What it Takes to Become a Personal Assistant to a High Net Worth Individual

Marta PerroneCelebrity Personal Assistant What it Takes to Become a Personal Assistant to a High Net Worth Individual

What it Takes to Become a Personal Assistant to a High Net Worth Individual

Being a Personal Assistant to a HNWI is quite rewarding financially. However, the position definitely has its challenges. The glamour and excitement is what draws most people into this position. Yet, being prepared in all aspects before diving in is crucial.  I had the pleasure to connect with Brian Daniel, founder of The Celebrity Personal Assistant Network – the industry’s most prestigious employment agency for celebrities, business moguls and icons of industry. Brian has an illustrious career in private service. I asked him to share some of his knowledge about being a Personal Assistant  to a HNWI.  Here are his thoughts:

What are the most important skills a Personal Assistant to a HNWI must have to be successful?
Because the roles in households can be so profoundly different from employer to employer. The most important skills to have are soft skills (ones that can’t be measured): patience, resilience and fortitude. Most of the time when assistants are working with celebrities and billionaires. It will often be “level 10” at breakneck speed, so having the “thick skin” is important to be able to survive the “combat conditions” you will often face.
What is the best approach to hiring a PA?  
The biggest mistake that most high-net-worth employers make is not having a robust job description. The VIP needs to do some “soul searching” and be honest about the hard and soft skills needed for the role. The next step is to get it all down on paper. Most employers in private service don’t have the first clue about how to interview candidates. So, not only are job descriptions usually inadequate, but because the HNWI doesn’t know what questions to ask, it’s a “double whammy” that leaves gaping holes in the household.
What kinds of information should a Job Description encompass?
It goes without saying that every possible duty and responsibility can’t be put into a job description. However, as many responsibilities as reasonably possible should be spelled out if they are going to be occurring regularly. In addition to hard and soft skills, benefits, and hours to be worked each week, a salary range should be listed. So many employers in private service lose candidates after weeks of interviews because they offer low-ball salaries at the last minute. If UHNW individuals and celebrities don’t put a salary range, then there is no way to
gauge whether or not the candidate is in the right ballpark.
Do you think that a PA needs to be industry specific or can have personal assistant background in any regard?
It certainly helps, but it’s not critical. So, for example, if the PA is going to be working for a financial guru on Wall Street, a BA degree in business or finance certainly helps. The closer the match, the easier it is to sell the candidate.
Can you recall an instance when a PA used their best judgment to diffuse a situation?
One of the biggest challenges of the job is dealing with “eccentric” personalities. Celebrities and billionaires live in bubbles and having enormous wealth and being surrounded by “yes men” all the time can warp one’s sense of reality. When your VIP employer asks you to do something that unrealistic, unreasonable or impossible, then you have to come up with alternatives — often on the spot. It’s especially difficult if your boss is prone to having a fit for not getting his way.
Having said that, I am aware of one situation where a prince from overseas was visiting a famous hotel in the USA. The prince got into a disagreement with a man in the lobby. That person the prince insulted happened to be the billionaire that owned the hotel, and the prince was told to leave the property immediately. The personal assistant had to work miracles and move mountains to diffuse the situation. In the end, the prince was allowed to stay.
In what instances do you find a bilingual PA beneficial?
I would say that every 1 in 10 high-net-worth employers asks for a bilingual assistant. It’s especially helpful to speak some Spanish because the housekeeping staff often does. High-net-worth employers in finance, especially ones that do a lot of business overseas, like candidates who speak 2 or 3 languages.
Are math or bookkeeping skills necessary when applying for a PA position?
Usually, yes. Especially for higher level positions that have estate management duties. Having those business skills are important or one won’t be able to move up to the higher positions.
Any advice you can give a person who is seeking a position as a personal assistant?
If you have no experience at all, then get some training. And, as usual, one has to take the lower positions at first to be able to work up to the higher positions. I also recommend reading several books written by celebrity assistants so that you can get a sense of what you will have to do.
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