An Executive Assistant Story

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Here on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - Administrative’s Professional day - I honor my assistant, Nicole. She's the glue that helps me keep it all together for those we work with, both clients and candidates. I'm grateful for her each day!!

Growing up, I always knew I was destined for something bigger and better than what was in front of me, a small town in Florida. When you try and imagine what your adult life will be like there’s a high probability you never paint the true picture. During those imaginative years, I never painted the picture for what I’m doing now, at twenty-six years old, which is high-caliber work in gorgeous Denver, Colorado.

It was one of those sunny Winter days where you could head out without a heavy jacket. I prepared for a coffee date with a headhunter that reached out to me via a professional platform. Our first interaction was over a call, but now we were meeting in person. My initial impression of Hilani was that she was sweet and unbelievably knowledgeable about what she does (and used to do) and I felt immediately compelled to start tracking notes during our first interaction.

There was a way about how she talked that instantly warranted a nickname - badass.

Our meeting location was at a quaint, modern, and sophisticated coffee shop which was fitting considering how she carries herself.  I sat down and we got right to it. The energy she brings to a conversation was, and continues to be, so uplifting. She’s very passionate and present with no reservation to converse all over the place. She asked questions to learn more about me and my objectives to see if she could compliment my career goals, as well as identify if I may be a fit for one of her clients now or in the future.  At one point during our conversation, I asked her if she needed anything, me thinking maybe even an assistant to help seeing her current workload was a lot(!). I took a leap of faith and threw out the idea, “Why don’t you just hire me?” Considering our meeting was for one of her clients, she chose the selfless approach and said, “That’s sweet, but I’m pausing my search for my new assistant.” I can recall though, even though that was her answer, there was the tiniest glimmer in her eyes that seemed to have pondered the idea. I thought, she’s a former executive assistant, why would she need any help. She’s a self-assured woman, and considering her background, many would think she’s type A and unable to delegate so she’ll always be a one woman show. Having spent almost four months with her now, ‘Delegation’ is her middle name.

She can, without a doubt, handle her bustling business herself but she knows better...with an assistant, you are more easily able to propel forward and evolve.

My in-person screen, as we call them, wrapped up after forty-five minutes and I left feeling confident that she liked me enough to send me to an interview with one, if not two, of her clients. After leaving the coffee shop, I called my dad absolutely elated and told him all about how sophisticated the headhunter was and how I asked if I could work for her instead. He chuckled, as my extremely-dry-sense-of-humor father does when he doesn’t know what to say, but then he said, “Hopefully she offers you a job with her.”

I left the meeting with the understanding that she would be in touch. A few days went by without much correspondence and knowing her current workload, I equated it to her being very busy; hence why I thought she could use me as her side-kick. About a week after meeting, and likely much contemplation on her end, Hilani finally reached out and asked if I was serious about working for her. I must have made a better impression than I could’ve envisioned.

Over the course of the next few days, after Hilani inquired multiple times about my gravitas on becoming her executive assistant, it was undeniable that she and I needed to become a team. Once I eased her mind that I was willing and able to tackle the tasks she would require, we began preparations for her party of one to become a duo (again). From Hilani’s point of view, my first day with her was nothing short of a who’s-who situation. Could she trust me? Was I a secret recruiting spy trying to lurk my way into her inner circle and sleuth around to find her secret methods and divulge how she became/is the best headhunter in the Greater Denver area? The answer was clearly no, but it certainly took a little bit of time to convince her of my sincere loyalty.

Since I started working for Hilani, my perception of her badass status has not faltered. Although I knew she never needed me, I believe I have helped play an integral role in supporting her and her business. She and I have sizably different personalities, and yet, in my humble opinion, we work beautifully together. Hilani has said that she hired me because I reminded her of her younger self, and I am under the impression that I have already grown tremendously since she took me under her wing.

Being passionate myself about the admin profession, to be working for a top-EA turn headhunter to EAs and top executives, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The day to day holds traditional administrative tasks, especially calendaring, and constant one-off requests.  Her calendar is stacked each day starting at 5:00am when she wakes up until she heads to bed at 10:00pm. While methodical about where she spends her time, she’s very giving of herself, down to a quick 15-minute call in between meetings for anyone needing to connect. As she puts it, I’m “constantly playing Tetris and gatekeeping [her] time.” The amount of time Hilani invests in each candidate constantly puts me in a state of awe. As I mentioned earlier our personalities are opposites, I am a thinker and she is a feeler. She believes in everyone’s ability to be their best version and wants to invest in them even if the opportunity she’s working on doesn’t present a fit. Speaking of investing, every day on the job with Hilani is like a day at school.  Due to being a thinker, I’m fully open to any feedback or advice to be my best version of  myself in this role. And with that, I’m able to recognize that she’s investing in me and in return, she’ll benefit from me learning from challenges and errors; the learning under Hilani is endless.  We joke, as she’s a retired assistant with an assistant, the likelihood of me being able to manage-up is slim, but she onboarded me deeply (and still continues to do so). Although having an extremely independent, former EA for a boss, I do have some authority to remind her about where she spends her time and with whom. Because of her kind and trusting personality, and her sincere investment in people, we sometimes come across bad eggs who don’t respect her time; therefore, it’s on me to be a guard and keep those types of applicants at bay.

I’m honored that she includes me in most of her client calls and interactions. She allows me to listen in on certain phone screens, always asking for permission from the candidate first. Back to the note taking mentioned in the very beginning, my notepad has come in very handy prior to any activity.

Each week, she engages with about eight new candidates and a common word I would use for many speaking with her on the other side of the call is “refreshing”. I’ve heard painful stories from many of the candidates, which presented some reservation at the beginning of the call, mainly because they have been exposed to recruiters and simply don’t trust the industry. There’s nothing like the excitement that begins to join these calls when they feel and hear her passion coupled with her depth of knowledge for the admin profession; it’s hard to describe in one word other than “badass”.  Many leave the call enamored with Hilani and her no BS approach, which I can tell you from first hand experience, it’s very authentic.

In closing, although I certainly had enough experience in my toolbox to do my job superbly, I could never have anticipated the depth of work a committed headhunter applies each day; there’s never a dull moment. We really are nothing like others in the recruiting space. The level of top notch care and love that Hilani pledges to each and every one of our candidates and clients is so exciting and positive to be around. In my eyes, she has more than proven herself as someone to truly be reckoned with and I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be learning from the best and the best that she engages with each day.

Lastly, what’s to come in the next few years is going to be unbelievable in such a positive way, I can’t wait to support and watch it all unfold.


Nicole Scott - Executive Business Assistant to Hilani Ellis | Specialized Headhunter