Questions & Answers About Personal Assistants


What is a personal assistant?
A personal assistant is primarily designed to aide people with personal and professional tasks. The duties vary wildly. Some of the basic duties include but are not limited to: errand running, dry cleaning, managing household staff, auto maintenance, light cleaning duties, waiting for repair men, standing in line at the DMV, booking airline tickets and arranging vacation plans, dog walking, house sitting, etc. 

These are the type of duties you may expect to do if working for a person who owns a small business, or perhaps a single mother. If, though, a personal assistant is working for a celebrity, Fortune 500 executive or a high net worth individual, then the level of responsibility increases substantially. The duties could then escalate to being a sort of business manager, which would include duties like managing portfolios, attending important meetings, making large purchases in the thousands of dollars, and of course shadowing the VIP around the world in a private jet.

 

[Get the book: How to be a personal assistant]

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The Devil Wears Prada movie does not represent the real world of celebrity personal assistants

I always hear various “assistant” titles used. What’s the difference?

An administrative assistant would work exclusively in an office — home or corporate. Much of the day is spent on the phone and on a computer. It includes data entry, working with Microsoft Office programs like Excel, and managing schedules – just to name a few things.

 

Many types of hybrid positions exist in the personal assistant world, so sometimes the term Executive/Personal Assistant is used. That means that the duties are split as an Administrative Assistant and a Personal Assistant, so that person would be working in and out of an office.

 

If the term Executive Personal Assistant is used (without the slash), that means the VIP has multiple personal assistants and the head of the personal assistant team gets the word “Executive” added to his or her title. It usually takes many years of work to establish oneself to earn that position. Various types of people may have enough net worth to have a team of personal assistants. They include but are not limited to very successful book authors, Forbes list executives, icons of industry, tycoons, movie studio executives, Hollywood movie stars, TV stars, CEOs, inventors, and pretty much anyone else you can think of that’s worth millions or billions.


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Working for billionaires

* How much money do personal assistants earn?
The personal assistant profession probably has the widest salary range of any industry in the world. It can range anywhere from working for free or minimum wage, all the way up to $150,000 or even $250,000 per year. The low end, the freebees, would be interns or other people trying to break into the industry and getting some experience to add to their resume.The average salary nationwide is about $60,000 a year. Surprisingly, even Hollywood celebrities don’t pay that much because so many people are willing to work for peanuts just to have exposure to the private jets, pink Champagne, and movie premieres. The better money is with private individuals who appreciate that they can and do “get what they pay for.” The really experienced assistants are going to be $100,000 and up. One needs several years of personal assistant experience before they can command this type of salary. The positions that pay 150K and 250K usually require a college degree and several years – about 5 to 10 – of experience before that kind of salary will be paid. This scale is well out-of-range for Hollywood celebrities because ultra high net worth families and billionaires usually pay this kind of money. 

The Hollywood celebrities usually burn through personal assistants and it is not uncommon for them to be replaced every 6 months. Being on the job only for a year is not at all uncommon. Conversely, billionaires and other business executives don’t want to have to constantly recruit and train a new assistant, so keeping them happy with excellent pay, benefits, and other perks is the norm. The positions with millionaires and billionaires also come with handsome year-end bonuses, which can be in the tens-of-thousands of dollars.

 

Is it hard to get a job with a celebrity or sports figure?

As with any industry, the best jobs are not always easy to come by. It usually takes a combination of factors to score the really good jobs: hard work, lots of experience, networking, knowing and meeting the right people, and timing and luck – which are listed last but certainly are not least. Instead of just leaving your dream career to chance, one’s chances of getting a dream job can be dramatically increased by doing homework on the people you want to work for. Talking to current or former celebrity personal assistants is very strongly advised, but that is easier said than done. Celebrity personal assistants don’t like to give up secrets (and increase the talent pool — their competition!).

 

In a way, celebrity personal assistants are like Freemasons, the code is strong and they don’t like people knowing how to penetrate the business. Consulting with recruiters who have experience is an option, but one has to beware of charlatans. There are many people who claim to be professional consultants, but many are not. Most consultants in the celebrity personal assistant field have never actually done the job oneself. They usually just read books on the subject, and most books on the topic are not very good either. Buying a book or consulting with a true professional who has actually done the job is the best advised route, so do your homework and make sure the person or company who is doing the celebrity personal assistant training and consulting has “street cred”.

 

As reported by CNBC in “Rise of the Super Rich,” there are more millionaires and billionaires than ever before. In the U.S. alone, a staggering 9 million millionaires. That’s an average of 180,000 per state and most of those in major cities. But knowing how to present yourself to those discerning employers is major challenge for applicants.

