The age-old complaint that “good help is so hard to find these days” is gaining a renewed sense of relevancy among the 1%-ers currently searching for an executive assistant.
According to Callum Borchers of The Wall Street Journal, the ripples of the ongoing labour shortage have begun lapping against the walls of the elite’s ivory towers. To the point where your everyday “overqualified aides” based in major cities now command base salaries of US$200,000 (US$280,000).
Top candidates with a proven track record of “making the busiest lives simpler,” on the other hand, possess significantly more earning power. We’re talking anywhere between US$300,000 (AU$425,000) and US$400,000 (AU$565,000) – which is a C-Suite executive’s annual take-home in most parts of the world.
“They’re willing to pay those salaries, but it’s really all about them,” Teresa Leigh, whose firm scouts top-tier assistants for the ultra-wealthy, explained to The Wall Street Journal.
But as Borchers (correctly) points out, there is definitely a trade-off between the lifestyle balance and financial compensation columns. An ever-shifting schedule… infinite run sheet of errands… emotionally + physically taxing travel… as well as a very unique brand of loneliness experienced by those who are “close to, but distinctly separate from, an elite class of people.”
“With great pay comes great sacrifice — some hires quit within 72 hours.”Callum Borchers, The Wall Street Journal
Borchers added in the context of a veteran executive assistant named Tiffany Maughn (51): “There are yachts and parties and times when she feels like a confidante and senior adviser. There also have been scoldings for spelling errors, 3 AM phone calls, and hands-and-knees attempts to fix leaky faucets in vacation homes.”
“[Ms Maughn] recalls one episode in which a former employer chastised her and two other assistants – each of whom made more than $150,000 a year – for putting bananas in the refrigerator, instead of on the kitchen counter.”
As you’d expect, discretion is key. Don’t expect to sign an employment contract without scribbling that same signature on a few non-disclosure agreements.
The other caveat worth noting? These gigs aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Given the secretarial component of an executive assistant’s duties are now almost entirely automated, there’s been a steep decline in the number of executive assistant roles going around, while those which have survived are “increasingly advanced.” Hence the generous pay package.
In fact, one agency that specialises in pairing such employees with ultra-high-net-worth individuals revealed they’d placed a PhD in a position that entails “high-level administrative work” (in addition to fetching coffee).
“Ms Leigh says she tries to get employers to agree to limits on what the people she places can be asked to do,” writes Callum Borchers.
“Serving martinis like a butler or cleaning dog doo off a roof deck – real requests from clients, she says – fall outside a chief of staff’s duties, in her view. Just about anything else is fair game.”
“I’ve heard younger people say to me, ‘I would never do what you do,’” said Tiffany Maughn.
“It’s almost like they don’t understand working in a service capacity for another human being. As long as it’s legal, as long as it’s safe, there’s really never a ‘no.’”
I suppose it’s really just a matter of naming your price.
You can read the original feature article by Callum Borchers of The Wall Street Journal here.