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What does it take to be an agent’s assistant?

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Today was a big day in my office – I had a brand new assistant starting, for the first time in half a decade.

In the past, the position has been such luminaries as Gary O’Sullivan and Christina Cooke, now both impressive agents in their own right at Troika and Gordon & French respectively. But the departing Jo Fell (who is embarking on a new career in a different industry) was by far the longest serving – and as I set about searching for a new agent’s assistant, I sat back and thought about what made Jo such an invaluable right hand woman to me over so many years, and what qualities I would look for from the many job applications we received.

[pullquote]An assistant is much more than simply an administrative help[/pullquote]

An assistant is much more than simply an administrative help. Over the years, Jo would second guess what I needed before I knew it myself, would watch me like a hawk to spot any potential for error or oversight and keep our office functioning with precise efficiency.

But she also helped me woo and help me strategically win my wife (that’s another column), and later counselled me through separation. When a co-agent left and attempted to take most of the list with him, she helped me secure the vast majority of our clients, most of whom remain with us today, and she ran the office with steady invaluable calm as I honeymooned, sat in hospital through an unexpected three-day labor of my child, and for the very occasional time that I was ill.

She kept things running smoothly while I oversaw our major company take over in 2010, and spent most of her free time in darkened rooms (at either shows or screenings) for the love of the job. In short, to say that the relationship between assistant and agent is professionally intimate is an under statement.

There were many applicants from our advertisements in The Stage and Guardian who had PA or agenting experience, but the shortlisted applicants who stood out did not necessarily have the best pedigree on paper (some did, some didn’t). I instinctively knew when someone came in the room whether or not they were a serious contender: they were self confident and assured but not arrogant, polite but human, serious but witty, keen, energetic, displaying a willingness to learn and a realistic expectation of how demanding a job it really is.

I wasn’t asking for much!

I suppose it’s a sobering sign of the economy and our business that we had so many great options, by far the best array of talent I’d had to consider out of any of the many positions I have filled over eight years of the company’s existence. It made the decision making process pleasant, but taxing!

In the end, I’m delighted to say that we found an extremely impressive Hannah Moore who brings fresh energy to our office. There will be times when we laugh, and times that we cry, but together, if nothing else, we will work hard – a pledge I make to existing and prospective clients industry wide.

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