 

If you take the time to review what most Career Consultants charge for advice, it’s literally in the thousands. There are companies that charge $2000 just for a package to revamp your résumé. The most shocking fact about getting advice from Celebrity Personal Assistant “consultants” is that few of them have hands-on experience in the field for which they are consulting.

 

Should I live in a major city like Los Angeles or New York to get a personal assistant job?

No. Wealthy people live throughout the United States. A recent study by CNBC News stated that there are about 50,000 households in America that have net worth between 50 and 500 million dollars. That means there are unprecedented opportunities to break into the business. The personal assistant industry used to be menial work and involved getting coffee for your boss, or even picking up doggy do-do. Now the position has evolved so a sort of business manager with plenty of prestige. The personal assistant acts as a gatekeeper and usually interacts with powerful figures and other influential people – even politicians and other heads of state.

 

What kinds of perks do personal assistants get?

That all depends, mostly on who you work for. If you work for a billionaire or ultra high net worth individual, then you will probably travel a lot. Usually on a private jet, but always first-class seating at the very least. If you are the Executive Personal Assistant, then you will usually shadow your boss wherever he or she goes – which means you will get to eat at world-class restaurants and drink the best wines. This kind of position is very sought-after, but of course hard to get. Again, it takes a lot of hard work to get there and a little luck.

 

It is not uncommon for CEOs and Fortune 500 executives to have a fleet of exotic cars including: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Lotus, Mercedes, BMW, Aston Martin, Avanti, Bugatti, Cobra, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati, Porsche, and Tesla. Not counting any rare or antique automobiles, the Bugatti is probably the most expensive production car made. They cost a cool 1 million dollars or more! So personal assistants have to take cars in to occasionally be fixed. Just make sure to don’t go 150 mph on the freeway because getting too carried away can get you a pricey speeding ticket and, possibly, could get you fired.

 

Ultra-rich people, of course, are going to have multiple mansions and estates, and they must be cared for. As an executive personal assistant, you will be required to be in charge of many domestic staff workers: maids, nannies, groundskeepers, personal trainers, dog walkers, private chefs and other cooks, etc. If the workload is enormous, then a dedicated Estate Manager will be hired to keep track of the to do lists. Otherwise, a personal assistant will be pulled away from other more-pressing duties to help the VIP with their life’s work.

 

What kind of track record will I need?

If you are going to work for someone that is rich and famous, then you are going to need a squeaky clean background. It is not uncommon for employers to run a background and credit check, as well as a driving record review. In some cases, if you are going to be in charge of high-value accounts that give you tremendous spending power, then you will have to be insured against theft and misconduct. If, for example, you have access to an account that contains millions of dollars, then the employer will have to be properly insured for loses in case you go rogue and try to take the money. The insurance company will not insure anyone who is a risk, so a background check is done on you to see is you have a high rate of insurance claims. This special report is completely different from the standard credit reports that exist.

 

Finally, you will have to sign a contract that states everything you are exposed to will be kept secret for life. It’s called a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). If you work for someone who is famous in a particular industry, you also may have to sign an additional contract that states you won’t walk across the street to the competition if you quit or get fired, and that is called a non-compete clause. Are you beginning to see how much your life is going to change if you become a personal assistant to someone rich and famous? So if you want that personal assistant job working for George Clooney, 50 Cent, Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, then be prepared to change your life completely.

 

How many hours will I have to work?

Usually, a personal assistant will have to work very long hours. Basically, when you sign-on for the job, you sign your life away. You may be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No, we’re not kidding. The more powerful the employer, and the more you make, the more on-demand you will be. It will test your patience like never before. The stories in the mainstream media, like that of Entertainment Tonight, E! News Live, or The Insider always show the glitz and glam of the personal assistant job, but they rarely – if never – talk about the sacrifice one has to make to get and keep a job like that. So if you want the sweet life of flying on private jets and taking the Ferrari to run errands, then you should know that having attachments is not really possible. So if you have a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or pet, you should probably know that a high-profile personal assistant job is not right for you. Please, don’t shoot the messenger, we are just telling you the reality of it all.

 

Will I need a lot of nice clothes?

Yes. Image is a very important part of being a personal assistant to a billionaire, movie star, or high net worth individual. You will be representing your employer wherever you go, so looking snazzy is always required. If you’re not a savvy person when it comes to fashion sense, you better take a crash course before going into an interview. Start looking at magazines like GQ, W, Elle, or any of the other mainstream names. They always have lots of photos of good-looking men and women who are dressed in the hottest fashions of Gucci, Prada, and Polo Ralph Lauren.

