Please welcome our Mystery Blogger – jdubz – and feel free to comment on the blog!!
First I apologize to Shelley for being late on this. Reason being I had intentions to write on boundaries but in true form of what a “blog’ is I thought it be best to be “of the moment’ and write what is actually on my mind and going on in my life right now which is:
I’m looking for a job.
Here’s a bit of history on me. I’ve been a personal assistant for over 5 years and before that I’ve worked as a script coordinator and writers’ assistant and Executive Producers assistant in television. I feel ultimately we all work for someone. Everyone has a boss; therefore we are all “assistants.’ Even if you freelance and work alone you have to tend to your clients’ needs and demands. We all have to answer to someone.
The actual process of finding what’s available is difficult. Luckily being a member of ACPA (Association of Celebrity Personal Assistants) has the perk of a job board that will offer listings for members only. Still like most internet and job agencies you don’t really know who the listing is for and the anonymity or vagueness of what the position will entail can be frustrating. Basically it’s become very much like on-line dating. You have little information which you can’t be sure is accurate and very rarely do you have any actual contact information to follow through with and it’s hard to not hear a response of “thank you for submitting but we are looking for someone with a different skill set.’ Rejection is never enjoyable but to at least feel as though you didn’t take the time to write a cover letter and send a resume for naught makes the process easier. But it’s the 21st century get used to it. Sooner or later you’ll get a response at least to survive this process I keep telling myself that. I’ve literally have sent out hundreds of resumes (of which I have four versions of my resume and a template of over a dozen cover letters) with long spells of nothing then I will have week of ten interviews. Basically accept that there is no making sense of it.
So you finally get the phone calls requesting interviews start rolling in. You’ve got the validation that you are worthy. And here’s what separates the “professional’ personal assistant from the rest.
In interviews we know to look for the “red flags.”
This is huge.
Remember the term is “personal assistant.” Keyword: “personal.” Boundaries (which will be discussed in a later post) will be challenged. In the interview process you have to put the desperation of “my unemployment runs out in a week’ aside and focus on what the reality of the potential employer’s personal life and what YOUR situation will be. Remember you will probably be in someone’s home. You will see the good and bad. You will share their emotional highs but you will also bear the brunt of their emotional lows. Okay. I’m digressing into the boundaries’ arena which I promise I will talk about in another post.
So I think the best way to illustrate this is by sharing an interview experience that happened of late.
I responded to a job post via the internet and shockingly got a phone call within an hour. The potential employer who I will refer to as “Mrs. X” said she liked my resume and thought my experience was a good match.
Almost immediately she told me the hours and location. She then told me the salary range with the caveat that if it wasn’t enough to tell her now and she would end the call. Though honestly I would require a bit more I thought if the situation was good had vacation time medical and 401K benefits (yes we SHOULD have these options) the salary range was low but within my means and I wanted to know more before saying this is what I will need.
I told Mrs. X that her salary range was workable but that I wanted to know more about the position. She was pretty clear what the duties would be and the hours. She then said that if I ever needed a to take time off for a doctors’ appointment or dentist or I was going to be late that she would need to be told in advance and not have me just “not show up.’ I told her I would never “just not show up’ and made a mental note of what kind of people has she must have had working for her that wouldn’t call to say “I’m not coming in today.’ A small red flag but still it’s a red flag.
Then Mrs. X asks me if I’m single or married though this was none of her business I do understand if an employer is feeling that you are being hired to take care of them and their family and you have a family they may think you can’t really take care of someone else’s. I let it slide and say “no I’m single gay with two cats.’ Some would say my personal life is not their business but my attitude is if you have a problem with “a gay” better you show me your huge closed-minded red flag now so we can both move on. Mrs. X said she was fine with that but her concern was that she has two small children who are at an impressionable age and wouldn’t feel comfortable with having someone “a gay” putting their views on her kids. At this moment I should have told her “thank you for responding to my resumebut I will pass.’ But honestly I admit it was very VERY difficult to set aside the “I really don’t want to be dipping into my savings to pay my mortgage’ aside. Instead I told her I have no agenda and I strongly feel that anyone straight or gay male or female should not be putting across an agenda to a child. She then asked if I could come in and meet her. I agreed as interviews even if you really don’t want the job can give you valuable experience. We agreed on a time for later that day. Five minutes later she called back and asked how spontaneous I was and if I could come in within the hour because her husband (the celebrity) was going out of town and wanted to meet me as well.
I told her I could be there before he left.
I get to the estate and ring the buzzer at the gate and am told to park my car on the street and come back and ring again. I do this and then told once the gate opens to go to a specific side door. Gate opens and I head to the door. I knock (as there is no bell) and stand there for a couple minutes and because it’s a glass door I see no sign of life and no one comes. I take a quick look around to make sure there is not another door I should be at but conclude that this is the door. I go back knock again and after a couple minutes pass Mrs. X come to the door. She apologizes for making me wait. She leads me to a table and honestly before we even sit down she asks me if my health is okay because I look and she motions with her hands “thin.” I say I’m perfectly healthy. She counters with “you don’t have HIV or AIDS” and though I want to counter with “wow I could own your house right now” I respond that I’m perfectly healthy and my weight goes up and down and I have three sets of wardrobe to prove it. I am amazed at her directness in some ways refreshed by it but I do look at this as a major red flag because if this is how she is in the first minute of meeting I can and SHOULD imagine what is in store.
I figure I’m there might as well go for the rest of the ride. She explains what she needs and that she wants someone to come in and just do what’s told. Not ask questions and she isn’t interested in their personal life at all. Which obviously contradicted what she has asked me earlier and I note the red flag. I meet the husband the celebrity who’s incredibly nice and asks a few questions of the appropriate nature that actually apply to the job but I really see that the job is going to be working for and with Mrs. X. He leaves and Mrs. X brings me down to the office I would be working from and tells me how a temp once asked if it would be alright to go up to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. She then states with an incredulous tone “that’s why I’ve put a small fridge coffee maker and microwave down here.’ Not inappropriate but her tone implied that it was going to be a situation of “I want you to be present but I don’t want to see you.’
I let the rest of the interview continue. At the conclusion she gave me her private number and email. I interpreted this a sign I passed her “test’ but as far as I was concerned I saw and paid attention to all the red flags and knew I would not accept an offer to work for her.
So what this all boils down to is when meeting a potential employer you are interviewing them as well as they interviewing you. It may be the last time you are on an “even playing field’ with them should you accept a job. If you are getting any feelings of “hmmm that doesn’t sit right’ listen to it. If your experience of being a professional personal assistant and your instinct is telling you to run then RUN. If you see the red flags and chose to ignore them they will only haunt you later.
I want to be clear that a red flag is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s your subconscious telling you to pay attention. Knowledge is power if you see a red flag and know you can eliminate it power to you. But know chances are it isn’t going to go away or it will resurface in another form. The best way to handle a seeing a red flag is either to bring it up to the employer or get the hell out of there.
Red flags I specifically stay aware of in the interview process:
- No presence of reality.
- They never had an assistant before.
- When a spouse or boy/girlfriend who is also interviewing you or being spoken about…a lot.
- Asking me to be available to said spouse or boy/girlfriend if they should need something.
- Hearing contradictions to what they say they want to what they say they don’t want.
- When they jokingly say they can be a tyrant and have anger issues it’s probably not a joke.