EMPLOYERS today expect a “right hand” when they hire an executive or personal assistant (EA/PA). Much more is expected of these office professionals than in the past, including great timekeeping, delegating work on their manager’s behalf, updating websites and social media profiles, and keeping abreast of all relevant office technology.

It is an exciting and varied job — but not everyone can do it. If you want to become an EA or PA, a career map is a great strategy to help you get to the top of this profession.

List your goals

Your objective is to be a top EA or PA, so first write down your current job title, salary and benefits, key responsibilities, existing skills, future prospects and potential for skill development.

Then, write down at least five goals and a date by which to achieve each — and make sure each goal is specific, challenging, realistically achievable, actionable and measurable. For example, if you are a receptionist who ultimately wants to be an EA, your five goals might be:

1 Receptionist: 18 months

2 Administrator: 1 year     

3 Senior Administrator: 18 months

4 Senior Secretary: 3 years

5 Executive Assistant: Ultimate goal position

Then create a detailed action plan. Determine the objectives and skills you need to achieve each of your goals. Decide how you will successfully achieve each goal.

Get noticed

Going above and beyond your standard job description can get you noticed by decision makers who will take this into account when considering promotions. This includes being aware of trends within your industry such as the use of new technology and developing some expertise in this area. You never know, it may be possible to create a job for yourself that hasn’t existed previously.

It is also important that your line manager and those above him or her are aware of significant achievements or changes that you have contributed to. Your annual performance review is an ideal time to highlight your successes to your direct manager, so keep a record of these.

Training is another great way to boost your career prospects, so review all training available to you internally and choose courses that are most relevant to your career. You can also look at completing an external qualification; often your company will assist you with this.

Discuss your prospects

As part of your employer’s performance review process, you should have the opportunity to discuss the next steps in your career. Take this opportunity to have a frank conversation with your line manager about the possibilities of progression into an EA or PA role, and what you need to do to achieve this.

If you don’t have a formal review process or this isn’t deemed an appropriate forum, then ask your manager for a meeting in which you can discuss your career path.

Should you decide to look externally for an EA or PA role, prepare a CV that matches your experience to the duties of an EA or PA.

Be clear about the type of organisation that you want to work within.

For example, if you chose to use a recruitment agency, select an expert in your field. Looking for a new job is one of the biggest decisions you can make, so you need to be able to trust the agency you partner with.

Mapping out your career will not only help you manage your own development, but it will help you manage any new challenges that come your way to ensure your career goes in the direction you ultimately want.