During my reading week I worked as an Executive Assistant (EA) at one of the world’s leading investment companies, 3i. Based in London, with nine offices worldwide, I was able to see how an international company functioned and communicated with its partner offices. As a French undergraduate, I particularly wanted to observe how they liaised with their Paris office (and luckily I sat opposite the French employee who negotiated with them!). The company focuses itself within three main areas of investment; Private Equity; Infrastructure; and Debt Management. I worked within the Infrastructure team, who are currently undertaking a major deal, so it was a great time for me to arrive as I had a lot of work that I could assist. Throughout the week I really got into the ‘nitty gritty’ of what it would be like to work as an EA.
So, how was this achieved?
I was fortunate enough to aid the EA team on tasks such as Diary Management where I used Outlook Calendars to manage multiple directors simultaneously in order to organise, book and/or cancel meetings internally and externally. This meant that I was in constant communication either via email or via telephone with various parties, and so acted in a polite and professional manner whilst representing the company. Moreover, I learnt how to manage and justify company expenditure, which also included a bit of ‘inbox detective work’ to calibrate bank statements. As a result, I was entrusted with full responsibility of the company’s ski trip next year. Here, I managed the entire team’s travel details where costings and flights needed to be verified and collated into the team calendar. I used Excel and Outlook again to send everyone’s invites which required immense attention to detail, and created an online and hard folder copy of all details for the next EA to take over. I similarly worked alongside the Legal team on my last day to verify legal documentation.
Graduate Assessment Centre
Furthermore, I was fortunate to arrive at the concluding stage of their graduate assessment centre. This meant that I was able to observe the final stages of their assessment process, what was involved from the graduate’s viewpoint, and also what the assessors (senior management) were looking for in particular. Working alongside the HR department, I welcomed applicants and took the time to settle them into their new environment as it was to be a long and intense day for all involved. Strict time management was vital during these two days as there was a rigid timetable of events which needed to be adhered to. I was also given responsibility to invigilate part of the process, ensuring that all candidates were treated equally. I was afforded the opportunity to sit in on board discussions and observe how they chose the final candidates to undertake the scheme. It has given me a true insight from ‘the other side’ as to what employers truly search for, and in turn I can use this knowledge to better myself when I apply for graduate schemes.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and would love to go back again as it was invaluable to me. I liaised with numerous employees from Managing Partners to Graduate Analysts, and even candidates in the same boat as myself. I was truly fortunate to have been entrusted with so much responsibility in such a short amount of time and so, was thoroughly able to experience the role of an Executive Assistant and what the job would entail. I believe that I arose to every challenge, and am happy to say that all tasks were completed by the end of the week. Moreover, on a general note, I was able to experience what my life could be like living and working in London and if this is something I wish to pursue. I can positively say that despite the busy commuter trains, I love the hard working yet social buzz London has to offer!
– Sheena Wooldridge is a 3rd year French and History student