Fueling Passion In Your Career

The Road to Becoming a Celebrity Assistant

Passion is an element we all look for in our careers. Don’t we all want to be excited to go to work? Satisfaction in our work-life is something we all deserve and are all capable of having. There are so many components of the EA career to feel passionate about. Patrick Healy, President of New York Celebrity Assistants, shares his path to passion. Through Patrick’s experiences, we learn how we can find a high-level of satisfaction in our careers too.

The Road from Music Education

I didn’t ever aspire to be an assistant, heck, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that it was a career option. Growing up in the 80s, all I remember were secretaries like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. I initially wanted to be a choir director. I went to Louisiana State University to be an educator, and an actor, singer, and dancer — ultimately the goal was to be a music educator. Toward the end of my college career, I began to lose interest in music education, but kept a minor in public relations. My dad recommended that I take some business classes and I’m glad he did (and that I listened). Early on, I took PR classes because I knew I would eventually need to market and sell myself as a performer. Also, taking a Music Business course has proved invaluable: the main focus of the class was in negotiating and reading the fine print in contracts and basic contract law.

After completing my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Chicago for graduate school and got a job in group sales for Broadway in Chicago. I learned what sales and marketing was all about and how to effectively sell a product I was passionate about. Soon, though, I realized that my heart was destined for New York City (and the career I so desired), so I packed up everything and drove across the country.

Hello Big Apple

After getting to New York, I landed a performing gig and left on tour, and returned for a short 3 months between shows. I emailed everyone I knew letting them know I would be in NYC for three months. A friend reached back out to let me know he had a friend in New York who works for a celebrity and needed help. I interviewed for the Second Assistant position and got the job, working under the first assistant of actress Anna Deveare Smith. My duties included walking the dog, organizing her CD collection, etc., but most importantly, I had the opportunity to work by her side on a show she was producing. Being backstage was totally natural for me, and I did the job well.

As planned, after three months, I left this position to leave on another tour. Shortly after embarking, I received a call from Anna. She firmly stated, “The day you come back to New York, you’re coming back to work for me.” I’ll never forget that call. Sure enough, after that tour, I found myself back at Smith’s side.

Now I took on more responsibilities. I traveled with Anna throughout the United States and eventually ended up in Texas where she performed her show, Let Me Down Easy, which eventually made it Off-Broadway. It was a fantastic experience, and I realized what it took be an assistant and what it truly meant to be a good assistant.

Becoming a Celebrity Assistant

Working as an assistant isn’t something most people plan on doing for their career. And I’m often asked how I became a celebrity assistant. The truth is, most of us fall into the role through other jobs. However, it does take years of learning leadership, interpersonal, and office skills to truly excel in this career. And, let’s be honest, we have to be a jack of all trades. We have to be IT, HR, a travel agent, a master scheduler, be able to hold a lot of things in our brains, anticipate needs from our principal, be meticulous in our communication and flexible in our actions.

When looking back on my life I realized I have been training to be an assistant my whole life. Without consciously doing it, I was constantly honing those skills. I also noticed that I have a passion for always trying new things. I’ve held jobs in sales, marketing, waiting tables, stage management, company management, acting, IT, secretarial work, mail room work, copy room work, personal assisting for actors and finance professionals, and executive assisting in finance and real estate. It might sound all over the place, but I use skills I learned at all of those jobs every single day. Think back on your life – haven’t you been doing the same thing?

I often get asked, what is the biggest difference between executive and personal celebrity assistant roles? For me, the jobs are very similar but what I often answer is its learning personal boundaries. Especially when you are working in someone’s home, you really have to start to understand boundaries on a different level. For instance, I have a rule never to enter my employer’s bedroom unless invited or given express permission to do so. That same quality can be understood in a business setting as well – you would never just barge into their office – you’d knock or poke your head in and ask if they have a minute to speak to you. It’s recognizing personal space, and not infringing on it.

I always say that what separates a good assistant from a great assistant is that a great assistant knows when to blend into the wall or when to make themselves known. Learning that balance is key.

Fueling Passion

My personal passion comes in knowing that I can support someone who does “good” in the world. When I worked as an assistant in entertainment, I was doing all of the background work so that my Principal can make feel something, make people challenge their way of thinking, make them cry or laugh, and make them passionate about something, because entertainment does that. That gives me fulfillment. It’s not just about shuffling papers from one pile to another – what I do behind the scenes allows my employer to effect positive change in the world.

I’ve been lucky to work for employers for whom I share a passion – but on the flip side, I have also worked for employers for whom I don’t meet eye to eye with. In that case, I’ve had to ask myself: What is it that you truly like about your career? How can you do more of the things that fulfill you?

Take classes, network with other assistants by joining a professional organization and meet others who innately understand you. Finding happiness in your career requires you to identify what things in life truly make you passionate, and that’s difficult. For me, the industry I’m in drives me forward. And the fact that at the end of the day, to be blunt: I know how to get shit done.

Assistants run the lives of the world’s most successful individuals. With that, there is a huge sense of leadership. With the support of a good assistant, the principals can do the hard work and make effective change in the world. They need someone to take over the logistics of their lives, so they are free to ponder the bigger questions and take action. The passion also lies in being in charge – as we all know, the assistants run the world!

Meet Patrick Healy

Patrick will be one of the distinguished contributors at the Executive Leadership Support Forum: New York City on both June 27-28 and September 12-13. To learn more about finding passion in your career, and to join the conversation, check out any of the 22 ELS Forums.