Personal Assistant Tips: Job Titles & Definitions

As a former Chief of Staff for the Saudi royal family, Brian Daniel had to manage a wide array of employees from various fields. Here is a list of job titles and definitions, aka job descriptions, for both domestic and corporate environments.

. Executive Personal Assistant (EPA): An EPA is usually the title for the person who is in the number-one position; the right-hand to the Principal (CEO, celebrity, family patriarch, etc). The EPA is usually in charge of other subordinate assistants, maids, nannies, chefs, drivers, security personnel and so on. The term “personal” as opposed to “administrative” in the title is just as it suggests, it is a very personal kind of situation.  If you work for an A-list celebrity, for example, that person is going to have agents, publicists, business managers, lawyers, and stylists.  The EPA is the only one that spends extended periods of time with the celebrity.


All of the other professionals just interact with intermittent phone calls and the occasional face-to-face meeting. Simply put, the EPA is like the unlawfully wedded spouse – which is not an exaggeration.  It is not at all uncommon for the EPA to spend more time with their boss than the boss spends with their husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Because of this fact, the EPA is often the target of workplace sabotage from other colleagues because the back-biting and jealousy is so pervasive.


Executive personal assistants must have the flexibility to leave town on a moment’s notice


Executive Administrative Assistant (EAA): An EAA usually works in an office. In many ways they are the opposite of an EPA. They work exclusively in a business setting. A four-year degree is always required.  Although a four-year degree is preferred with an EPA position, one can obtain employment in that field without one. An Executive Administrative Assistant must also know how to type and be completely fluent in programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  Like the EPA position, an EAA is usually in charge of multiple subordinate assistants.  Although the EAA position requires a four-year degree and fluency in most computer applications, it usually pays less than the EPA position and is certainly not as glamorous.


Executive/Personal Assistant (with the slash / ): Although the words may be the same, an Executive/Personal Assistant (with the slash) is a hybrid position. In the “old school days,” the corporate world and personal world were completely separate for assistants. Now it is very common for VIPs to have an assistant that floats between both worlds, so part of the day/week is spent in the corporate office and the time is split between the home office (private family office) and other tasks out in the field.


When working for a busy celebrity or high net worth individual (HNWI), it’s very common to work during the day as an Executive (Administrative) Assistant in the office, then after 5 pm you put on your Personal Assistant hat and work at nights (and on weekends) with your boss. Because the industry has shifted toward the hybrid position, assistants that used to be exclusive to one area or the other are finding it harder and harder to obtain work. This is mostly true with the traditional “Personal Assistant” because they lack the ability to use MS Office Suite at an expert level. In other words, it’s much easier to teach an Administrative Assistant how to book a private jet than to teach a PA how to master Word, Excel and Powerpoint (classic “old dog new tricks” situation).


Personal Assistant (PA): Depending on how high-profile the Principal is, they can have numerous PAs.  The PA’s job can range from picking up laundry to booking airline tickets.  Any PA position, even at the EPA level, covers a myriad of all things from A-Z. Doing PA work is an obvious first step to moving up to becoming an EPA.


Personal Concierge (PC): The term PC is sometimes used when a PA is contracted for a short-time, usually through an Employment Agency.  It is still a PA position.  I have often seen this term interchanged with “Lifestyle Manager” when it’s a full-time position. Many ultra-high-net-worth families and billionaires are now using the services of elite travel concierge companies so that they can get “À la carte” services when they need once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are hard to obtain otherwise (like getting the Rolling Stones to sing at your birthday party for example).


Estate Manager (EM) or House Manager: An EM is in charge of everything involved in the home of the Principal: hiring gardeners, auto detailers, plumbers, nannies, etc.  Sometimes the EPA takes on this role because hybrid positions are popular now.  However, if the workload is enormous, a dedicated EM is hired.  Usually in ultra-large mansions were butlers and maids are employed full-time.


VIDEO: Security for billionaires

. Security Personnel/Bodyguard: Depending on how high-profile the client is, they may employ full-time bodyguards. The depth and breadth of the duties vary wildly, and it all depends on the level of security you need. If you are at threat of being kidnapped because you are a billionaire, for example, then a professional security detail will be employed 24/7/365. These types of seasoned professionals are going to be retired secret service, police or state department officers. Or, let’s say, your are Jessica Simpson and you just need a large and intimidating bodyguard to do crowd control and dissuade the occasional paparazzi to back off, then the celebrity may just hire a childhood friend or other acquaintance (by referral of course) to walk around with you when you’re in public. .

Nanny: A nanny is exclusively in charge of children.  In the past, this role was primarily handled by women.  Men are now in the game and are referred to as “mannies.”


Other job titles

You may hear the following terms in the industry (which are self explanatory) and they include: Baby nurse, butler, chauffeur, driver, chef/cook, companion, housekeeper, maid, governess, houseman, laundress, nurse, etc. Again, I would like to stress that these are only guidelines for the titles and others may define them differently.  Some of these positions are even “live in,” which means you actually stay in the home of the employer.  There are, of course, all kinds of hybrid positions and titles as well, including majordomo which can include such duties as interfacing with people who handle family management services, payroll and accounting services, family governance, legal affairs, succession planning, philanthropy coordination, and investment opportunities.

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