Thursday, October 22, 2009

PA Meets Career and Life Planning Course...

College Student Mary Hill recently asked to interview me for her "Career and Life Planning Course." Not sure it was helpful to HER, but I had fun....(There is no way you can PLAN for this sort of thing....)

About the Career Field
How did you get into this career? Or, How did you go from 'Putting together shelves' to running Bossman's life 17 years later?

I started by doing the book shelves then there were other things to do, so I thought I would stay on until they were done. Not yet!

What do you do at work on a typical day?

No typical days. Whatever needs to be done. Could be and generally is anything. Might be cooking, shopping, errands, posting, e-mail, setting up interviews, making sure he gets to where he is meant to be , pet things, scheduling appts, travel, events, making tea, tending bees. There is no end to it.

What do you do at work during a typical 'Boss is in another state/country for a few days/week/s? (I really like 'A Day In The Life of a Personal Assistant')

I made up the Tasmanian Devil, the rest is true. I do mostly the same work when he is gone, tho not as much hands on for him, no tea making. I make sure the house runs smoothly, everything gets done, I work a lot more online.

What are your responsibilities?

Taking care of as much as possible for him so that he can write.

What advice do you have for someone preparing for a career in this field?

Check your ego. You are not the talent. If you need to hear 24/7 how great you are, wrong field. They know. And appreciate it. Likewise, if you are a 9-5 mon to fri kind of person, this is not for you. It's 24/7. Things are going to go wrong. And right. Roll with it.

What majors and/or minors do you recommend for someone interested in this field?

No clue. Not sure anything could prepare you for it. You have to learn, every day, as you go. You have to learn the person you work for, what they want, need, are like. Listen, learn and move fast.

What courses and/or advanced degree(s) would be helpful for me?

Quite seriously, a notebook and pen are your best friends. Write everything down. I never finished high school, and had only a brief stay in college. Don't use a bit of either.

What experience is necessary to enter this field?

None. You need to learn and not talk about the things you hear. PA who are indiscreet are out of jobs quickly. And dedication, I think. Total and complete.

What activities do you enjoy doing the most?

Music, horse riding, Bengals, (yes, that IS an activity) beekeeping. Are we dating yet?

What are 3 things that you enjoy most about working for Mr. G?

Making things work right, talking to people, and the challenge daily.

What is the greatest challenge of this job?

You will always need to learn something new. And you will learn you need to have learned this about a day after you needed it.

What are the 3 most challenging aspects of working for Mr. Gaiman?

Making REALLY good tea consistently. (yes, that is my three)

What do you like least about your job?

Saying no to people. I have to do it more and more, and it is very hard to do, or rather, it's not hard to do, I do it, but I hate disappointing people. That bit is hard.

About the Organization/Industry
What is unique to your industry, organization, or office?

There is only one Neil Gaiman

What do you like most/least about the work you do?

It's like tossing a LOT of balls in the air, watching them whirl around, and then catching them perfectly as they come down and lobbing them off somewhere else..

What is your work environment like?

Pretty amazingly cool, I must say.

What skills are required for your job?

Don't worry about them, you will acquire them as you go. Keep it together, know what is coming, and don't worry when you don't and it hits you.

What skills are the most important for you to learn to be successful in this career?

Deal with whatever. Fast.

How do you feel your experience working with Mr. G might compare to other personal assistants?

Well, I know a lot of PA's. And being a closemouthed secretive sort, not a lot I can tell you. We KNOW.

I recall there was a reality show a while back "Be Puff Daddy's PA" or something? I can tell you his real PA's were not on camera, they were in the back ground saying "Right 10Am, Mr Puff, shoot till 3, I have your plane tickets, here is your car info, lunch is at noon, I've packed your clothes, they shoot B roll at 4 and here are you meetings" and they were wearing leggings and tee shirts, and probably had not combed their hair.

Are there other organizations in this field that I might explore for opportunities?

No. I mean, well, there might be. I have enough trouble keeping my own bit organized, not sure about anything else.

What is the economic forecast for Personal Assistant-ing?

Uh, my job seems secure. And I would say, while there is talent, they are going to need us.

About Future Growth/Salary Information
What are the employment prospects for someone entering this field?

Well, if you mean MY field, as in my job, you can't have it.

What is the growth and promotional potential for personal assistants?

I would say as a PA if you do not grow and promote, you are fired.

Currently, how secure are positions as personal assistants?

As secure as your last success and as insecure as your next failure.

What areas are growing/changing in this field?

Again, I only know MY field, as in my job. Grows and changes daily. I love it.

What is a typical starting salary for a personal assistant?

My first job (not Neil) I worked for peanuts. Literally. He would reach in a bag, grab some...

According to, the typical yearly salary for a personal assistant in the Bay Area is around $43,000. Does that seem accurate to you?

