Figure-outer and get-doner for the super-rich. Does this job exist?
August 21, 2017 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I'd imagine that really rich people have someone(s) on their staff to whom they outsource a lot of the details of their life - researching what products or services to buy, where to go on vacation, contractors to hire, etc. Who does that? Does this job have a title? How does one get this job?

"I want the best luxury car for my needs; Research it, find it and buy it."

"I want a gazebo by the weekend; Find the contractor and get it built."

"I want the house A/V system automated; Look at the available technologies, hire a company and get it installed."

"I want to buy a house in a tropical location; Figure out where and give me the short list of places to look at in-person."

I'm really good at (and enjoy) figuring these kinds of things out. Is there a job in there somewhere?
posted by SampleSize to Work & Money (30 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I've known people who were personal assistants and care takers that filled most of those rolls. I've also know care takers that swing by once a week. I'm not sure which is more true to the job title.
posted by phil at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Personal assistant! Especially for like a celebrity / very rich person / big exec type person. But obvs the above description would be just part of the job, which could include scheduling, screening calls, interacting with staff/vendors, an on and on.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think "assistant" usually encapsulates this sort of work. Unfortunately, that title also encapsulates a lot of other types of work, too. On the upside, I've seen plenty of "assistant" job listings that go into more detail about what they specifically expect. On the downside, I've heard of many friends with jobs like that with what the employer thinks they expect and what they demand day-to-day are...very different things.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2017

Sorry, yeah, "personal assistant"; not "assistant". Some of those roles are more heavy on the research and stuff, some are more heavy on the messengering and other more mundane stuff.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:30 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been offered such a job and declined because I didn't like the 90 hour work weeks and unpredictable schedule. Each to their own, though.
How I chanced to get the offer? I cooked for a gallery opening and generally the rich people and artists there recommended me because of my social skills (and cooking)
posted by mumimor at 11:35 AM on August 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

In addition to personal assistant, search "household manager" and "personal or private concierge".
posted by jennstra at 11:38 AM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe have a specialty, like "health care." I have a family member that worked for a company whose specialty was negotiations between super-rich people and health care providers. Like, they had to have a proven net worth over $10m to engage their services. Hospitals, etc like cash, so negotiating prices, amenities, etc is a thing at that level. She wasn't "healthcare concierge" for one person, she had a whole client list.
posted by Caxton1476 at 11:49 AM on August 21, 2017

Best answer: I've been offered such a job and declined because I didn't like the 90 hour work weeks and unpredictable schedule.

This is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT to understand. I have worked closely with celebrities who have an array off assistants, house managers, etc. I was (and still am in some cases) close friends with a number of the assistants. These are very, very demanding jobs. What exactly that means will vary wildly depending on who the employer is, but in most cases I've seen, the expectation is that you give your life over to the needs of the person who has hired you. Phone calls and texts in the middle of the night, last minute trips across the globe that you have to go on (not for fun, but to work), bizarre requests with no allowance for failure. The burnout rate is extremely high.

You might like the job, but don't over-glamourize it. It's very hard work with no set schedule, and (usually) the pay isn't comensurate with the sacrifices you have to make.
posted by primethyme at 11:55 AM on August 21, 2017 [20 favorites]

PA/Project Manager / Troubleshooter, the skill set for this is very close to the skill set for being an entrepreneur, so you have to ask yourself, why would I want to do all that for someone else?
posted by Lanark at 12:13 PM on August 21, 2017

There was this listing on Craigslist just a couple of weeks ago.
posted by COD at 12:21 PM on August 21, 2017

Best answer: personal concierge?
posted by dreamling at 12:26 PM on August 21, 2017

Yeah, I've known PAs and the hours are brutal and the employers generally don't have any boundaries. There's no "that's not my job" there. And in LA, at least, the pay is low and you're expected to use your own car (this varies, I'm told, sometimes from day to day depending on what you need to do) and what you're getting in return is maybe meeting someone who might do something for you, or getting first shot at production assistant/crew jobs on the person's project.

And you generally work your way up, starting with a lot of courier and lesser driver work (generally not for the family/kids but for the dogs, other assistants/staff etc) before you start getting to book vacations. You'll need to be young and likely attractive to get that first job.

And while there's a level that probably does qualify as rarefied air, where the money and perks maybe make up for not being able to have a relationship or kids or pets of your own, you have to work your way up. And at that point, you might as well have worked your way up through the agent or studio ranks, which is just as awful but you get paid better and get healthcare.

