By Vanessa King
Vanessa King is the Membership Chair of New York Celebrity Assistants, which supports and serves the unique needs of celebrity personal assistants in a confidential environment. Vanessa joined NYCA in 2007 and has served on the Board of the organisation for 4 years. Vanessa currently works with award-winning actress Julianne Moore and writer-director Bart Freundlich, a position she has held since 2006. She has worked with high profile actors, singers and producers since beginning her career, in 2001.
If you're reading this blog post, chances are, you already posses the innate, key skills needed to succeed a personal assistant; which will also be the ones that dominate your life - organisation, flexibility, dedication, resourcefulness - are traits inherent in any one who chooses to work in a support-staff capacity - no matter the profile of the principal.
However, working as an assistant to a high profile individual, no matter their field, demands that these skills be heightened. Frequently, as the go-to, or "gatekeeper" (if you will), the responsibility of your principal’s primary needs falls within your purvey. This is where the very capable and proactive personal assistant takes it upon themselves to develop what I call “learned skills.”
Learned skills go beyond the personality traits that make a great assistant great. Continually pursuing the acquisition of these learned skills is what separates a PA from the pack. There are many different kinds of learned skills. Here are a few, that, if you are looking to work as an assistant to a high profile employer, will give you the edge:
Boundaries: Creating boundaries is truly a learned skill. I know this, because it’s taken me over a decade to figure out how to to build them. Boundaries come in many forms. Know where to draw the line (and how to do it respectfully). Appreciation of boundaries - yours and your employer's, will extend the tenure at your position and build a healthy respect between yourself and your principal.
Ethics: It’s a crucial learned skill that is vital to a long, successful career as a PA. My grandmother always used to say people needed to “Mind their Ps and Qs”: pride in workmanship, consciousness of time and respect of confidentiality. Be a true professional at all times, no matter the situation.
Technology: Don’t be afraid of it. It makes life - our life, our employer’s life - easier. Keep up on the trends. Your mantra should be: “I can’t break this.” You can’t! (Though, your employer will definitely find a way.) Teach yourself how to deal with common on screen problems. Learn what programs and machines - from computers to smartphones to gadgets - are often found commonplace in the field you want to work in, and greet them with open arms. Know the apps that help you organize. Keep a mobile office… in these wireless and synced times, you should be able to work entirely from your phone. It can be done! Technology is available to serve us. Let it. (Just always remember to back up!).
Network: The ability to network is perhaps the single most important skill a PA can learn. There are multitudes of fellow assistants out there - find them. Use them. Act as a resource for them. Many problem-solving heads are better than one. Being able to combine Rolodexes to help each other is critical. For the last seven years, I've been fortunate to be able to rely on my peers within NYCA. Find a similar peer group specific to your needs, and if there isn't one, create your own.
Perhaps most importantly, a key skill needed to succeed as a Personal Assistant is a genuine love for the position.
If you love what you do, success will follow. It’s inevitable.
New York Celebrity Assistants (NYCA) is an organization full of rock star - current and former - celebrity personal assistants. Founded almost two decades ago, NYCA supports and educates over 140 members via regular meetings, as well as through a private email listserv and social media. Our network is the strongest of safety nets: members can consult with each other under the promise of confidentiality, and tap into the goldmine of each other’s contacts and advice.
Find out more about the NYCA here: www.nycelebrityassistants.com
Follow on Twitter & Instagram: @NYCelebAssts
Join us on 12th September at #sitccareerqa 12.30 - 2.00pm GMT with your stories and questions.