There IS no typical. You start with someone, and grow with them, or you get hired by someone and work it out between the two of you.

Follow-Up Questions
Is there anyone that you think I should speak with about my career exploration, and if so, can I use your name?

You can use my name all you like, but I have NO idea who you could talk to. Find someone who needs an Assistant, and start Assassinating.

May I contact you again if I have further questions? (Not expecting a super-fast response, you're a busy assistant, and I respect that.)

Sure, this is lovely fun, after a long day. I think it has done more for ME tho, than it is going to do for you, in terms of help.

Which professional publications/organizations and other resources do you consider relevant?

Get really really good at booking airfares.

If I wanted to start in this career area, how would you recommend that I go about it?

Find someone who needs help. Then help them. Do whatever you can, then do more. You told me a bit about what you are doing, that's it EXACTLY. Listen, learn, and move fast.

What advice would you give to me in regard to my career direction? Or, if you had a chance to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would do nothing differently. I love my job and don't ever want to do anything else. If you do this, make sure you feel the same.

Love and Assistanting,


At 18:37 Blogger One Sock Short said...

Most entertaining! And confirms my opinion that I so could not do what you do. Apart from the sorting books out part. That I can do. The rest? Not so much.

At 18:37 Blogger Dragonsally said...

"I would do nothing differently. I love my job and don't ever want to do anything else. If you do this, make sure you feel the same."
The best career advice you can ever give!

At 18:43 Blogger DataGoddess said...

All of that proves how you earned being Fabulous Lorraine. I'm amazed you can take care of as much for Boss as you do and *still* have time and energy for music, bengaling, and, well, ANYTHING else.

At 18:50 Blogger One Sock Short said...

One thing very similar about our jobs - always needing to learn something and frequently needing to learn it yesterday. It's the thing that I love the most about my job. And the thing that stresses me out the most.

At 18:58 Blogger Jane said...

Sounds like you had fun at the interview :-)

And it confirms for us and for you, how much you love your work and that you are great at it!

At 19:24 Blogger Siri said...

What they said - I know I have the skills to do what you do - I type, I phone, I organize. I don't, however, in any way shape or form, have the personality to do what you do. Nor the smarts, which are what you've picked up along the way in your life. You are unique.

Emily, I agree with the last caller (I can't remember who said it) that was enough tease - where are the details?

Job front news - 1,265 positions lost -- 516 currently empty, leaving 749 people losing their jobs by the end of this calendar year, if nothing good happens. On the upside, only 2 in the bureau I work for are getting laid off - have no idea yet who they are, but know it's not me. On the downside, we are cancelling the contract with our call center, putting 50 or so people out of work, who aren't state employees. Sacrificed them to save our staff.

Can you say surviver's guilt?

At 19:44 Blogger Dan Guy said...

Fun read! The world is run by PAs. (And bengals.)

At 19:47 Blogger Siri said...

It was Sock, that's who, who asked about Emily's teaser....

I do give credit when credit is due.

At 20:11 Blogger Chantrelle said...

I like the idea of doing what you do but i'm horribly disorganized and have a family. Those 2 things put together a good assistant does not make! I just love the stories. I could keep the secrets...that's about it.

BTW, did I mention here that I saw Amacker on Friday (i think there are 2 people here for whom that is at all interesting)!? That lady is crazy and knows everybody!! I love her. She rocks. Need to hook up w/ her more often than Boss-gigs and random punk rock shows.

At 20:16 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

It was a fun doing it. She was a sweet girl, I think she may be looking at the job thru somewhat rosey glasses, but she is young yet.

It's hard. Some days you have to do really really hard things. Kind of did today.

Chantrelle, I know Amacker well, tho I think you do her an injustice calling her "Crazy"

Not crazy. Full blown bat shit crazy. Give her full credit, hee-hee. I love her, but yup, she's a wild one. Smart too.

No fire tonight. Turned on the heat.

At 20:28 Blogger Ticia said...

Quick tick. Back later. *smooches*

At 20:35 Blogger Dragonsally said...

Emily has recounted her Great Adventure on the previous post - sounds like the perfect Halloween adventure!

At 20:59 Blogger EmilyLady said...

This is amazing. I know it is not something I would want to do. But you are amazing, Lorraine. The things you do. It's just. The Begals, music, assistanting (I mean, Assistanting), the Fiends. It's like. Wow. And also, the line "Deal with whatver. Fast." I cracked a smile.

At 21:15 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I should give a little more credit to the man who types up my stories for looking after me. Still...he doesn't hold a candle to you. Not even a wick.

At 21:17 Blogger Dragonsally said...

BB, I think "he doesn't hold a wick to you" will become my new favorite line!

At 21:25 Blogger Chantrelle said...