There is, of course, an economy of specialists who are X To The Stars! Hairdresser to the stars, travel agent, general contractor. That 's a matter of starting a business and cultivating relationships with the assistants through naked raw ambition, ruthlessness, and charisma. Probably also kickbacks.

In really large companies, there are sometimes jobs like this, usually somehow attached to the Operations area of the company, where you might arrange travel and plan important meetings or events or trade show appearances. Someone here might know what those kinds of job titles would be.

There are security/intelligence/fixer jobs, if you happen to have an intelligence background and maybe are a little or a lot morally ambiguous. You'd need to be able to live without sleeping at night, practically and philosophically.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:32 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Whelp...this sounds juuust fabulous.

Any jobs that pay well, are interesting, offer a lot of time off, and involve primarly lying on the floor and crying?
posted by SampleSize at 12:37 PM on August 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you want something in that vein, but without the awful hours (but still the super crazy demands), try to get a job in Centurion Customer Service at American Express. (I'm sure there are other high end credit card products that apply, but that's the one I am familiar with.)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2017

This sounds similar to skill set for an event planner or wedding planner - something you might want to look into.
posted by metahawk at 1:04 PM on August 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

The admin assistants at my Large Tech Company do a lot of event planning work. And they're salaried with benefits and regularish hours. I'm not sure how one gets those jobs though.
posted by serelliya at 1:07 PM on August 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

FWIW, you may be able to get hospitality concierge training or job shadow help, if you use that word concierge. You might even be able to travel to several destinations to learn from really great concierge people.

Not sure how legit this website is: but there is bound to be a high class society/club/organization of people who take care of other people's random requests.

Starting in hospitality at high end resorts might be your best bet to look for and order all the cool things for a variety of customers. You'll be able to learn what kind of person to watch out for, and have the protection of the establishment who pays you, vs the client. Don't forget you may also get tips from people who want a really nice private dinner setup or a recommendation of a local event while they are in town.

I have no clue beyond some tv shows and books of where you go from there, but at least you can get a clue if you'll like the work, and eventually start your own full time biz.

tldr: ask a to become one. :D good luck!
posted by dreamling at 1:14 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

p.s. this may require some sort of license or certification, like a notary or a P.I. Your state websites may have information on that end of things.

Sounds like you'll have more luck than that time I tried to convince my mom we should start a mother/daughter detective agency...
posted by dreamling at 1:21 PM on August 21, 2017

Best answer: I think there is an untapped market for doing this as your own business offering it to regular folks as a fee-based service. You set it up like a maid service or senior assistant service company, and offer one-time, project-based or subscription work.* Call it Lifehacking or Adulting or something.

Life is complicated! As a Gen-X'er I have gotten to ease over time into the incredible amounts of minutiae every person needs to manage for themselves, that used to be managed by experts. Everyone has to be an expert in everything these days. And millennials get it all handed to them (dumped on them) all at once! While working two jobs and going to school.**

If a regular non-rich person can spend $50 to have a professional life-person take care of researching the best insurance rates or finding a place to sleep in Asheville on peak leaf weekend for under $100 and it's already September.... then it is worth it!

*Also, offer gift vouchers because we have no idea what to buy you people for Christmas anymore.
**Y'all can hang out on my lawn anytime.)

posted by headnsouth at 1:21 PM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sounds a lot like what this service tries to do: . There are also a few companies offering "Virtual Personal Assistants" which sound like a lot of the same skills but not the 24/7 demand.
posted by nalyd at 1:56 PM on August 21, 2017

Any jobs that pay well, are interesting, offer a lot of time off, and involve primarly lying on the floor and crying?

Professional cuddler (yes, really) if you're willing to compromise on the crying. You do get to lay on the floor, though.
posted by ananci at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Like mumimor, I was offered a job in this vein. A couple years back, one of my cleaning/nannying clients offered me a position as Estate Manager at their newly-completed sprawling mansion complex outside of Amman, Jordan. The family had decided to move back to live there during the school year, and summer in their home here in the States to remain close to relatives nearby. Were I single and childless, I'd have accepted in a blink. Perfect position, abysmal timing.

