your Executive Assistant career: staying steady in a soft job market

24 November 2023 Anastasia Kelly

Executive Assistant Career Advice

In today's competitive job market, it's not uncommon to feel dissatisfied or apprehensive about your current position. With the looming possibility of a redundancy, or increasingly attractive conditions and pay packets on offer, you might be tempted to make rash decisions. However, it’s crucial to first consider the long-term implications of these choices and the indelible impact it can have on your executive assistant career.

The value of stability

While many employers are increasingly tolerant of frequent job changes, high-paying CEOs and executives aren’t among them.

One of the key factors executive assistant recruiters and prospective employers look for in candidates is a stable career history. While job-hopping might be a quick fix to escape an unfavourable situation, it can have a detrimental effect on your credibility and future opportunities. When employers see a track record of frequent job changes, it raises questions about your commitment and reliability. 

Career stability, on the other hand, demonstrates perseverance, adaptability, and a willingness to invest time and effort into a role. The vast majority of hiring managers I speak to state their preference for candidates with longer tenures in their previous positions. This is driven by the firm belief that candidates who have stayed with a company for a considerable period are more likely to possess the necessary skills, experience, and dedication required for the higher-paying positions. 

Building a strong resume

To be considered for elite executive assistant positions, a resume showcasing your deep experience and loyalty is key. Longevity with a single employer displays dedication, patience, and the ability to adapt and grow within an organisation. It also sends a strong message to potential employers that you’re a reliable and committed professional. 

As you know, executives rely heavily on their assistants to be inherently discreet, understand their business intimately and to build meaningful relationships on their behalf. These qualities are harder to clearly demonstrate in a patchy career history, and you may be immediately removed from their short list as a result. 

What to do if you’re dissatisfied in your current role

Before making any decisions about where to next, get clear on what’s making you unhappy in your current position. It may be you’re seeking new challenges, more responsibility, higher remuneration or improved working conditions.

By understanding the root cause of your discontent, you’ll understand if there are solutions for it within your current position. I’ve seen many disgruntled executive assistants undergo further study to challenge themselves, add to their skill sets, be given new portfolios and successfully apply for pay rises. 

I’ve also coached many others in having courageous conversations with their leaders about what they need to be more effective in their roles and feel more fulfilled. Honest and respectful communication is often all it takes to uplift their career satisfaction and help them find new enjoyment in their positions.

What to do if your career history has been negatively impacted 

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, unforeseen circumstances may lead to career changes. But it’s essential for you to find a way to address these situations credibly with a potential employer.

Explaining extenuating circumstances

By taking ownership of your career history and providing a thoughtful explanation, you can alleviate concerns that employers may have regarding your past job changes. It’s vital to emphasise the lessons learned, growth achieved, and the positive impact these experiences have had on your professional development. 

I’ve often found employers appreciate candidates who can explain their job changes in a meaningful way. If you can showcase your ability to overcome challenges and thrive in different environments, you’re far more likely to see your career history serve you rather than hold you back. 

For instance, consider the case of Sarah, a talented executive assistant I worked with, who had experienced several job changes due to COVID impacts on her industry. When faced with questions about her apparent lack of career stability during interviews, Sarah confidently explained how these experiences allowed her to adapt to different work environments, develop resilience, and expand her skill set. She also highlighted her ability to build relationships quickly, cope with change and adopt new ways of working. By framing her job changes as opportunities for growth and learning, Sarah was able to present herself as a highly adaptable and valuable candidate, helping her to secure her dream role within a global enterprise.

Demonstrating a considered career move rather than seeking an escape route

If your resume has been impacted by a few shorter stints, it’s important to communicate to a potential employer that you’re consciously and determinedly applying for their role. Highlight the desirable qualities of the role you’re pursuing, and how the demands of the role dovetail perfectly into your skill set and experience. Demonstrate your career path as having been carefully planned preparation for this exact role, so they clearly understand their position isn’t an ill-considered and temporary step for you.

Your potential employer must decide if you’re a sound investment of their time and finances. So removing any doubts about your commitment to their opportunity and organisation will be key to your success.

Tapping into the expertise of a recruiter

Working with a recruiter can be invaluable in making sound career decisions. With a deep understanding of the job market, they can provide solid insights and guidance for your next best step. Whether that be to stay or to go.

Additionally, recruiters have access to a wide network of industry professionals and are often aware of unadvertised job opportunities. By partnering with a recruiter, you can tap into this hidden job market and gain access to exclusive opportunities that may not be available through traditional channels. 

Recruiters are also particularly valuable in advocating to get you to the interview stage. If they understand the reasons behind your career changes, they’ll help you push past the first barrier of a less than ideal resume. 

The bottom line: preserve your hard work 

In conclusion, it’s vital to resist the temptation of making decisions driven by desperation. Instead, focus on your goals, career plan and strengths. Before making your next career move, honestly assess your work history and ask yourself if there’s something that you can do in your current role to increase your satisfaction.

Remember, you've worked hard to get where you are today, so don't let impulsive actions jeopardise your professional journey. 

If you’d like some advice on your current position, resume and your next best move, please contact Anastasia on 0421 16 55 96.