Back to Blog

The First 90 Days as an Executive Assistant I What You Should and Shouldn't Do

In this video, Alicia Fairclough, Founder of EA How To, talks about what you should and shouldn't do in your first 90 days as an Executive Assistant.

The first 90 days in a new role will set the tone and determine your reputation for the remainder of your tenure. 

In this video, I’m going to talk about the things Executive Assistants should and shouldn’t do in their first 90 days on the job. 

The first thing on my list of shoulds is to win hearts and minds. And not with cookies. For the love of all that is good, please don’t bake for the office. Let’s make that your first shouldn’t. 

In terms of winning hearts and minds you’re going to set up 1:1s with members of the leadership team, your execs direct reports, heads of departments and other employees. You’re going to be a great listener. Get a sense of how they work. What is and isn’t working for them and what they need from you and your exec. Build relationships and be approachable. Make an effort to go for coffee or after work drinks but remember you’re always at work. Which leads us nicely into a second shouldn’t. You should not get too comfortable too quickly with your new colleagues. Being sociable is good. Being the drunk newbie, not so much. 

The next thing you should do is learn the ropes. Attend orientation sessions and if they haven’t been arranged for you, take it upon yourself to organise some of your own. Meet with someone in finance to understand the process for reconciling expenses, connect with HR and ensure you understand how the company HR system works. Take initiative to learn about how things work. 

Something you shouldn’t do, is fret about not knowing everything right away. It’s a process and it takes time. Chill. 

The next should I’m going to chat about today is building rapport with your executive. Connect and find out what their schedule looks like, what their priorities are, who is important, what the pain points are and what they expect from you. Do all of this but also get to know them as a person. If you would like a checklist to help you out with this, check the link in the video description for my free template. 

You should also have open and honest conversations during 1:1s with your boss about what is and isn’t going well. 1:1s are different from your everyday catch ups. 1:1s are weekly or fortnightly meetings that generally go for about 45 minutes and are focused on your development and your ways of working. They’re not about the day to day tasks.   

And this segues us nicely into our next shouldn’t. You shouldn’t be afraid to push back a little. Don’t feel that you have to say yes to absolutely everything, even if you don’t agree with it, just because you’re new and wanting to make a good impression. You’ll gain more respect being assertive than being a yes person. Remember that it’s always better to under promise and over deliver. Always. 

Are you ready for your next should? Here it is… 

You should find out as much as possible about the company. What does the company do? Who are the customers? Who are the competitors? What are the goals? This will take some time. Don’t panic if you don’t understand all of this in the first 90 days. It may take longer than that. 

Now… While you’re attending orientations, participating in 1:1s and just generally learning the ropes, you should be building your business manual. I’ve always done this as an A-Z. An alphabetical manual of everything I need to know in my role. If you’re lucky enough to have handover notes, these will be useful here but in my experience, they will require some updating and expanding. Documenting processes is a great way to learn and make yourself useful at the same time because there is a good chance there are a lot of processes that should have been documented but haven’t been. It will help you a lot and your colleagues will love you for it.  

Something you shouldn’t do though… Don’t be dismissive or overly critical of practices that are new to you or that you don’t like. Take your time to learn about the culture of the company before jumping in to critique. You will be able to make changes, that’s fine. But take time to understand why things are the way they are and who owns the processes you’re wanting to change before you jump in and give a critique that would make Simon Cowell cringe.             

I have 2 more shoulds… Let’s keep it going. 

You should follow through on your commitments. This is good advice for your entire career but lets face it, proving yourself in the first 90 days and building your reputation early on is extra important. You don’t yet have the benefit of the doubt. I said it earlier, I’ll say it again. Under promise and over deliver. 

And your final should for your first 90 days on the job. You should maintain a list of your accomplishments. I use my ‘done’ list in Trello for this which I talk about in more detail in my short course, The Definitive Guide To Trello for Executive Assistants. You can keep your list in whatever form you like, just make sure you do it. This list will come in handy when appraisal time rolls around. 

Join the worlds most valuable community of Executive, Personal and Virtual assistants by becoming an EA How To Plus member. You'll be joining a network of thousands of talented assistants and you'll get access to replays of amazing EA How To webinars as well as invitations to small group coaching sessions and more.