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Disney Assistant BUSTED!

assistant arrestedFrom the assistant position, you’re privy to a lot of confidential information. Information that if you’re not careful with, could get you into a load of trouble.

Case in point: Disney assistant arrested for conspiring with her boyfriend to use her knowledge of Disney’s upcoming quarterly results to make a little extra coin.

Just a little insider trading… no one gets hurt, right?

Wrong.

Both her and her boyfriend are going to be arraigned shortly. Needless to say, they probably were a little freaked out when the FBI paid them a visit.

We’re going to expand on this topic in a future blog post that will detail all of the classified and confidential information you come across as an assistant but in the mean time, we wanted to point you to the above article as an example that even the little people can get bagged when they try to use such information for personal gain.

Now, if your boss is the one who wants you to look the other way when they are the ones who aren’t fully on the up-and-up, take our advice and have some “See ya!” money saved so you can blow the whistle and be the hero.

Flickr Creative Commons image by Crawford.l

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From Executive Assistant to CEO

Ursula Burns Xerox CEOThe New York Times has a great article about Ursula Burns, the new CEO for Xerox. She has held many different positions throughout her 30 years working for the company but what is particularly interesting to us here at ProAssisting is how Ursula was mentored in the executive assistant position by her two different bosses.

During downtime, they would talk with Ursula about her communication style and how she could round off some of her edges so she performed her job better. Here is a key section of the article:

He offered her a job as his executive assistant. It was January 1990, she was 31, and the offer felt like a dead-end. “Why would I ever want to do that?” she answered, assuming that the title meant secretary. The job was much more, of course. She would travel with Mr. Hicks, sit in on important meetings, help get things done.

She accepted, and, Mr. Hicks remembers, they talked a lot about leadership. Mr. Hicks, a vice president overseeing marketing and customer operations, explained the need to manage people in different ways, not to intimidate them, and to make them feel comfortable by listening carefully.

And then this too:

Later, the phone rang. Mr. Allaire [Xerox’s President] wanted to see her in his office. She figured that it was not good news. But Mr. Allaire wanted to poach her from Mr. Hicks, so she could be his executive assistant.

They, too, would talk about leadership during down time. He didn’t want to discourage her candor, but, like Mr. Hicks, he offered tips about how to be more effective—“like giving people credit for ideas that they didn’t have, but you sold to them, to give them ownership,” Mr. Allaire recalls advising her.

These working relationships are a perfect example of how much more the position of executive assistant can be and what that can lead to in the future. Finding the right boss who took the time—when there was time—to mentor her was key to Ms. Burns’ future success. You too can make the transition from executive or administrative assistant onto the career path of your choosing and when you think you can’t, just remember Ursula Burns and how she did it.

Photo credit: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

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Entertainment Biz 101

entertainment businessAs a way to “spread the word” about ProAssisting toward a target market that would benefit greatly from our training, I recently conducted a call with students and alumni from the University of Wisconsin where I gave a presentation to them about the business of entertainment.

Titled “Entertainment Biz 101”, the presentation is based on what I’ve learned while working in the entertainment and advertising industries here in New York City over the last 14 years. The truth of the matter is though that a lot of the tactics and strategies that I talk about on the call are the same ones that you should apply in any industry you’re interested in making your mark in.

We plan to hold more of these calls with other universities in the future and after a few more tweaks to this presentation, we’ll be presenting this information in ebook format as well as the recorded calls.

If you’re interested in hearing the call and how you can either use the information to break into the entertainment business or conquer your own chosen industry, I’ve linked to it below. Let us know in the comments what you think of it and if you have any questions, ask away and I’ll do my best to help answer them for you. Enjoy:

Here’s the link:
Click here to listen to or download the .mp3 interview

To listen now, just click the link.
To download the .mp3 to save and listen to later on your computer, iPod or other mp3 player:
For Mac users, hold “Ctrl” and click the link then select “save linked file to…” to save it to your desktop.
For PC users, “right click” the link and “save link as…”.

Flickr Creative Commons image by Echo_29

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So you wanna be a Virtual Assistant (VA)?

Sydni Craig-HartBeyond the e-learning modules, downloadable templates/checklists and resources that we provide to our enrollees, the other main component of our training is the member forum where they put us through our paces and ask us anything that comes up in either their job search or while working as assistants.

One common line of questioning surrounds that of being a Virtual Assistant or VA. What do they do? How do they get started? What do they charge?... and any number of other questions. Not being virtual assistants ourselves, we felt it best to seek out a top VA—in this case a VA coach and trainer—and get their take on how they made the transition to becoming a VA and what working as a VA is all about.

