The first question I am asked when I tell people I work as an assistant in the beauty industry is “Wait, is your job like Devil Wears Prada?” And as always I smile, shake my head and assure my friends/family/strangers in small talk, that no, my job is not like the movie. Especially since this industry is very similar to the fashion industry, it makes sense why some people would think that. It also seems that there is an increasing amount of attention paid to assistants as of late. Recently in Marie Claire magazine there was an article about the lives of celebrities personal assistants. And I also heard that a television show may be popping up in the future about the lives of billionaires & CEOS through the eyes of their assistants. All of this got me thinking about the different things I have learned as an assistant over the last 5 months and what nuggets of wisdom I could pass on. So with the help of one of my favorite movies I thought I would lay out my 5 lessons!
- Anticipate needs – One of the most important things I have learned as an assistant is to plan ahead and anticipate the next question. I never go into my manager’s office and say “Hey, this person cannot meet at 2pm,” instead I say “2pm doesn’t work, but he is available later this week and I have already provided several different time options that work in your schedule…” Similar to Andy Saks and the Harry Potter manuscripts, you have to plan ahead. Don’t just walk into your manager’s office and say “So they cancelled” or “Oops, sorry no one has the unpublished manuscript” you must have a follow up or have other options at the ready.
- Timing is key – On especially busy days I have to be strategic about when I take my lunch or leave my desk to grab a cup of coffee. If I know that an outside vendor is coming to meet with my manager, I make sure that I am at my desk from the half hour before up until the meeting starts. There have been countless times when things changed at the last minute. Or I needed to run upstairs to grab the visitors since security sent them to the wrong floor. As an assistant it is my job to ensure that things run smoothly. In order to achieve that I make sure that when I head over to the Finance department to review the budget or take my lunch, it is at quieter times during the day. This not only lessens the strain on my office, but allows me to actually enjoy my lunch break!
- Learn the hierarchy/org chart ASAP – It is crucial as an assistant to know the who’s who of the company. It takes time, but initially you should know the highest person on the chart as well as your manager’s direct superiors. After you have been an assistant for a few weeks you will catch on to what meetings are the highest priority and which ones can be rescheduled or missed. In the mean time make it a priority to learn who’s calls always go through, or who’s meetings must be accepted as soon as they come through. It takes time, but this is one of the most important lessons!
- You catch more bees with honeys – It is a cliché for a reason. Over the last few months I have been on the phone with countless customer service representatives. It is always better to be friendly and calm when speaking with these companies. In my experience they are so appreciative of your kindness that they sometimes give you an even better deal in return for your patience. Even if you have been on hold for an hour, take a deep breath and remember to be friendly!
- Respect other assistants, they are your allies – No one understands the craziness of trying to schedule a meeting with all the VPs and SVPs in two days (basically impossible!) better then other assistants. Always be courteous with other assistants and if you can, make friends with them! You both are trying to achieve the same things, so make allies, not enemies!
In the past 5 months have learned so much already, and every day is truly different. Starting out as an assistant has exposed me to multiple departments and allowed me to learn the inner workings of the company. I am incredibly fortunate to work for a manager that allows me to partake in things that are outside the typical assistant job description. I am so happy in my current role and cannot wait to see what the future holds!
And yes… I do love my job!