How to Become A Personal Assistant
Follow these six steps to beginning your new role as a professional personal assistant.
Being a personal assistant is a high-pressure, multitasking job that gives many struggling college graduates a way into the workforce and helps them build the experience they need to move into the profession of their choosing. Depending on the employer, becoming a personal assistant can be exhilarating or overflowing with tedious tasks — or both — but some things are consistent across the board. We’ve rounded up a guideline of must-know tips to help prepare you for a successful personal assistant job.
1. Familiarize yourself with the role.
Unlike most jobs, the role of personal assistant does not come with an easy “how-to” guidebook. This job is one you could call “the wearer of many hats.” The most critical asset to being a good personal assistant is flexibility. Depending on the job, your list of duties could include both personal and professional demands — such as coffee and laundry pickup, transporting clients and children, scheduling appointments, responding to emails, or any other array of juggling that the client may demand. This role is best suited for multitaskers with attention to detail, great communication skills, and a strong level of “real-world” competency. Your employer has the ability to get the job done, but they know their time is better spent thinking strategically while you take care of the day-to-day tasks. One great way of preparing yourself is to measure the competition: Think like an employer and browse online job sites like Care.com to check out personal assistants near you.
2. Know your worth.
You’ve seen the movies with poor, young assistants fetching coffee while being screamed at for conflicting schedules, but this is the real world and not every assistantship is like the other. With the need for assistance in the creative field, the pay scale can range from struggling creatives looking for someone to organize their lives to billionaire entrepreneurs seeking an employee who can take on research projects and administrative tasks. In a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Services, a job with similar requirements to a personal assistant paid a nationwide average of $18.21 per hour. Assistants seeking higher pay should look into travel planning and project management.
3. Find the influencers, and then become one.
There are no job fairs for personal assistants, so the phrase “it’s all about who you know” is more important than ever in this field. Without the ease of an organized job fair, the pursuit to employment may require a more proactive approach. Employment often only comes to those brave enough to grab the bull by the horns. In this case, imagine the job you want and be brave enough to reach out and ask for it, like in the case of one Harvard student who approached New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik to offer her personal assistant services after reading his work. Employers are looking for assistants with social competencies and who aren’t scared to get the job done. One of Harvard’s Office of Career Services employees mentioned, “If you have a passion for something, you find a way to get in front of the people you want to work for.”
4. Understand the commitment.
With important contacts at your fingertips, the job of a personal assistant comes with a great deal of trust. In your employer’s eyes, you are there to assist them. They come first and you must be willing to stomach the idea of always playing second fiddle. You are being paid to make their life more manageable, so before booking your vacation, birthday party, or a day to yourself, you must first see if it is conducive to your employer’s schedule. While your role is essential to your employee, you must be willing to check your ego at the door. They come first — always.
5. Be comfortable with taking the back seat.
In a country that pushes college readiness, the lack of “personal assistant” degrees can make people perceive you as uneducated. They see the wizard but not the small man pushing all the buttons back in Oz. You are the one who keeps the wizard on track and organizes his daily life so he can appear to be the superstar. If you desire praise or recognition for your hard work, this is not the job for you. You must be OK with acting as the second in command, while frequently being viewed as the help. In an oversaturated workforce, this job can give you the experience and networking you need to move into your dream job.
6. Decide your level of involvement.
Before interviewing, decide whether you are OK being “the help” or if you want to be an integral part of someone’s hectic day. If you work for someone as their “gopher,” then you will spend all day “going for this” and “going for that” with very little thanks. Find an employer who matches your personality so you can both enjoy the experience. You’ll find the job more rewarding if your employer sees you as someone they can’t live without, rather than simply an errand runner.
NEXT UP: When you’re ready, you can search online job sites like Care.com to find personal assistant jobs near you.