Thankfully Sydni Craig-Hart, founder of EAtoVA.com—a VA coaching service—, was more than willing to get on the phone with us and answer our questions. Now that our members have had a chance to listen to this interview, we’re pleased to offer it to you, our blog readers, to get a better understanding of what being a virtual assistant is all about. Enjoy!

Click here to listen to or download the .mp3 interview

To listen now, just click the link.
To download the .mp3 to save and listen to later on your computer, iPod or other mp3 player:
For Mac users, hold “Ctrl” and click the link then select “save linked file to…” to save it to your desktop.
For PC users, “right click” the link and “save link as…”.

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Your career and pizza - Part 2

pizza shopYesterday, in part 1 of this 2 part blog series, I described the philosophy behind and why we created ProAssisting.

You should read part 1 first before you read how pizza fits in with your career below. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

OK, now what in the world does pizza have to do with your career?

When I was about 12 years old, my father had already been in and out of a few different businesses (bar owner, real estate developer, real estate agent, bowling alley owner), a serial entrepreneur if you will, and over a couple slices of pizza one day he told me how, if I ever wanted to, I should go about opening a pizza shop.

Here’s what he said: “Ethan, if you ever want to open a pizza shop, this is how you should go about doing it.”

“How’s that Dad?” Believe it or not, at 12 years old I WAS very interested in business and as far as pizza was concerned, well, I believe to this day that it contains my four major food groups.

“First, you need to figure out where exactly you want to open this pizza shop. Which city or small town do you want to put some roots down and start a business”, he instructed. “Then, after you’ve figured out where you want to open your shop, put a dot on the map of that city or small town and draw a circle 50 miles wide with that dot at the center. Next, you need to identify every single place where you can get a piece of pizza in that circle. Now, are you ready to eat some pizza?” he asked.

“Every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” I replied.

“That’s my boy. OK, now you need to go and try every single piece of pizza in that circle on the map and figure out which piece is the best of the best. You with me?”

I nodded enthusiastically. With that much pizza involved, I’d be up for anything.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

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Your career and pizza - Part 1

pizzaSo I know you’re asking, “What the heck does pizza have to do with my career?”

It’s a very valid question.

First, let me throw something out there right off the bat: I love pizza… always have, always will. I actually think my love of pizza is buried deep down in my genetic code passed down from my father but we’ll save that for a completely different blog post.

Second, these posts (click here for part 2) are the cornerstones of what our company philosophy is all about for ProAssisting. I know that we’ve blogged about a lot of different tactics, resources and tools that you can use as an assistant to succeed but we’ve yet to really lay out the reason “why” we believe that assisting is a great first step on any career path.

And that’s where pizza comes in… but before we get to that, let me share our beliefs about the working world based on our experiences.

We at ProAssisting believe that:

1. Most high ranking executives in every field started out as an assistant in some form or another as the first step on their career path (unless their the boss’s son or daughter).

2. Once you’ve built the trust and proved yourself as an assistant to your boss and the organization, you can get yourself “promoted from within” onto the career path of your choice.

3. A recent college grad trying to break into their chosen industry as an assistant could cut down the learning curve, build trust quickly and easily prove themselves IF they had the proper assistant training.

These beliefs, along with what we feel is a lack of “real world”, cost effective and comprehensive assistant training is why we created ProAssisting.

I know that this doesn’t answer the whole “So what’s my career got to do with pizza?” question but the suspense will be broken with part 2 (which is up and you can find HERE) so keep an eye out. In the mean time, just looking at that picture makes me want to go grab a slice. You?

Flickr Creative Commons image by callme_crochet

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Anna Wintour’s daughter is NOT afraid of assisting!

Bree Shaffer and Anna WintourI know I said two weeks back that I wasn’t going to blog about assisting but rather about what we (Ethan, Sadie and I) are doing behind the scenes of ProAssisting however after coming across this story through my fashionista reading, I had to post about it!

Bree Shaffer, daughter of Anna Wintour (one of the hardest people to work for as an assistant—see Devil Wears Prada—), has decided to get her foot in the door in the entertainment industry not by riding in on her Mum’s coat tails—as most of us would given the opportunity—... No, she has decided to start at the bottom by working as an assistant for College Humor co-founder, Rick Van Veen!

Needless to say, I’m very impressed that Bree is taking such a step. Lord knows that she has seen first hand what assistants can be put through so putting that aside and jumping in with both feet gets my full respect. A source in the report is quoted as saying that Bree is “not afraid to do grunt work,” which will serve her well as an assistant and is advice that we give to all of our enrollees through our training.

Grunt work done well equals respect which will eventually equal a promotion… the trick is to stick it out and form a working relationship with your boss that demonstrates your commitment to them, their job and the company.

