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Posted on Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
Safia Chehih didn’t have administration in mind when she was studying communications and HR at university in Geneva, but when she was looking for a career that fit her personality and skills it was a natural direction.
Keeping up with daily challenges
As the EA for Hays Chief Financial Officer, Safia balances the organizational and technical skills with the need to be both candid, and compassionate.
“Being an EA is a lot more than technical skills. Those are the foundation, but to be successful you need a lot of soft skills,” Safia says. “Communication and compassion are both very important. You need to care about the person or team you work for so you are invested in supporting them and can anticipate their needs.”
There is no “day in the life” of an EA, Safia says, because every day is different. She starts her week by prioritizing what needs to happen in the first half of the week, and then adjusts her schedule daily based on the ad hoc requests that come in.
“I want to be challenged in my job and career, and being an EA means you’re never bored. Every day is different,” she says. “This is a role that didn’t exist before, so I’ve been able to help shape it. I have a very open and transparent relationship with the CFO, which we established right from the interview.”
An early challenge in her role was learning the business and getting to know all the leaders. Coming into a new role requires strong technical and organizational skills so an EA can focus their energy on the business and executives. Developing an understanding of how the company works, its objectives, and how the executive’s role fits into the bigger picture is critical to be able to do the job correctly. Safia’s curiosity and excitement to learn served her well in the early days – and are still useful as she encounters new tasks on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
The unseen support
There are a lot of misunderstandings about the role administrators play in a company.
“We work in the background, making sure everything runs smoothly. Often you only hear from us when something isn’t working. I’d encourage everyone to take a moment to recognize their admin and office support team because you probably don’t realize how much they’re helping you.”
Becoming a successful admin professional
Historically, office support hasn’t had clear career paths and progression opportunities, but today there are numerous opportunities for people with the right combination of skills and attitude.
Safia’s advice for aspiring EAs:
1. Be selective about what job you take. Treat the interview as a conversation and an opportunity to set expectations. Ask a lot of questions to get to know the person. Make sure you like and respect the person or people you’ll be supporting because you’ll have to put their needs first.
2. Have strong Office skills – there are lots of tutorials online to help. You won’t have time to learn these basics on the job.
3. Develop your own internal recognition. Set high standards and recognize when you meet them because you may not get a lot of external recognition. Be comfortable patting your own back.
Facing something new every day and being able to solve problems and really help the people that I support is my favourite part of being an EA,” Safia says. “People underestimate administration as a career and I would encourage anyone who is adaptable, likes helping people, and wants constant new challenges to consider it.”
Whether you're looking for your next career move, or ready to hire a new star for your admin team, Hays can help. Contact us today.