Yes, you're right Q, she's absolutely bat shit insane. Love her for it.
I first met her the same day I met Boss at TechTV. Then when she almost decapitated herself on her bike I realized she knew my cousin in the art car world. Then really talked w/ her at the Graveyard book reading where she showed mistressmousey and I pics on her iPhone of her frankenstein parts in her neck holding her head on...she had an xray on her phone. She's got a new bike, identical to the one she wiped out on but red (she's going to paint it). Yes, bat shit.

It is a small world though.

At 21:25 Anonymous kali_licious said...

Whoa..I go away for a day and come back to saved Bengals (Yay!) and Exploding Fireplaces (!) and Scary Eyeballs (I dearly hope the eyeball problem was not caused by the fireplace!).

And I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, Erin. One of my school friends just passed recently because she got H1N1 on top of pneumonia. My thoughts are with you and yours.

At 21:33 Blogger Kate said...

You are another one of those who doesn't have a job, you have a lifestyle. I think that's what's so hard for people who do have just jobs to understand, it's not something you do, it's something you are, you can't really quantify it.

I've read your other PA blogs, but this one really expresses to me that you *are* an assistant, your nature is to help things and people and that's why you're so good at what you do. Which is why I could never consider doing it and why you're so awesome.

At 21:46 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Gosh Fiends, I am just ME. But thanks it's good to hear, truly.

It's my job. I love it, but I'm sure not sharing every little thing about it. It ain't an easy one. Worth it? Hell yes, but I work for every bit of it.

At 21:48 Blogger Phiala said...


I need an assistant, but could never be one.

And my favorite bit: "Find someone who needs an Assistant, and start Assassinating." I really don't think you should recommend killing off PAs who have coveted jobs, as I'm sure you're very, very high on that list!

At 22:01 Blogger Uisge said...

Just wanted to share - My hair is now MAGENTA! Love it.

At 22:04 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Oh no, Mistress, they do not want my job! It's all in how you write about it, really..

Magenta is cool! I am all for hair in cool colours you know...

And on the eyeball thing, it was a routine eye exam, not a Problem, they just, apparently, take pics now, my eyes are all good.

At 22:41 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Ok, weather for tomorrow: Ice Pellets chance 100% snow, sleet, rain, accumulation of up to one inch.

Go us.

Hey, I had a pretty hard day, where is everyone? I really need some chatter tonight.. tell me some things...

At 22:56 Blogger Jess said...

Fun! :)

We all have a rosy view of our dream jobs when we're young, I think. I once thought I was going to be a TV writer. My dream job back then: staff writer for SNL. I learned very quickly that you don't start there if you want to work in television. If you're very lucky, you start in the tape room of a tiny production house in Columbus, dubbing raw foootage from 3:00 am till noon. If you're very, very lucky, someone may take a shine to you long enough to let you write a car commercial which never airs.

You bet I screwed up that interview on purpose.

So Eyeball is fine! Good news. I got a little worried when you said it looked like Jupiter.

At 22:59 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Hey Jess, good call!

No, ones eye is MEANT to look kind of like Jupiter. I think. Anyway, my eyes are good.

Also good for brain tumours, high blood pressure and diabetes , all of which they can also see from your eye picture, apparently..

At 23:24 Blogger Jess said...

It all turned out for the best. I don't make any money at the moment, but I'm happy doing what I'm doing-- whereas I knew that job would have me in nonstop tears within a week. That's no way to begin any career.

But sometimes I miss the dreaming-about-a-dream-job bit, and writing sketch comedy.

(Fun Fact: There's footage out there somewhere-- and I hope to the baby Jesus that they burn the tapes if they haven't already-- of a no-budget sketch comedy show I worked on in college with some other guys in the video production program. Which is to say, me acting, very badly, in sketches what I wrote. Oh god. We may have occasionally been funny; I can't remember. But Monty Python we absolutely weren't. We thought we were, but no.)

Now I'm scared to go get my eyes checked. What if they find brain tumors?!

This is a bad attitude to cultivate, I realise.

At 23:40 Blogger Ms T said...

Well, I've been a little quiet of late because I sloped off to Oz, er I mean Australia, for a few days. (Suddenly realised that I may have made that sound even more exciting than it was.) Liked it so much that I am plotting and scheming my way toward another visit.

Glad to hear the magic eyeball shows that all signs are good. Or something. Sigh. Might be time for me to wander of home.

At 23:46 Blogger Ms T said...

Oh..rude word. That should have been wander off home. Right, definitely time to go then.

Take care fiends.

At 03:15 Blogger Marjorie said...

Fun interview! (especially the ssassinating part.) And I so want an assistant of my very own.

Q, did I ever tell you, when I was talking to Pat Rothfuss he said the only thing he envied Boss for was having you? I told him we were planning on cloning you and he said to put his name down on the waiting list for a FabLo clone..