Good luck Bree, we’re pullin’ for ya!... and if you need any assistant training to learn the ropes and shine from day one, we’ve got your back.

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Friending your boss online?... BE CAREFUL!

Give a quick read of the image below from a post on Facebook of a woman complaining about her job and her boss:

image

As social networking online grows, you might forget just who you’ve “friended” or who you’ve allowed to “follow” you so you better be sure to either:

1. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to your boss/mother.

Or…

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Where have all the airline seats gone?

imageHas anyone else noticed the rash of disappearing airline seats lately?

I make a lot of travel arrangements for my boss and most of the time, she knows the airline schedules better than I do since she’s always up in the air… so to speak. But lately, when she says something along the lines of: “Get me on the 6:30 US Air from PITT to LGA.”, I can’t find the flight; it was always there before but now… it’s gone.

Flummoxed—I always wanted to use that word—by the disappearance, she has to take a later flight which lands at an airport farther from her home than LGA. I know that she believes me when I tell her that the flight is canceled but I still get a little frustrated at the airline for up and canceling a flight that we’ve come to depend on.

Then, yesterday, I came across an article in Yahoo titled: Airlines offer lightest fall schedules since 2001

It’s not that the airline is out to get us! As the article explains:

The U.S. airline industry is shrinking to a size not seen since the months after the 2001 terror attacks .

The airlines have been trimming flights for the past two years, matching the falling demand for air travel. Additional capacity cuts are under way at American, the nation’s second-largest carrier, and at No. 3 United.

It could get worse.

Great… “it could get worse”; that’s just what we needed to hear but at least now I have something to show the boss when she recites another flight from memory that’s been canceled. It’s not us, it’s the economy!

Flickr Creative Commons image by Olastuen

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Seraphic Society - a secret club just for assistants…

imageJennifer Reingold, a writer for Fortune Magazine, recently wrote an article about the Seraphic Society (.pdf); a secretive club of assistants to high profile CEO’s… and membership is by invitation only.

The article is an interesting read that gets to the heart of the working relationship between a high profile CEO and their assistant. Like the CEO, the CEO’s assistant position can be just as lonely since you’re privy to the confidential information and company “goings-on” well in advance of the other assistants and employees as a whole.

As the top assistant at our firm, I experience this first hand. Having this information and keeping it confidential is one of the most important aspects of the position.

The article also chronicles the Seraphic Society; how and where it started and where it stands today. Although this is a “members-only-by-invitation” club with strict membership requirements, you could find a similar support system locally or by joining ProAssisting with our member only forum.  The goal being to create enough connections where you know you can get the support, advice and answers to your questions from trusted sources in a timely fashion.

With the advent of social media, these types of interactions are going to be more commonplace and easier to maintain as technology further expands in our lives. Enjoy the article, it’s worth the read. Photo Credit: Aleera

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Breakin’ into Hollywood—Assistant Style

imageInstead of posting in our blog series, “What We Can’t Teach You” (WWCTY) today, there’s been a change of plans. Yesterday I came across a very interesting bit of information about what the newly combined William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency, William Morris being my former employer BTW, is paying their assistants so I just couldn’t wait to post about this… and rest assured, we’ll continue the WWCTY series next week.

Every year, college and graduate school grads make their way to Hollywood in search of the Holy Grail—a career in “the biz”.

MBAs, Law Degrees, wanna-be agents/managers/writers/directors & any other fast talking/ambitious person with some chutzpah and love of everything in lights are all part of the mix and competing with each other for the limited number of executive assistant and administrative assistant positions that dot the map known as Los Angeles and New York. As you can imagine, the competition is fierce and thus the pay for these positions can be next to nothing (as you’ll see shortly) as any number of people with just as good or better qualifications are standing behind you to take the job that you don’t know if you can afford to take.

Welcome to Hollywood.

Nikki Finke of Deadlinehollywooddaily.com is one of the most keyed-in reporter/bloggers to cover “the biz” and in her recent scoop, she gets the goods on how the newly combined William Morris Agency and Endeavor are setting the pay scale for their assistants. Here’s the break down from her scoop:

So here’s what begins August 1st:
Under 1 year - $11/hour
1 - 2 years - $12/hr
2 - 3 years $13/hr
Over 3 years - $14/hr
The pay increases $1/hr for every year over 3 that the assistant is employed.
Any raises from the end-of-year reviews have been taken off the table.
Official hours are from 9-7 PM and a 50-hour work week is expected.

Whatcha think?... could YOU live on that in either LA or NYC WITHOUT help from Mom, Dad or a trust fund?

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Summer In The City… and what NOT to wear @ work!

imageSummer in the city…the season for vacationing bosses, happy hours, and summer Fridays.  It is also the time of year when people tend to forget the office dress code and foray into questionable attire.

