What better way to learn about the assistant industry than to hear from other assistants? Well, dabnabit, I think I’ll do just that! Without further ado, I’m excited to share The Assistant’s Corner-a new posting I will do every so often & profile an assistant that knows what the bejeezus she’s doing:)
My FIRST profile goes out to Sheba Khodadad. One of my favorite security guards introduced me to Sheba several years ago when I needed some advice. What a breath of fresh air meeting someone in the industry that knew my aches & pains and had the perfect advice for whatever pickle I was in!
It’s important to have a solid circle of other assistants you can call at a moment’s notice and they WILL pick up your call. That’s Sheba. Just like muah, Shebster (as I like to call her) has worked for some major players. Since we don’t like to get on that gossip train, you’ll just have to google her if your interest is peaked. Her experience in the entertainment industry, work ethic and overall morals are evident when you meet Sheba.
Here is my interview with Sheba. Always interesting to hear from a different voice in the industry besides myself. Enjoy!
LH: How did you get your start in this industry?
SHEBA: Oddly enough, it all happened by chance. I was an undergraduate student at UCLA and during lunch one day, I was thumbing through the Bruin Paper, looking through the classifieds for a job that would be fun and allows for a flexible schedule. I found an ad that was looking for an assistant for a few hours a week, and the compensation was decent. I called to schedule an interview for a couple that were writers in the entertainment industry. My interview time was 2:20 PM…which quickly indicated their punctuality. I remember that as I was walking up the driveway, I saw another girl walking out…from her interview. Ummm…pressure! I immediately understood that there were a good amount of interviews that day. I later found out that there were almost 60!
In the end, I earned the position. I do not doubt that, on paper, there were people equally or more qualified than me. However, what I believe put me over the edge is that I was prepared with a resume, my own personality, and most importantly, my energy and presence. Additionally, because being a personal assistant is so “personal”, it’s pertinent for everyone to be a right fit for one another, especially considering how close each person will be working with one another. You are sharing not solely the person’s personal life, but personal space as well, and understanding and respecting this reality is crucial to creating and maintaining a harmonious relationship.
Luckily, leadership came naturally for me. I was able to handle multiple projects and still pay attention to even the most intricate details, and those around me noticed and appreciated this. I became well connected with people and resources and was quick on my feet. I loved to problem solve and I became passionate about everything I did and no two days were the same. I soon met other great people in the industry who would notice my work style and me. I was referred to people in every facet of the entertainment network and soon, I became the “go to person” for just about everything and earned the opportunity to work side by side with A-listersand the superstars around them. From there, the organic progression led to becoming a consultant for people who were looking for info, guidance, a resource, a company or an individual to get connected to since I had developed a wide base of valuable contacts and knowledge of the what-who-how, etc.
LH: Do you have any suggestions to other assistants wanting to branch into the entertainment side of assisting?
#1 rule: Build relationships! You are only as good as your network.
#2 rule: Pay it forward. The industry is small and very interdependent. Being a great team player is very effective. You will notice how much more efficient and lucrative your work life is once you play well with others. Socialize.
Having innate leadership qualities places you ahead of a very feisty pack. Accept that unless you are responsible and reliable, taking over and managing the day-to-day details and intricacies of another person’s life will be impossible. The qualities that people noted most about me were my “bubbly” personality, my skills, my trustworthy character, and my ability to catch on and learn so quickly. Finally, and understandably, this role really has to suit you and you have to love being under pressure or else it will be torturous.
LH: What is something that you learned about yourself along the way assisting in the industry?
SHEBA: I’ve learned a lot! Working beside extremely high profile people gives you a tremendous amount of perspective on the possibilities of life and a wealth of experience. You are privileged to meet tons of amazing people and get a closer look at how everything works. It is by far one of the greatest experiences I’ve been blessed to have and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It has polished my character immensely.
Having a knack for business, and a good amount experience behind me as well as the fact that I was earning my MBA simultaneously at the time, I loved networking and creating win-win scenarios. My position in the industry enabled me to help CEO’s of companies, people in PR, and executives at different entertainment companies. It was in those many moments that I saw the knowledge and power that I possessed as I was so well received by those people and the great formulas I would whip up that made everyone move forward successfully.
