We’re a Team: Executives and Personal Assistants

personal assistantWe’ve likely all heard about the book The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, even if we haven’t read it or seen the movie adaptation. That book makes being a personal assistant seem like…well…hell. Luckily, the fictional Miranda (the Devil in Prada) won’t be the norm for most executives.

You’re probably wondering what being a personal assistant has to do with being an executive assistant. Good question! As an executive assistant, you may be called a personal assistant if you’re assigned to just one particular executive and your duties may be expanded beyond the typical expected of an executive assistant. A really great article in The National last year discussed Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson’s personal assistant, Helen Clarke. I wanted to pull out some of the specific things she mentioned in the article so we can discuss some interesting details about being a personal assistant. You can read the full article here. Let’s dive in!

Humor and Hard Work

When working as a personal assistant, having a sense of humor is key. Sometimes things may appear as though they are impossibly hectic, but keeping a sense of humor will help. Being a hard worker with a sense of humor, I can attest to that. Even in the darkest moments when you’re not quite sure you’ll get everything done, keeping that sense of humor will keep you sane. Try to look on the bright side of things and your optimism will help you to overcome obstacles. Positive thinking can help you see more possibilities than if you were to succumb to despair.

Common Duties

Helen Clarke discussed that her most common duties included going through and answering emails with her executive, traveling with him, and coordinating his schedule. These are common executive assistant duties. If you are hired as a personal assistant, though, your regular duties may vary wildly. Traveling isn’t something that is always required, but scheduling and coordinating travel for your executive is common. For example, our executive assistant at Career Step coordinates travel for almost anyone who needs to travel for business.

Organizing the Personal Life of Your Executive

This will depend on how involved you are as a personal assistant, but often personal life is mixed with business life, so you may be called upon to help schedule your executive’s personal schedule too. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be picking up her dry-cleaning or his kids from school, but it could. The key to making this work is to organize these things together. Maintaining that team vibe can help you to not get burnt out early on in your career. Again, most executives understand that you, too, have a life you need to manage and won’t call upon you for unreasonable or unsavory tasks.

Organization and Delegation

Being successful as a personal assistant comes down to being organized and delegating when necessary. The more organized you are, the less surprises you’ll encounter. Also, just because your executive is delegating something to you doesn’t necessarily mean that you personally must complete it. As a personal assistant, you may even have access to your own assistant to help you out. You’ll learn which things you can delegate and which things you need to complete on your own.

Being a personal assistant can be an awesome, fast-paced career. I hope this information provides a bit of insight into what it’s like to be one and tips for success.

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