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Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff? Ask an Admin

Ask an Admin was created by Office Dynamics to help administrative professionals with their problems through the help of their peers. We don’t always have an answer to each individual’s problem but we know some of you might. Please read the question and comment below.

Preethi asks:

Hi Fellow Admins,

I am an administrative professional with over 10 years of experience. I have been an EA to the CEO or C-level executive for the last 5+ years. I am involved in corporate strategy; plan, organize and participate in Board and committee meetings, handle performance appraisal, review and edit HR and Board policies, organize events and town halls, etc.

I have been doing this for a while now and wonder where to next? I like being an admin professional but also want growth in terms of role, designation, and pay. Is there a way to become a Chief of Staff? Most CoS in the corporate industry seem to be from operational or management background. Is there a way for an EA to become CoS?

Thanks,
Preethi

Please share your thoughts and advice in the comments below.


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8 thoughts on “Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff? Ask an Admin”

  1. Hi Deana and Amy,

    Thank you for your suggestions. It is a catch 22 situation. I love the current organization I work for, my boss and the team for being supportive of professional development and growth. But unfortunately, it being a small not-for-profit there is no scope for internal growth. I think it is time I took a decision on what I really want and take steps to seek it outside of my current organization.

  2. Greetings Preethi,

    Many thanks for sharing your aspirations with your fellow peers. I, too, have been an EA for the past 20 years, reporting to various levels of C-suite executives. I have officially retired from my post. I have worked for several Fortune 500 corporations, non-profits, and smaller organizations. My last major post was at Prudential Financial, reporting to two Senior VP’s. I was there for 2 years and wanted to move up myself — to the CEO’s suite. I spoke with the Chief of Staff at that time and she suggested that I honed my skills, that the EAs that were currently in the position were Project Managers and had degrees, sometimes 2 degrees with professional certification. She suggested that I go back to school part-time and/or full-time, depending on the load I could handle, while still working at Prudential. It wasn’t a bad idea, but at the time, I really wanted to be promoted because I had worked hard in my current position and had been acknowledged by my peers and executives. So, I felt that it was time to move up. Looking back in hindsight, going back to school to obtain a degree to do more and be more in one’s position, wasn’t a bad idea. For me, I just really wanted to be in the CEO’s suite. I would suggest to you to go back to school and work your way up to become a COS. In that way, you can continue to hone and acuminate your skills and get even better at what you do. I do hope this snippet has been helpful to you. Once again, thanks for sharing your story! Blessings and good luck!

    1. Hi Deborah,

      I am happy to go back to school. In fact, I did a certification in Business Communication and am enrolled in a Leadership Program for Admin professionals for later this year. My current organization and boss are super supportive of professional development and my company pays or share expenses for these courses I do. Is there any specific to CoS courses or programs that you think I should be doing?

  3. Hi Preethi! I really love your desire to be more and further your career! You sound like you know what you want and are willing to go the extra mile to get there. You mentioned that you currently work for a “small not for profit” with limited internal growth. Knowing your opportunity is part of growing, and it doesn’t sound like there is much opportunity where you are, unfortunately. Sometimes change can be difficult, but it sounds like you may want to explore other larger companies that align with your goals. If you have candid conversations with your boss, you may want to let him know your concerns and desires to do more. He should be honest with you, and support you in your journey if he cannot offer you a future. As a very happy EA to the CEO, I wish you the utmost luck and success with whatever you decide to do. I have no doubt you will find the right opportunity for you!!! : )

  4. Hi Amy,
    Thank you for your response. I have spoken to my boss about it and he is very supportive and encourages me to take up related courses etc and even pays for some of them. He involves me in strategic decision making and has given me HR responsibilities because I have an MBA in HR. But since I work in a small not for profit organization, internal growth is limited.

  5. Hi Melissa,
    Thank you for your response. I have an MBA in HR and started my career in HR. I regularly take up continuing education programs from local universities in communication, persuasion etc and do online courses on relevant software and technology.

    I have very little supervisory experience…less than 2 yrs. I would like to take on more managerial type work. But not sure what to ask my boss. Can you give me some pointers?

  6. What kind of training have you been taking? What soft skills have you developed? Do you have experience supervising other staff? What makes you think that a Chief of Staff position will entail the things you like about being an EA? Have you taken any courses related to HR? The tasks you have described are very much EA-oriented, you need to have a lot more depth in management type work to move up.

    In my experience, I have seen very few advertisements for Chief of Staff positions. To be considered for a CoS, you have to find an opening for a CoS. In any event, you need to be more than an Executive Assistant to move up. Find some mentors – do you know anyone in the CoS role? Can you pick the brains of someone in your HR department? How big is your network, are you involved in different organizations and community groups?

    It’s good to want to be more, but you have to be prepared when the opportunity comes along. Remember, your career plan is your responsibility. make sure your goals are written down and steps are planned, otherwise they are just dreams.

    good luck!

  7. Prethi:
    Have you discussed your aspirations with your boss? It is my opinion that a good boss will be supportive of your career goals and provide you with a path towards achieving your goals.

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