I have done significant things for people and companies, which was wholly empowering to see how capable I was. This was an enormous step in helping me find my life’s path and I learned at a relatively younger age how formidable I am within. The array of positive feedback I received over the years from top-notch businessmen and women alike reaffirmed the strength and competence, which I knew, was alive inside of me.
LH: If you could give yourself a piece of advice to your younger self BEFORE you started in the industry, what would it be?
SHEBA: Great question. Do not be afraid to ask for what you are worth. Which means, first, determine what you are worth.
LH: What is your favorite tip for organizing? Do you have a particular system you use or just go with the flow?
SHEBA:Hmmm….a blackberry! Things hit you from every angle in a day, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. I used to stick things in the calendar or email myself as soon as something would come up. It’s not about being able to remember things; why make things harder for yourself? Figure out a method of tackling things as they flow inward and you will save yourself a lot of grief and manage everything brilliantly.
Add to add to that, generally speaking, writing thoughts and ideas down in life I’ve learned is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s a conscious way of creating some amazing things in your life from those “a-ha” moments. They are insightful and could be very rewarding later on in your life, so don’t let your ideas and thoughts slip away as they are like diamonds that sparkle.
LH: The life of an assistant can get extremely stressful at times. What do you do to de-stress in those hectic times?
SHEBA: Undoubtedly, things get stressful; especially when you are working for someone who may be often under stress as well. It is best to keep yourself centered in the way that works for you. My way was to simply act and keep the ball rolling, which helped alleviate any anxiety that was inevitable given the working conditions. It helps me to be proactive as my body is in motion and my mind is less busy focusing on the stress.
LH: Being a high-profile assistant can bring you “friends” from out of the blue pretty quickly. What is your advice on handling these new pesky peeps?
SHEBA: Peskiness happens. A lot. It is the nature of the business, and sometimes life. Just try to keep in mind that when you are making a work-related friend, they are simply that. They are not people to depend on with personal life, or even with personal-work life. Understand the business and its nature. Regardless, keep an open mind, and act with decorum. You not simply represent yourself, but your employer and/or client as well.
People are going to be extremely nice to you as you are the star behind the star. You have access to an immense amount of people, things, events, products…. it’s overwhelming. People will appear, will email, will call and you have to manage expectations and the favors they seek. I was always happy to help and to do some fantastic things for many powerful people in the industry and I believed in being a good person.
However, you have to remember to hold your ground and not allow anyone to take advantage of you or push you around. Many times these “pesky peeps” just fall along the wayside anyways.
LH: And lastly, being in the biz requires a thick skin. I still, however, wear my heart on my sleeve! Do you feel working in this industry has allowed you to brush things off easily, or do you still get bruised pretty easily?
SHEBA: I wore and still wear my heart on my sleeve. I think that genuinely being myself and being a good person has attracted people who believe the same. For this reason, I have attracted and kept many great friends. There are some fickle people out there and some divas to say the least; I believe my experience has been 90% positive and truly amazing. I always showed up in that time of my life as a happy and cool person. That energy must have bounced back at me because I attracted a lot of people who flow with similar energies and are on the same frequency as I was. It is hard to believe, but it does actually does happen that way, and those people always remember you.
Sometimes, yes, you get bruised. But like I mentioned before, that is life. I was always grateful and loved what I did and loved the people I worked with so it was easy to forget about the negatives. You have to always know that the position is demanding and so are the people. I never worked in an environment that I was not valued or not respected. A lot of assistants do and I don’t know how they do it…but more power to them. My advice is mainly do what you can enjoy doing, because your passion for your work will make overlooking the negatives that much easier.
THANK YOU SHEBA! Wow, very impressive & honest answers. I wish there was an Assistant’s Corner before I started in the biz! And in true assistant fashion, Sheba had her interview questions ready way before the deadline:)
A little bit more about Ms. Sheba:
She is the president of 6 Degrees Deep, a public relations,
consulting, marketing and events company with specialization in celebrity
outreach, product placement and event production. She works with
individuals, companies and non-profit organizations, dedicated to
encouraging the formation, growth and success of people and businesses.
Through her background in the entertainment industry and a platinum
network of high profile stars and key corporate contacts, Sheba is
enabled to create winning formulas for her clients with exceptional business
strategy and results.
Sheba earned her Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and her MBA from Loyola
Marymount University and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Want to contact Sheba? : firstname.lastname@example.org