Sometimes the title of “Executive Assistant” may not seem specific enough to capture the depth of someone’s work. Fortunately, a plethora of other titles for Executive Assistant (EAs) may provide a more robust indication of an Executive Assistant’s duties and strengths.
Many employers will consider doling out title changes when someone presents a solid pitch. Use the information below to make an iron-tight case for a title change.
(Join our private Facebook Group for executive assistants. It’s a community to connect, collaborate, and share advice on how to overcome the wide spectrum of challenges you face in your role.)
Why explore other titles for Executive Assistants?
When people hear someone is an “Executive Assistant,” they probably imagine that person acting out a vast range of scenarios and duties. That make sense, since most people know Executive Assistants perform an impossibly long list of duties. (Most people just might not know how EAs pull it off!) This long list of possible duties also drives some Executive Assistants, especially those who focus on specific tasks, to explore other titles that clarify what they do.
On the other hand, in rare scenarios when someone doesn’t understand how much assistants do, an Executive Assistant title might come across vague. (What exactly is involved in “assisting executives”?) This might be especially frustrating to EAs who wants to get some recognition for all the specialized tasks they do.
According to our SOTEAR, most EAs do jobs that entire teams of assistants used to do, and that includes taking on more tasks—including Information Technology (IT) support and Human Resources (HR) responsibilities—that used to fall to specialized positions.
On top of all this, the Executive Assistant title has a history of changing with the times. According to the State of the Executive Assistant Report (SOTEAR),
“The Executive Assistant role has had its own nomenclatural journey. When the role was created in the early 1940s, Executive Assistants were called “Executive Secretaries.” But the word “secretary” fell out of fashion in the mid 1990s when companies began to acknowledge that this wasn’t quite accurate – the people in this role were contributing a lot more than the basic duties of typing, filing, and taking messages.”
So there you have it—plenty of reasons to explore other titles for Executive Assistants and seek out a job title that reflects the richness and variety of a job that has grown from one position into an entire flourishing career path.
Things to Do When You’re Thinking of Your New Title
1. Base your title on your current responsibilities.
One Office Manager once suggested that anyone asking for a raise should try, “keeping a detailed list of all you do and are responsible for. Presenting those clearly will help you validate your worth,” she said. This advice also applies to anyone hoping to ask for a title change. There’s even a template—courtesy of our helpful Office Manager—to making tracking responsibilities easy even if you are starting from scratch.
When to initiate the conversation: During a weekly one-on-one meeting with your boss.
After you run through status on all your responsibilities (in other words, when all your responsibilities are front and center in your boss’s mind), mention that you’ve been thinking about better capturing everything you do.
Don’t make this mistake: Proposing a title that is based on what you want to do instead of what you actually do.
2. Focus on the value you bring to your organization.
If your responsibilities change often and you can’t figure out which should be the focus of your new title, then look at the value you bring to your organization. Maybe you do one hundred different things in any given day, but your associates are most thankful that you can alway help them with their big presentations and client pitches. If that’s the case, then you might be a “Chief Image Officer.”
Focusing on values instead of disjointed responsibilities also helps you remember the true purpose of your work. How do you think the titles “Chief Happiness Officer” or “Chief Disruptor” came to be?
When to initiate the conversation: Then next time your boss recognizes you for for a job well done.
Don’t make this mistake: Proposing a trendy title that means nothing.
3. Research other titles across the industry.
Search on your favorite job boards for a few of your primary responsibilities and see what comes up. (You could also narrow your focus on companies you particularly admire.) Keep track of what people with your same responsibilities at different companies are calling themselves.
Tip: Put all your research into an Excel spreadsheet. Lead your pitch with that information so your boss has time to absorb job title landscape.
Don’t make this mistake: Proposing a title that doesn’t fit into the vocabulary of your industry.
4. Determine the title’s longevity.
Will people be able to use the title after you get promoted or move on to a different company? All the people who need to approve your new title will be more likely to do if it isn’t exclusive to you and your tenure.
Tip: Add this point to your pitch to sweeten the deal and make it clear that you did your research.
Don’t make this mistake: Being short-sighted. A solid new title should fit into your organization’s work and culture for years.
5. Focus on clarity.
Will the name alone convey what you really do? Don’t get swept away by titles that sound cool or impressive; your title, above all else, should let people know what you do and also recognize the value you bring. If you choose a vague title (Captain of Multitasking) then a potential employer or collaborator may have no idea what you do. (And that defeats the purpose of the title change. )
Tip: Vet your potential titles with trusted co-workers before you make your pitch.
Don’t make this mistake: Copying a cool title you heard about from your friend at a different company.
6. Look at the format of other titles at your company.
Does your company favor traditional job titles (Administrative Specialist, Office Manager, or Executive Assistant), or do they tend to favor titles with just a little bit of flare (Workflow Guru, Vibe Manager, or Director of First Impressions)? Use whatever scenario is true at your company to your advantage. Traditional companies provide the opportunity to pick widely recognizable, classic titles while creative companies give you the chance to have a little fun.
Tip: Create a graph or chart that demonstrates how your proposed title fits harmoniously into the company’s current nomenclature.
Don’t make this mistake: Proposing a title no one will agree to.
7. Be mindful of the organizational structure.
Experts recommend paying attention to the role of job titles in the grand organizational structure of the company. If a few other people share your basic responsibilities and your job title, then leadership may be reluctant to change only your title. (Or your ask might just become way more complicated.)
Some companies even structure pay scales by job title. You’ll definitely want to know if your company is one of them before you make your pitch.
How to initiate the conversation: If your company presents some organizational hurdles, start the conversation off with a question (I’ve been thinking of asking for a title change; is that even a possibility?) before you head into a pitch.
Don’t make this mistake: Forgetting that a job title is more than a job title; it’s a unit of organizational structure.
8. Bring other people into your brainstorm.
Let’s say Human Resources is the ultimate approver of your title change. In this case, it would behoove you to discuss your title change pitch with your boss. (Getting your boss’s buy-in before you pitch your title change will certainly strengthen your case.) The Harvard Business Review recommends approaching your boss in learning mode by asking for their advice and input instead of leading with a strong demand or ask.
When to initiate the conversation: During your annual review. Every aspect of your job will likely be its most malleable during review season.
Don’t make this mistake: Seeing your boss as an obstacle instead of a collaborator.
9. Isolate the broader benefit to the company.
When asking anyone for anything, you should always have an answer to the “What in it for me?” question. Workplace experts say that title change seekers can increase their chances of success by pointing out how their title can benefit the entire organization.
Perhaps your new job title will increase your productivity since you will feel more recognized for what you do. Maybe it will help you negotiate with people at other companies since everyone will be understand what you do and take you seriously. Or your new title may even improve internal working relationships since everyone will know exactly what you do.
How to initiate the conversation: After you finish a major project and you have data and success points to clearly illustrate the benefit you bring to the company.
Don’t make this mistake: Assuming you deserve a title change and rolling with that. Even if you do deserve it, and we imagine you do, you should still treat your new title like you would any other commodity that adds value at a company.
Have you ever asked for a title change? What did you learn in the process? We’d love to hear your story!
(PS –Join our private Facebook Group for executive assistants. It’s a community to connect, collaborate, and share advice on how to overcome the wide spectrum of challenges you face in your role.)