Life as an Assistant

What the Most Stylish Women Wear 9 to 5: Meet Beyoncé’s Personal Assistant, Sam Greenberg

via VOGUE

 

Quality Control
I believe heavily in the quality of the clothes that you purchase—good materials are important to me. I try to take pride in things I wear. I also think it is important to wear designers like Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga in a way that is super functional. Do not be afraid to walk in something and don’t worry that it may get ruined, just wear it for what it is. You can wear it with a pair of sneakers to make it functional but also really fashionable.

Comfort First
I definitely don’t wear heels most of the time, because I’m always on my feet and running around. I try to stick to really cool flats and sneakers. I’m a big fan of Common Projects right now. I have about four pairs of those that I rotate. I also have a Stella McCartney platform that she is selling this season. They are my new favorites because they give me a little height but I can still run and walk around in them. Especially being in New York City, it’s nice to have something comfortable.

When It Comes to Packing, Less Is Always More
I showed up my first day of the job ready to go on tour with two huge suitcases, a small wheel carry-on, a carry-on for my shoulder, and my purse. I soon learned that was not going to be an effective way to travel, and ended up cutting it down.

I pack up one to two suitcases and drag those around with me everywhere I go, and then I bring a carry-on with me. If I have a smaller trip I just throw stuff in there so I can run out. Basically, I am always ready to travel: so I have a bag already packed and ready-to-go.

I’m not really good at unpacking, so I kind of leave it half-empty, half-full in case of a last-minute type scenario. I hang up everything that needs to be hung so it doesn’t get wrinkled but usually T-shirts, jeans, and things like that are always tossed in my bag.

What to Carry On the Run
I’ve gone through a number of different suitcases over the past two-and-a-half years. I’ve done Tumi, but my suitcase now is from when I went to camp because it is the biggest duffel I could find! I had one of those big Balenciaga overnight bags that I beat to death. Then I moved onto the Proenza Schouler PS 1 but the big version so I can stuff a bunch of stuff in there. Every bag that I carry without wheels has to have a large shoulder strap so I can throw it over my shoulder and run.

The Art of Folding
My mom is a professional packer so I was lucky enough to learn from her. It is all about how you fold something. I wrap a lot of things in plastic so they don’t wrinkle in my suitcase because they usually sit in there for a long time. Shoes always go at the bottom. Make everything as small as you can, and as flat as you can—and also always leave room because you never know what you are going to pick up on the road.

Work to Play and Back Again
I wear something that is comfortable and that can easily transition into work. Sometimes we get off the plane and go straight to a show or to a meeting. I always make sure it isn’t “too sweatpants and sweatshirt.” I wear overalls [by Topshop], which are really comfortable on planes. I definitely wear flats—Chanel espadrilles have been my favorite things for the past two years—they are like bedroom slippers, but look good with a lot of things. I also have some great Balenciaga jackets because they dress up what I could be wearing in case I need to run out somewhere nicer. I have the “Join A Weird Trip” Balenciaga jacket and it makes things look a little bit cooler.

Back to Black
If I’m on tour, I’m absolutely wearing black backstage. I’ve always worn black, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge. It’s to blend into the background; people won’t have to see a person in a bright pink top running back and forth on stage. And if there are times I have to go out in the crowd during a performance, I don’t want to be noticed. If it is a summer tour, I have two or three black rompers that I live in. If it is winter tours, I wear jeans, sneakers, and sometimes even some Beyoncé merchandise because that is usually black too, so that is helpful to blend in.

Good Merchandise Makes Everything Easier
The pieces are curated so well and they are designed in such a cool way. Whether it is throwing on a sweatshirt that says “Surfboard” to go to the gym or putting on one of the T-shirts under a Levi’s denim jacket, it’s really functional and cool—you don’t feel like you are walking around with a big Beyoncé face on you! You have some cool nod to her that everyone understands, but is also really chic as well.