At 05:01 Blogger Erin Underwood said...

I loved reading the article. That was great. She does seem like a nice girl. I hope she gets the career she wants.

At 07:02 Blogger louisa said...

Morning/afternoon, what a fun post to dive back in here on. I also like the Assassinating - perhaps that's the part of the job you can say *nothing* about! I once saw a huge biker with a t-shirt that read "Three can keep a secret if two are dead".

Haven't been about much recently as the shop got BUSY! Not complaining but it left little room for much of anything else. It was obviously on my mind that I was missing here as in my dream last night there was a HUGE Fiend Gathering in Empress Q's enormous converted church (there was a whole floor dedicated to music and movies). Also, the Irish team were playing a football match so there were hoardes of Ireland supporters also going into the church too, a curious combination with the Fiends.

At 08:47 Blogger Jess said...

Breaking news: Melbourne newsreader attacked by giant gull during live television broadcast! Oh, the humanity.

Sally, is Melbourne still standing? Are you okay?

At 09:08 Blogger One Sock Short said...

Sorry not to contribute to the night chatter. I was, thankfully, asleep.

I don't even want to think about what my dream jobs were before college. Very silly. Though I did go into library school thinking my dream job would be doing research for writers. Especially Chelsea Quinn Yarbro ;-) Then I got drawn into cataloging instead of reference. Most of us can't even guess at that age what we'll end up doing. I've only met one person who's doing what she went into college thinking she would do.

At 09:26 Blogger anna j said...

I hope she gets the career she wants.
Indeed, Erin, and I hope so, too. I think that for most people there's no way we can possibly know whether what we think you want to do is what we actually want to do until we do it... or get distracted from it by something that truly draws us in.

Lorraine, I love that you love your job and don't ever want to do anything else :)

I still don't know what I want to do/be. I think I may just want to be alive and live. Experience what comes my way. When I was young, I decided I was on this world to experience things as though I had to report back to someone. A bit pretentious, that. Lol.

At 10:02 Blogger EmilyLady said...

See, Anna, this is why I'm waiting on college!

At 10:02 Blogger EmilyLady said...

I mean there are some sevenish things I want to study. Badly. All of them.

At 10:04 Blogger One Sock Short said...

You, Emily, would make a great librarian! It's a good fit for those who would be permanent students if they could.

At 10:45 Blogger Marjorie said...

I just saw your Tweet about Hermione, Q. I do hope she went quietly in her sleep, and that you (and Maddy) are Ok.

Perhaps the Bengals engineered your explody fireplace as a tribute to her, kind of like a 21 gun salute?

At 10:47 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

I am very saddened to announce that Hermoinie, the 2nd of the two mad sisters in Boss's library passed away yesterday.

She had been going downhill for the past week, and after long talks with her vet yesterday, I decided the kindest thing would be to let her have a peaceful end, and not prolong her suffering.

Our vet came to the house, and she was able to go in her own place, with me holding her head and telling her she was loved.

She was 17, and missed her friend Pod badly. It's always hard when we have to make that call for our kitty friends, but it is the best thing we can do for them when it is time.
There would have been no chance for her to recover to a point where she would have been well for anything more than a few weeks, and I felt dying peacefully at home was the right call.

We will miss her.

Hard call tho, never had to do that before. The kind of job that sure isn't covered in the job description.

At 10:48 Blogger Phiala said...

Very sad indeed. The library will never be the same.

It's good that the vet would come there. It's very hard to take them to a strange place for their last few minutes.

As you said, assistants must do anything and everything.

At 10:50 Blogger One Sock Short said...

I'm so glad she was able to stay home and have you with her to the last. Hard for you, though. More (((hugs))).

At 10:51 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

RIP Hermoinie...New post..

At 10:53 Blogger Jess said...

Oh no-- not Hermione! :( So sorry. Poor puss. But she lived a good cat life.

Just found out that our library director is leaving. Am sad. She's terrific and I'll miss her.

Also vaguely nervous about teaching future workshops. Is there such as thing as volunteer job insecurity? :/

At 11:29 Blogger EmilyLady said...

Well Quiche, I am awfully sorry; and Jess, I'm also sorry to you for losing the library director.

At 18:57 Blogger Dragonsally said...

Still here Jess. What's remarkable about the whole giant seagull saga is that Peter was able to keep a somber face (it was a really serious story he was reading at that point) despite the fact that he could see what was happening on a big screen at that back of the studio and the crews hysterics.

At 00:30 Blogger spacedlaw said...

Start assassinating?

At 00:50 Blogger fairbetty said...

My fave line: What is unique to your industry, organization, or office?

"There is only one Neil Gaiman"

Damn straight!

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home