HELPFUL ALUMNI: Heather Colcord, Personal Assistant

Welcome to the first installment of HELPFUL ALUMNI, our ongoing series profiling some of the wonderful candidates that The Help Company has placed over the years! We believe each of our successful candidates has unique insight into their particular job and valuable wisdom and stories to share. We hope you find the series helpful and interesting. 

THE HELP COMPANY:
So, how did you become a personal assistant?

HEATHER:
I started off working as an executive assistant at agencies and started doing a lot of personal things for bosses on the side as well – babysitting, finding realtors, finding new diets, shopping, driving them places, getting them food. Doing all these tasks, I realized I liked to be outside the office. I jumped across to the personal assistant world and started working with a celebrity client at William Morris. It was easy to make that lateral jump — my background had been checked because I had been working at an agency already. I was hired as a nanny but because I had so many duties at William Morris, my role expanded to more of an assistant. With her, with that situation, my salary was 6 x what I was making at William Morris. She made it worth it. I was on a career path to be an agent and I wanted to do that. It took that monetary motivation to really start a whole new career.

THC:
What do you enjoy about this line of work?

HEATHER:
I enjoy not being tied to a desk and not being tied to a phone all day. I enjoy meeting new, amazing people and traveling. You start to live the lifestyle of your employer — a lifestyle you could never afford. You dip into a world that everyone else is kind of born into and you just get invited into. You learn a lot. I cataloged wine and shopped in Italy. You learn so much that you wouldn’t normally need a knowledge for. It’s fun, but it’s 24/7 work.

THC:
What’s one of the wildest things that’s happened to you in this line of work?

HEATHER:
There’s one every day. In this job, you start at 6 a.m. because you’re on 24 hours. Wake up and stare straight at the computer. You may have a boss who sends you stream of consciousness messages throughout the night and then wake up to 100 emails from him or her. With a former boss, one particularly crazy time was traveling on tour buses across the country, from L.A. to Vermont, then Miami, then on a cruise ship for 2 weeks, then Miami to L.A. So you’re kind of like a rockstar in these multimillion dollar buses. I’ve had some more negative experiences with bosses who I’d never work for long-term. There was one situation where they asked me to feed a dog certain medicine but they didn’t tell me which dog was which and then they left. I would walk one of the dogs and they’d run off and attack another dog in a house. Another client made me go in a walk-in closet and organize everything by the colors of the rainbow, then once I did that I had to organize them by sleeve length, etc. I’ve been doing this 8 years now. You need to make your own priorities about what’s important to you in an employer, just as they need to set priorities about you.

THC:
Why do you think you’ve been successful in this job?

HEATHER:
I’m a workaholic. It’s not necessarily a good thing. When I first started working just out of college, I started out working 2 jobs because I couldn’t afford to work at a talent agency. So I’ve been used to waking up at 5:30 and working until 9 p.m. for a long time now. So I think being a workaholic and having high energy and having a tolerance for very extreme personality types have helped a lot. Being able to relate to both the corporate and the creative types — that helps me. Even if you’re working with a performer, their team is a bunch of business managers, lawyers and agents. You have to be part of them and be the liaison between them and their people. Those people don’t get the Type B creative lives. There has to be somebody who can do both and that usually is the personal assistant. You’re representing them and you’re fighting for them.

THC:
What advice would you give to others looking to do this type of work?

HEATHER:
I would say, do a lot of asking around to educate yourself about the world your boss lives in. Read all the food blogs so you know all the best restaurants. Read Yelp reviews before you use any kind of vendor. Don’t just pick any place out of the phone book to send your client to. Get personal referrals on every vendor you use and every place you go. Over-prepare your boss. Know the the ins and outs of your boss and their idiosyncrasies and their personality and what upsets them and what they like. Really know the city you’re working in. I wouldn’t recommend someone to just move to a new city and do this.

Be in it for the long haul, and be prepared to work a lot. Anytime you’re ready to leave they throw so much money at you. So get ready to stay! You’re getting paid what a senator makes. I was 25 years old and making $200,000 a year. I was living their life. I had the same personal trainer, got to travel where they went, stay where they stayed. It was hard for me to leave that. The trade off is working 7 days/week and being super flexible.

I’d recommend it for people 26-34 who are not attached.  You can’t do this when you have kids, not if you’re good at it, unless your employer hikes your salary to where you could get a full-time nanny. You need the energy to give your family eventually, because when you’re a personal assistant, your boss is your family — and even more than that. My bosses have all had no problem calling in the middle of a wedding where I’m a maid of honor or midnight where I’m hosting a bachelorette party. They have no problem keeping you on the phone. If you want to put any effort into your own family and your own life, this isn’t the right job for you.

, , , ,

Comments are closed.