It’s Not About Standing Out
I try to blend in the background as much as possible. Being on the red carpet is the most glamorous, but for me, like for the Grammys this year, I wore a pair of black jeans and a black tank top and then I put on my Stuart Weitzman thigh-high Highland boots. They [the shoes] make my outfit a little bit nicer, but still comfortable and functional.

Wherever Beyoncé Is, Great Clothes Will Follow
We jumped off the New Zealand Sky Tower and I had a really cute blue onesie on. When I was on the shoot for “On The Run,” we shot a whole bunch of footage for the actual show and we were in the desert and it was really cold, even in the middle of Los Angeles. I snuck into the wardrobe trailer and pulled out a big fur and threw that on. It is always fun to play dress-up, because on shoots especially there are always great things.

It’s All About Who You Work For
I think that in this job it is about looking clean and looking cool, and not trying to be much in the spotlight because that isn’t why you’re there. It is also representing whom you work for. For me, the fun of it is walking in and seeing that B’s stylist has pulled something from what I have or vice versa. It is a cool experience to learn from her and curate my taste along with hers because she is quite the style icon.


The article was mostly about her fashion style as she travels the world and always on the go with her boss Beyonce, there are so many layers to being an assistant that I am sure she can use several articles to explain her jet-setting job but still what a cool position she is in! Lucky girl! I think any of us would quit everything to work for Beyonce in any capacity, even if it was being her maid, any reason to get a glimpse of her life outside of being a worldwide superstar/icon/legend! Being an assistant to any one is tough, you are delegating two world loads while dealing with random, important, or emergency stuff constantly being thrown at you, keeping up with their requests and demands, catering to what they like and dodging what they don’t. You are making reservations, booking flights and hotels, making appointments for both personal and professional purposes. You manage their bills and speak on their behalf when you have to order or fix something on the phone. You always have to have good judgment and make quick decisions on their behalf if they aren’t present. You are running behind them carrying their stuff or chasing after them for signatures, reminders, approvals and etc. You have to remember every thing they say and anything that is happening around them and to them. You are literally their memory card and an extra brain for them. Having a notebook and writing fast is a life saver as you try to jot down everything as they are speaking. Your responsibilities are never ending – you become an event planner, travel agent, and it piles on and on, you adapt skills you didn’t know you had to or can be capable of.

I am an executive assistant and a personal assistant at the number 1 television station for someone major and who inspires me every day, and before I got my job I always under estimated assistants, but let me tell ya, it’s harder than it seems. You are juggling too much all at once, sometimes you make mistakes and you are not focused because you are overwhelmed, other times you are on it and killing every task, but in the end you deal with so many different emotions daily;  its gratifying when you know you have done a good job and your boss is at ease, and it’s also the worst feeling when you weren’t on top of it and feel that you have failed them. It’s literally one of the worst feelings because I know my main purpose is to make life easier for someone, and to make sure they care taken care of and everything is being managed and handled. I am lucky because my boss is an amazing person, who is understanding, who motivates me and who I truly respect, love, adore and admire and want to make proud. You never want them to feel that you aren’t doing a good job, but what I have learned is when you try too hard that’s when you start to crumble. It can’t always be smooth sailing and there are times you will find yourself drowning and you’ll have to be scolded for not putting on a life vest, but it’ll teach you to swim better and be more careful. Every set back will teach you to stress less, and be less afraid or worried about the tasks ahead.

My advice:

  • Be organized in every way in all ways.
  • Confirm every single thing multiple times. Whether it’s a payment, reservation or information.
  • Remember to constantly remind them of things, even if you have to say it over and over again.
  • Write notes because you won’t remember everything!
  • Be prepared, save information that you know you will need so you won’t have to bother to ask every time.
  • If you know they love a certain drink or smack in the mornings, it’s nice to have it waiting for them on their desk.
  • Remind yourself that you are important to them: you are privy to all kinds of information, always be their confidant, always have their best interest and let them be aware of what is happening around the office.
  • Keep asking questions till you start to feel confident in your position and what you have to do. You’ll never feel comfortable because every single day is different and every day you are learning something knew of them or doing something different for them.
  • Remember that there will be really bad moments, you’ll make mistakes but OWN it. Always be honest.
  • You have to put pride aside and take the blame for a lot of things and learn that even if you are right, it’s better to be wrong and to have a job than to be right and not have one. There will be many times you will be defending yourself and even proving that you are right in certain things, but it won’t matter and you have to be okay with that. Trust me, it will always bug me when I am told I did something wrong when I KNOW I didn’t.
  • Be present in a sense where you aren’t stressing all that is happening, and you are handling everything either individually or all at once with focus and calmness.
  • Pay attention to everything and to all details. Triple check everything so many times I’ve done stupid mistakes because I rush myself to complete tasks.
  • Always be a team player. You’ll always end up doing so many things to so many people outside of your responsibilities to your boss, but shut up and do it.
  • When you finish your day you’ll be exhausted and even though you are reminding someone of everything that is happening in their life, you’ll forget so many things in your own life.  I am still learning how to shut off when I am done with work because my head is still spinning.
  • Sometimes you are their YES person and other times you have to be their NO person. You can’t kiss ass but you should always reassure them of good things to make them feel good.
  • Be confident when you speak. I struggle with that because I get nervous of saying the wrong things.
  • There will be times where you are itching for a bigger position in the office that is significant, and to no longer feel like someone’s servant. I always have to remind myself that my role in the company is vital, and that me and my work is just as important as the next person. Be patient, don’t feel that you aren’t enough because you are the assistant, and be immune to co-workers looking down on you and ordering you around because they feel that is you are accessible and is supposed to be catering to everyone’s needs. Your job comes with a lot of patience, significance, responsibilities and don’t let anyone ever make you feel that you are less than.
  • There is still so much advice I can share, but every day is different and a learning experience.
  • Everyone will always ask you if your boss and job is like the movie The Devil Wears Prada…expect you never quiet get the ending she does, instead you’ll either get promoted to a higher position or you stay as the assistant and get a better wardrobe.

The Top Five Characteristics to Being a Good Executive Assistant:

Communication

Communication skills are the most important quality for an executive assistant. Assistants who speak and write well help shape a positive image of their company. Assistants write letters, memos and meeting minutes, so they need to know grammar, punctuation and spelling. They also speak with co-workers at all levels of the organization and with members of the public, so they must talk in clear and concise sentences. Executive assistants must listen to the needs of others. Assistants should give complete attention to what people say and ask questions to understand their concerns.

Organization

The executive assistant’s job is fast-paced, with many responsibilities. It’s essential to stay organized and to manage time and workspace. An executive assistant must keep his executive’s calendar, tracking meetings and activities and scheduling conferences and business travel. Executive assistants also must prepare and organize reports, letters, presentations and other documents. When the executive has conflicting priorities, the executive assistant must balance those duties to make sure key projects meet deadlines.

Technology

Executive assistants work with every conceivable piece of office equipment, from computers to photocopiers to fax machines. They also work with software for word processing, desktop publishing, database management and spreadsheets. Because technology changes constantly, executive assistants must be comfortable adapting to new equipment. Troubleshooting equipment issues is also part of the job for many executive assistants.

Judgment

Executive assistants don’t work with much direction, so judgment, or the ability to make sound decisions without supervision, is important. Executive assistants need to anticipate or recognize problems and refer them immediately to the right person for resolution. They also need to understand logic, reasoning, mathematical methods and statistics to determine the strengths and weaknesses of solutions to problems. They must find common threads among unrelated events to draw conclusions about potential issues.

Teamwork

An executive assistant must understand she’s part of a team that includes her executive and other employees. She must establish and maintain working relationships with staffers at all corporate levels and with clients. Executive assistants who see themselves as partners to their executives have the best shot at improving their skills and advancing on the job. They should collaborate with their executives and work to form and accomplish mutual goals. In the best working relationships, executive assistants and executives see accomplishments as joint efforts.

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