Take pride in your accomplishments and make sure your portfolio reflects everything that you have learned and achieved says Tae Lee

 During my time as an executive, I had the opportunity to work with a group of incredibly talented and intelligent administrative assistants who were masters of learning while on the job. It never ceased to amaze me how proactive these admins were in picking up new skills and technologies. Despite being accomplished event coordinators, writers, travel planners, and technology influencers, my admins always remained humble, sometimes to a fault. After I left my previous company to start TRAVO, I had the opportunity to work with thousands of admins from around the world and saw the same trend. As an executive who has benefited from a stellar admin team, I know how valuable an experienced administrative professional can be. However, admins can often be overlooked because they have spent so much time supporting others that they have forgotten to support themselves. Here is how you can start building out your portfolio to make you an unbeatable candidate from the viewpoint of an executive.


Always start by updating your resume. If you’re applying for a new position, your resume may be the only thing a hiring manager or executive looks at. Research shows on average, resumes are reviewed in under two minutes. This means the format, look and feel of your resume is as important as the content itself. You can do this by living by a couple of simple resume rules:

Keep it simple

Use traditional fonts like Helvetica, Arial, or other Sans Serif fonts. While other fonts may be more interesting, they can be difficult to read and don’t leave a lasting professional impression.

Limit it to one page

Highlight only your greatest accomplishments. Resumes longer than a page don’t look as clean and often feel like they are being weighed down by irrelevant experiences.

Use premium paper

Use plain-white paper that is heavier than 24lb.

Submit a clean resume

This may sound strange, but I remember receiving several resumes that were folded, creased, wrinkled, and even perfumed. Your goal with your resume is to leave a clean and professional impression; physical presentation matters.

Use “strong action” words

Words such as led, implemented, created, etc.


After your resume should come references. This is the second most important part of your portfolio. References show future employers that not only are you able to promote yourself, but others will too. If possible, try to include at least three references:

Former boss

If you worked at a smaller company and can only provide one reference, it must be one from your former boss. No matter who the new hiring director is, they will ask you for a reference from your previous boss; if you are unable to provide one they will ask why. Ideally, your reference letter from your boss should highlight the most important attribute: whatever the task, you find a way to get it done. Other things to highlight are your trustworthiness, resourcefulness, and attitude.

Fellow admins

References from fellow admins at your last company can show that you work well with others. Admins are often the focal point of a team, department, or company and, even if you aren’t going to be working with a group of admins, being a team player is a must. References from your fellow admins should highlight specific situations when you’ve worked together to solve a problem and times when you’ve personally helped others be successful with a task.

Non-admin co-worker

A reference from an employee of the company that demonstrates that you are well-liked. Admins may be put in charge of implementing new policies or systems, and employees can be very resistant to change. However, with a well-liked admin driving a project, the transition becomes painless (or a little less painful)!

Writing Samples

Writing is one of the most important skills for an administrative professional. In many cases, you will be the acting voice for your executive, company, or organization. You can compile a list of writing samples that demonstrate your ability to write professionally; choose samples that demonstrate the following skills:

Client communications

Admins are often the acting voice for their executive. Executives must be able to rely on an admin to communicate clearly and professionally. I would recommend submitting at least one conversation with a client or customer that demonstrates professionalism, problem solving, and clarity. Before submitting these writing samples, be sure to omit actual names, departments, and companies.

Emotional intelligence

This was one of the skills I admired most in my admins and something I would definitely look for in a future admin. Sometimes admins may be in a situation where they must deliver bad news or deal with particularly difficult customers. Emails that demonstrate emotional intelligence can take a number of forms, but are most impressive you can show situations where you take an unhappy client and calm them down.

Articles or publications

Include a copy of any articles that you have written, especially if they were published. I have worked with admins who were extremely talented writers and every time I was called to write an article, I would run it by them. Not just for grammatical or spelling errors, but also for structure and argument clarity.

Technical Skills

Last, but certainly not least, include some of your unique training and technical experiences that you think set you apart from the crowd. Every executive, and company, has different needs, but there are some skills that will be relevant no matter where you go:

Microsoft office

Some people may say that this skill is a given for any professional. However, there is a significant difference between a casual user in Microsoft Office and an advanced user. Many training organizations provide classes not just for Microsoft Office, but also for specific platforms such as Excel, Word, and Outlook. If you take any of these classes, be sure to get a certificate and include it in your portfolio. Within the Microsoft Office suite, I would focus on Excel and Outlook.

Taking minutes

Admins are often called on to take minutes for meetings. Include an example of minutes you have taken; ideally, including a breakdown of every topic of discussion, the main points made by each person, and any follow-up actions that are required. Minutes should be short and easy to follow so that everyone knows what their next action items are going to be. There are many tools that you can use to take minutes, but I really like Minute. Minute breaks down meetings into three sections: agenda, documents, and notes. Admins can create an agenda before a meeting starts then easily add notes, tasks, and decisions. After the meeting, these minutes can then be shared and emailed to anyone in the team.

Event co-ordination

Creating an event and coordinating the thousands of pieces that are associated with it, is an artform in and of itself. At my last company, we had a team of admins who were responsible for an annual company event which brought in hundreds of employees and clients in from all around the world. This was always a huge undertaking and something that we completely depended on our administrative team to coordinate. Provide an example prospectus that shows a basic breakdown for the event. Be sure to include the number of attendees, the name of the venue, negotiated venue and hotel rates, and estimated total cost. In this prospectus, you can also include your initial quoted price next to the final price to demonstrate your negotiation skills.

Travel planning

Most admins double as travel agents in their offices, and you’ll likely be responsible for a team of travelers. Travel planning is a delicate balance of maximizing your given budget to fit your traveler’s needs and preferences. Add a couple of sample itineraries to your portfolio that show all the details your traveler may need while they’re on the road.

Administrative professionals are the unsung heroes of the workplace, but you don’t have to be! Take pride in your accomplishments and make sure your portfolio reflects everything that you have learned and achieved. Compile the above sections into a single document and print out a couple of copies. In addition to hard copies, make sure you have it saved in a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox. This way you can provide a digital copy for companies and executives who prefer to do things online.

Tae Lee is the CEO and founder of TRAVO, the only trip planning and booking tool built for administrative professionals. He was formerly COO of ZEFR and held executive positions in three successful startups. During his time as an executive, he worked with ... (Read More)

2 comments on “What Executives Look for in Admin Portfolios

  1. Rebeccda Allen on

    The article seems dated since it refers to the type of paper to use. Author does not seem to be in touch with Executive Assistants in 2020.


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