We’ve all been there. It’s 90 degrees and humid and you see that sundress calling your name from the closet.  You ask yourself, “Can I get away with this today… my boss isn’t even in.” If you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s office appropriate, it isn’t.

I watched an episode of Mad Men (love it!) recently to which I really related.  Joan (the redheaded office manager with the killer hourglass figure) had to confront Mr. Draper’s new secretary about her wardrobe. She marched over and in her most charming voice simply told her to cover up her “decolletage” because she had more to offer than that. 

I have been an office manager for four years and part of my role is supervising two receptionists.  I have been forced to have this same difficult conversation, but sadly couldn’t put it quite as succinctly as Joan. I had noticed the particular offender, whom is also a friend, wearing leggings one day. The next day she was in capris and flip flops. I wanted to scream, “This is an investment firm, not the beach!”

How could she wear that to work?

Instead, I pulled her into a conference room and reminded her how important her role is at our firm.  She is the first face the investors see and the last voice they hear as they walk out the door wondering if they should trust us with their money.  I told her it is time to step it up and act like the professional young woman that she really is—and the face of our firm.  It was a tough conversation, made all the more difficult by our close friendship.

But she got it. And since that conversation, she has really stood out as the star employee that she is in her new sheath dresses and pumps. She is Mad Men worthy, 2009 style.

For more advice on what works and what doesn’t work in the wardrobe department FOR work, check out Yahoo’s recent article on what not to wear.

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Happy 4th of July!... belatedly…

image

Howdy! Even though the 4th of July has come and gone, we still wanted to wish everyone a Happy 4th. I mean, it’s the day to commemorate the birth of our country, right? And given all of the changes that have been going on behind the scenes here at ProAssisting, the last couple of weeks have felt like a “birth” for us as well.

I’m not going to go into all of the gory details but suffice it to say that we’ve been workin’ our butts off (in all fairness, mostly our genius programmers MenWithPens were doing all of the heavy lifting) to transfer our site from one content management system to another that will present a much better experience to our members! And this, I’m pleased to say, is my first post on this new platform but please note that it’s going to take a wee bit of time to conquer the learning curve with this new system so if you notice anything “off”, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Lastly, I wanted to let you all know that we’re in the process of putting together our “beta members” for a two week test run before we open our doors to the public. We are very pleased that the “beta members” are being gathered by our friends over at AdminSecret. I’m sure this group of working Executive and Administration assistants will put our training and support forum to the test so we’re sure to be ready to go when our doors open. We’ll keep you posted on our progress and we hope you enjoyed your 4th of July holiday with friends and family. Photo credit: B. Yarowitz

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Bruce Willis as an intern…yes, intern.

Here’s a little humor for a Friday afternoon… Bruce Willis as a “Late Show with David Letterman” intern. I don’t usually stay up late enough to watch Dave so I want to give props to “save the assistants” (another great blog about the world of assisting) for the find.

 

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There’s a POTUS & FLOTUS but ROTUS?

rotusYou’ve probably heard of the abbreviations POTUS and FLOTUS (President of the United States and First Lady of the United States respectively) but have your heard of ROTUS?

ROTUS stands for Receptionist of the United States and currently, Darienne Page holds that position. That’s her on the phone to the right (photo credits: Doug Mills/NYT) and HERE’S a link to a profile of her via The New York Times.

Darienne is tasked with meeting any official visitor who comes in to have a meeting with the President or any senior staffer in the White House. She has had to chat “small talk” with the likes of everyone from Tiger Woods to Tony Blair all while making sure the waiting area for the West Wing runs smoothly. As a follow-up on our post about Reggie Love, the most powerful assistant in the world, I’m highlighting Darienne and her position for two specific reasons… and one of them is NOT her $36,000-a-year salary but rather in spite of it.

rotusobamaReason one: Even though the salary might not knock your socks off, having “The White House” on your resume will certainly knock your future employer’s socks off, not to mention a letter of recommendation from the President himself. The point is that assisting (and receptionists are a type of assistant) an organization that everyone knows of goes a long way… and when you combine that with the people you’ve met in that position, you become a very attractive candidate for a different company just by association.

Reason two: THE PERKS ARE HUGE! Darienne is tasked with giving out the President’s tickets to his box at the Kennedy Center. Did I mention Tiger Woods? AND she has placed herself at the nexus of history being made. I’d say those are very nice perks indeed… something to tell the grandkids.

So, if you’re young and don’t have any huge financial obligations, you might be given the opportunity to work for a very well known company or individual for not that much money and my advice is to take that position, run with it and shine.

UPDATE: Below is video of Darienne from NBC’s “Inside the Obama White House” documentary:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

 

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