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Does the Devil Really Wear Prada? The True Story Behind Being a Personal Assistant

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What does being a personal assistant really entail? How similar is it to the movie The Devil Wears Prada, which was based on Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel of the same name? Read on to learn the truth behind the rumors – is being a personal assistant really all that bad?

I am a personal assistant. Usually when I make that statement to someone, they immediately cringe and conjure up images of Meryl Streep from the movie ''The Devil Wears Prada'' I must admit that when I was first hired as a personal assistant a few years ago, the same images and thoughts crossed my mind, as well. Ever since Lauren Weisberger's bestselling novel based on her year-long experience as the personal assistant to American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour hit shelves in 2003, personal assistant jobs have become synonymous with bosses with impossibly high, unreasonable standards, office screaming matches, and degrading daily tasks. While some elements of the movie and book certainly ring true in my everyday life, I can assure you that my life is a whole lot more ''Ugly Betty'' than ''Devil Wears Prada.''

A Day in the Life of a Personal Assistant: What Does the Average Day Involve for Someone with a Personal Assistant Job?

A good friend and his girlfriend recently visited me from Switzerland, and the girlfriend immediately asked me what it was like to be a personal assistant. She explained that such jobs do not exist in Switzerland, or Europe as a whole, and she had never even heard the words ''personal assistant'' until watching ''The Devil Wears Prada.'' I found it incredibly difficult to summarize my job into a simple description for her to understand, as there is nothing simple about being a personal assistant.

Every single day involves vastly different tasks and assignments. Yesterday I picked up my boss' Aston Martin, got a smog check on it, and bought sheets on Rodeo Drive; today I am writing an article for one of my his job board websites and coordinating the sale of one of his buildings; and who knows what tomorrow might bring. All in a day's work, right?

On a daily basis, I also do all of the following:
  • calendar and schedule management
  • expense and financial management
  • set appointments
  • make phone calls
  • pick up my boss' lunch
  • make sure his office is supplied with necessary items
  • travel arrangements
  • greeting clients
  • opening and sorting mail
  • coordinating household repairs
  • basic office functions (photocopying, filing, etc.)
Would You Be a Good Personal Assistant? What Type of Personality Will Flourish in a Personal Assistant Job?

I am a Gemini, so the type of fluctuating work that is required by a personal assistant job greatly appeals to me. Gemini's by nature are easily bored by routine and consistency. I would never survive in a normal 9-5 type office job, sitting inside at a desk all day long. Being a personal assistant has allowed me to utilize my need for constant change and also my aptitude for agility. There are numerous skills and qualities that a good personal assistant should possess:
  • attention to detail,
  • ability to multitask,
  • outstanding listening and recollection skills,
  • computer savvy,
  • very good verbal and written skills,
  • ability to prioritize,
  • first-rate organization,
  • ability to adapt,
  • knack for working in a fast paced environment,
  • a can do, take charge, self-starter attitude,
  • flexibility,
  • exceptional follow-through
  • a working car with a clean driving record,
  • and, perhaps the most important, a sense of humor.
I am not going to lie and say that being a personal assistant is all fun and games. As in any job or career field, there are times of stress and some extremely hard days. But I can honestly say that I enjoy coming to work each day. I am excited by the prospect of a new and different challenge awaiting me each time I sit down at my desk. And I can honestly say that my boss is nothing like Meryl Streep. While I have no doubt that Lauren Weisberger's story is true and that there are plenty of Anna Wintours out there ready to bite the heads off of their assistants, I also think there are just as many ''Daniel Meade'' type bosses who respect and rely on their assistants.

It is true, bad bosses can be found anywhere, in any type of job and in any type of field. If you are seeking a personal assistant job, my one piece of steadfast advice is that you have to get along well with your boss. As a personal assistant, you are the boss' right hand man or woman, as the case may be, and if you do not get along on a personal level, things are just not going to work out. It‘s that simple. It is like any kind of relationship, some people you simply click with, and others you don't. Make sure you click with your boss.

In conclusion, being a personal assistant can be a fun, hugely fulfilling, challenging job and the experience of a lifetime. If you are seeking a personal assistant job as a lifetime career goal, or if you just want to try out being a personal assistant while you figure out what you want to do with your life, I can guarantee that being a personal assistant will teach you a great deal and will help you gain incomparable work and life experience that you will never find in any other job or career.
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