 

The great thing about being a celebrity personal assistant is that your boss will buy gifts for you, and sometimes those gifts will include awesome cloths from Armani Exchange or Macy’s. When shopping with your boss in Beverly Hills, Paris or London, they may just say “Grab something you like”. But be careful, you don’t want to look greedy to your boss and grab something too expensive.

 

How do I sneak my celebrity boss into a movie theater if he or she doesn’t want to be noticed?

If you have a celebrity personal assistant job, then sometimes your boss won’t be in the mood to sign autographs or have their photo taken. If you are going somewhere with your boss that will expose them to the general public, then steps will have to be taken to insure that they won’t be harassed.

 

When going to movie theaters: It is best not to make any arrangements with the theater manager ahead of time because you don’t want your boss’s visit leaked. If and when theater employees find out about it, the word will spread fast. It’s not uncommon for employees of establishments that celebrities frequent to be in cahoots with paparazzi. The reason is because the press will pay for tips when celebrities are in-house. The best approach for a visit to the movie theater would be to buy the tickets ahead of time when there is no waiting in line. After the movie has started and everyone is seated, then you can sneak your boss in. You celebrity boss will always have outfits they wear when they don’t want to attract attention, and that outfit will always include a hat and sunglasses so that nobody recognizes them. Leaving a few minutes just before the movie ends will also guarantee that your celebrity boss is not seen on the way out as well. The driver should be parked right out front with the engine running, so a fast getaway is successful.

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What are the characteristics of a good personal assistant?

Celebrity personal assistant jobs come with tremendous pressure. If you are going to work for a high net worth individual or family, then you need to know that it isn’t a cake walk. The exotic cars and luxury vacations shown on television shows like Entertainment Tonight and The Insider don’t show the hardship that comes with the job. Personal assistants that want to be effective should possess the following characteristics:

 

  • Can do attitude: Your boss won’t like to hear the word “no”.
  • Team player: You will be working with a team of people and synergy is important, so don’t be the weakest link.
  • Administrative skills: If you are going to be booking vacations, private jets, and typing letters for your boss, then you will need outstanding administrative skills. Many personal assistant positions are now hybrid, so you will spend time in and out of an office.
  • Out of the box problem solver: As a personal assistant you will be faced with insurmountable odds that are impossible to overcome. You will need to be in more than one place at a time and will need to meet mindboggling deadlines. You will need to plan ahead and expect the unexpected.
  • Organizational skills: Personal assistants will need to organize their lives to a hyper-meticulous degree. If your life is disorganized, then how can you keep someone else – your boss – on track? The smallest details are the key to success in the business. You will need to come up with unique systems that are specially created for your employer’s lifestyle.
  • Tech savvy: Many personal assistants can easily become outdated if they don’t keep up with the modern technology. Being an ace with a Blackberry or iPhone is important. Your computer skills will need to be first-rate, so you will need knowledge of Microsoft Office products like MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.).
  • Patience: Wealthy people want what they want when they want it – and it’s always right NOW. You can’t come up with excuses as to why you couldn’t accomplish your To Do list. Make it happen, yesterday! Because your boss may be unreasonable, you will need to have patience like there is no tomorrow. Your employer may ask you to get him or her a table at the most popular restaurant on Friday night at 8 pm with no reservation. Think what it would be like to walk into the establishment and see the lobby full of anxious patrons who have been waiting an hour to sit down. You will have to work magic that would make David Copperfield and Chris Angel jealous.
  • Thick skin: A phrase that is often used in the personal assistant industry is referred to as “thick skin”. As an assistant, you will constantly take emotional abuse. Couple that with the other pressures and long hours, and you have a formula for disaster. You will need to have the skin of a rhino because you will be barraged with impossible tasks all day long. If you can’t stand the heat, you will need to get out of the kitchen.
  • Fashion savvy: Any rich and famous person who can afford a personal assistant is going to be conscious of their image. Because you represent your boss, you will need to know how to dress with style and pizzazz – even if your employer doesn’t. Every personal assistant job is different, but even if you get to dress casual you will still need to know how to put an outfit together. The right shirt, jean, shoes, belt, and other accessories have to look good together.
  • Eyes in the back of your head: Working for rich people can be almost deadly. If you are the Executive Personal Assistant and get to shadow your boss all over the world, then there are people that will be extremely jealous of you. Backbiting and backstabbing are absolutely pervasive in the fraught world of the celebrity personal assistant. You will need to be aware of who your real friends are at work – if there will be any at all.
  • Diplomacy: Because you act as a gatekeeper to your boss, you will need incredible diplomacy skills. You are not allowed to tell your boss “no”, but you have to say “no” everyday to people that want access to your boss – and you have to be nice and not offend anyone in the process – much easier said than done.

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