Whether you’re pre, during, post, or way post-college, landing yourself a Personal Assistance gig is quite impressive. The stories are true, being a PA to someone important is a great stepping stone to moving up yourself, or at the very least holding down a job while doing what you really want to be doing.
I, for example, was an evening Personal Assistant at a law firm for a few years, all through college. No I did not want to be a lawyer, but I did want to pay bills while in school. My PA job worked perfectly with my school schedule and it was pretty calm in the evenings so I could get some school work done (win, win!). All these things sound great, right? WRONG. While the hours worked and the bills got paid, being a PA was one of the worst jobs I ever had.
Why, do you ask?
First of all, to state the obvious, you have to agree to do whatever your boss wants from you (professionally of course, don’t get all strange on me). The problem with this rule is that you have to somehow make something ridiculously impossible happen, in the blink of an eye. Example – I had been asked to find an email of a very important client of ours, WHO REFUSED TO GIVE US CONTACT INFORMATION (meaning he would only contact us – super shady, I know but none of my business). Now when I told my boss we didn’t have his contact info, he refused to believe it and made me feel like a total fool.
Another example, telling me to do something, I do it, then a week later he asks why I did that. When I tell him he asked me to do that, he said he did no such thing and that I made that up. Sure dude, I made up your meeting with so and so, mmmkay. This would drive me insane, and it would happen at least once a week. Not my fault you can’t remember anything!
So, how do you survive?
- Remember why you decided to work there in the first place
I moved to town right before Fall semester of my Freshman year began. I needed a job that would work with my university schedule, and that was no easy task. I began interviewing to be a secretary/personal assistant in the evenings. I ended up finding a job through a local head hunting firm for the PA job in question.
To be fair, I was warned. Even during my job interview they told me he would be a tough boss and he requires a lot of attention. I just nodded my head and went with it; heck, I needed the cash! To cut to the chase, he was worse than they said. BUT, even when he drove me insane with his ridiculous behavior and abnormal requests, his petulant conduct and awkward moments of silence, I chose to remember why I decided to work there in the first place – because it works for me in every way except this one; and this reason wasn’t bad enough for me to call it a day.
- You like who you work with (that isn’t your boss)
I may not have liked my boss, or the work with him, but I LOVED my other co-workers. It’s true what they say, you stay for the people. I made lifelong friends from that office, friends who were there when the boss drove me bananas, birthdays, breakups, and office getaways. They got me drunk on office retreats and made fun of life with me, only to make me feel better about having to deal with the renowned boss (who got worst person in the office award).
Everyone knew who I worked for so they were on their best rhetorical behavior around me… that was until they knew that I didn’t like my boss and they could say whatever they wanted and I would just laugh along with them. Laughing about the situation always helped, took the edge off.
- The perks
Ah, the perks. When you work as a PA, it’s usually for a rather large establishment. Mine was one of the biggest in the country. Therefore, we got some nice perks. Examples? Yearly office vacations abroad, free drinks and food in the cafeteria, taxis from work if the hour go too late, and parties for the staff almost every other month.
These perks may not seem like much to some, but to me they meant a lot. When you work from 4PM until 10PM and sometimes later, not to have to take public transit is a godsend! The yearly retreats? Epic! We would all go for three days of sun, relaxation and bonding – yes, they actually worked. It didn’t make me forget the fact that I hated my job, but it definitely softened the blow.
- When you get angry at your boss, breath, and relax
So you know that moment, the one where you’re so mad you are almost in your fight-or-flight mode? Well I got that way once or twice throughout my time as a personal assistant, and when the time came to march into my boss’ office to tell him off, I would take a second to breath and remember why I suffer the way I do; then breathe again and relax.
This really did happen only a couple of times, over time I learned how to handle the boss and not let him get to me, but boy it was a close call there for a while.
- If at first you don’t succeed, quit
I did end up quitting, but not because of the boss. Here’s the best part, ready? Being a personal assistant isn’t forever. If you’re in school like me, you end up graduating and finding a job (hopefully) in your field; if you are doing the whole PA gig as a way to get ahead, you buy your time and work your little behind off until you get noticed by whoever in the office’s attention needs grabbing.
Lesson for survival: remember why you got into it in the first place. Be patient, be smart, think about you and your professional future; most importantly, visualize where you want to be and do whatever you have to do to get there.