If your personal circumstances will bear taking on employment of this sort (and you haven't yet been scared off the entire prospect) , the go-to websites in my experience have been:

The Lindquist Group

Household Staffing International

There are all manner of well-compensated (YMMV?) positions within both, including personal assisting. Just throwing it out there. :)
posted by Amor Bellator at 2:54 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

serelliya's comment reminded me that my sister actually does this for some very famous people, but on a relatively normal schedule and pay. The family she works for has a huge staff, so the individual assistants aren't as hung up and that is why I didn't think of it as the same thing as the job I was offered. Anyway, the reason serelliya reminded me of this is that my sister got to her current job through working at different large corporations as admin assistant.
The scale of very rich peoples' private lives can be a lot like a business, so they often want people who are used to working with business-scale budgets and handling several different contractors/partners/events at the same time. You need to be good at project management, accounting and HR, and to have excellent references specially regarding privacy. My sister and her colleagues are fiercely loyal to their employers, and while I'm sure they are very competent, I think loyalty is valued higher than skills in their workplace.
posted by mumimor at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to have a job description for one that I suggested to a family member. If I find it I'll post it.

They are common in the Washington, D.C., area and Seattle.
posted by jgirl at 4:12 PM on August 21, 2017

The old-fashioned term for this is "gal Friday." Looking online, some people still use it in job listings, sometimes as "gal Friday or guy Friday." It's originally from the character Friday in the novel "Robinson Crusoe," so it started as a racist/colonial construct, but I think some people use it without being aware of that. It's more likely people who use it now associate it with the 1940s movie "His Gal Friday."
posted by FencingGal at 6:52 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know a steward on a yacht. She took a training course (for a few months at her own expense), and worked her way up from there. The job involves everything from cleaning toilets, to making gourmet meals, to hiring people to fix boat stuff, to actually piloting the boat in an emergency if the captain is indisposed. And, given the kind of people who own yachts, a lot of it is taking care of things that come up in port, all over the world. One benefit is that the owners are often not using the yacht for months at a time, and they still pay the crew to be ready. But, of course, when they're sailing you're sailing with them.
posted by miyabo at 9:23 PM on August 21, 2017

The not-rich-people on-demand version of this idea is working via a company like Taskrabbit (for the US) or Airtasker (if you're in Australia). People put up gigs they need help for, you respond and do the thing. Sort of like an Uber for concierging, I guess.

When my dad was Managing Director of a Government-owned property development company (so not super rich, but sorta like the top 15% I guess) his secretary did a lot of this kind of work for him, both for company-related stuff (if there wasn't already somebody else in the company doing this) and for personal stuff (visa apps, travel planning, etc). The role was attached to the company, which meant anyone in that role would get the same sorta help; that being said, my dad and his secretary worked together well for so long that even now that he's long retired he still sometimes hire her for the occasional help with paperwork.

I've done admin assistance work for organisations and universities on occasion and there's often the same research skills needed, though they're usually more closely related to organisational goals than to personal needs. "Look up studies related to arts education in Australia", for instance.
posted by divabat at 11:03 PM on August 21, 2017

You might enjoy production in an ad agency environment. Photography production in particular has some overlaps here.
posted by LongDrive at 4:08 AM on August 22, 2017

How about something like procurement for a large company? At my Fortune 100 company they're responsible for negotiating deals with all kinds of external suppliers and services, from car rentals to office paper. I feel that would use a lot of the same skill set but with much more predictable hours and better benefits.
posted by peacheater at 5:50 AM on August 22, 2017

I see these listed as "Household manager", generally serving the non-super-famous business millionaire set. The list of tasks in the job ad is usually to keep the house running while the family is travelling (for work, or pleasure, or at their other house), by coordinating the gardeners and cleaning staff and so on, managing the mail and bills, maintaining the house; prepare the house for residence when the family returns from travel (stock the fridge, air the rooms, see the beds are made, etc.); take care of one-off tasks as requested, either when the family is there or not; make decisions and purchases like you list above (but mostly for the house); do some personal assistant stuff when the family's in residence. The hours are a lot more regular than being a personal assistant. (Some of the ads note that the week before the family comes back from their "other house" can include longer hours, which makes sense.) Backgrounds the ads are looking for include event planning, executive assistant/secretary work, nannying, or building management.

I also think there's probably a market here, serving upper middle class professionals, who need help now and then making these sorts of decisions but don't need you all the time. I'm not really sure what you'd call it, though.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:26 PM on August 22, 2017

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