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Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Become a Celebrity Personal Assistant

Jul 30, 2008
When someone meets me for the first time, the top two questions I can guarantee I will be asked are: "What's your celebrity really like?" and "What do you need to know to become a celebrity personal assistant?" If you have no interest in those questions, I want to meet you! Please email me. Let's have lunch. (I digress.)

Seriously, dear reader, you and I know the obsession with celebrities and their assistants won't be dying down anytime soon. So we might as well take a look at the skills needed to become a personal assistant. Having worked for almost ten years as an assistant, and having met and worked with many assistants for much longer than that, I believe you must have the following skills to make it:

1. A college education. This seems like a no-brainer but you'd be amazed how many kids right out of high school come to Hollywood or New York hoping to land a job as the right hand to a famous star, yet they have neither the life experience nor know-how required to represent a celebrity in the real world. College allows a student to experience many different ethnicities, age groups and philosophies during the course of a year.

2. A command of the English language. And if you are bi- or even tri-lingual that can be a huge advantage for you in the work place. I know the assistants to some very well known Spanish A-list actors and the assistants' knowledge of Spanish has definitely been an added plus. You must be able to effectively communicate verbally and in writing. All students out there take note. Those writing assignments you had to do in English 101 really will pay off at last.

3. The ability to listen and take direction. It may seem that I'm stating the obvious, but you'd be surprised how often a person given a series of tasks to complete has to ask again and again for direction. Listen and get it right the first time. If you truly missed one of the ten items on a list, ask another person in your work area (if that's possible) for help. If that doesn't work, read #5 on this list.

4. Know how to handle typical office equipment, ie, the computer, fax machine, copy machine, scanner and various types of communication devices, such as cell phones and Blackberries. The majority of assistants I know spend the majority of their time in a home office environment. Are you Bluetooth savvy?

5. The ability to laugh at yourself and not take things too seriously. Mistakes are a normal part of life, and you will make some mistakes in any job. But, what's the worst thing that can happen if do make a mistake and you tell the truth? My advice is, if you do something wrong -- break something, double-book an auditorium, or simply forget an item on the list -- tell your employer immediately and ask for help to fix the situation.

6. The ability to take charge. Once you feel comfortable in your working environment, take the lead and complete tasks before they're even asked of you! The more you can take command of your responsibilities, the easier your working relationship with the celebrity will become. They will begin to entrust you with more and more interesting work, not to mention letting you into their private lives. Both of you will see more of each other in a week than you see of your own friends and family in a month.

7. The ability to speak up for yourself. Ask for what you need and accept that you deserve it. I wouldn't suggest asking for a raise when you've only been on the job for two weeks, but do let them know if you have something on your mind. I know an assistant who never established his working days with his celebrity. He just assumed it would be Mondays through Fridays, however at the end of his first Friday night at work, the celebrity said, "Great! See you tomorrow morning." Not wanting to lose his job, the assistant showed up on Saturday and worked a full day. At the end of that day, the celebrity again said, "Great! See you tomorrow!" On a Sunday? This went on for a month before the assistant finally spoke up. Dear reader, promise me you won't wait a month to speak up!

8. The ability to leave the job at the office. We need to play more and focus less on work! Start with a hobby or something that makes you happy and focus on that. I suggest starting small. Take a walk at lunchtime, or buy a magazine that you normally wouldn't buy and read it cover to cover without interruption. Once you discover that the world isn't crumbling around you because you took a few minutes off, then aim for higher rewards. This may seem like a minor irritation -- to actually have to think about yourself and not work -- but it's very therapeutic to direct one's attention to something other than work for a few minutes every day.

9.The ability to be discreet. The celebrity is always right, except when they aren't, but your job will be to always profess in public your undying devotion to them and how fabulous they are. It might appear to be easier to learn a foreign language (see #2 above), but this is part of the job description for personal assistants. Of course if you observe something illegal or obviously unethical, such as illegal drug use, I assume you'll get help handling that by bringing in the proper authorities. Asking people around the celebrity like the spouse, adult children, or business manager, to help is always a good idea. Don't try to do anything on your own!

10. Have a support group. Nothing is more frustrating in the world of the celebrity personal assistant than to feel all alone. Once you begin working as a personal assistant, make friends with as many other assistants as you can. There are other people out there dealing with this unique job experience too. Network!

Oh, by the way, to answer the first question: "What's your celebrity really like?" She's fabulous!
About the Author
Shelley G. Anderson is the personal assistant to self-help author Louise L. Hay, and writes the column Dear Miss Know It All. She is the author of Dealing With Divas: A Survivor's Kit for the Celebrity Personal Assistant (or Anyone with a Pushy Boss). To learn more about her, visit Dealing with Divas.
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