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Personal Services Careers

Personal Services

The life of a personal-services professional isn't for everyone. If you're hoping to serve on the staff of a large estate, a private aircraft or a yacht, you'll likely be held to the highest standards of polite conduct - and if you'd rather assist a celebrity or a high-ranking dignitary, you'll probably be on call 24/7, managing unexpected crises and tracking down elusive answers. Even those who organize events or direct funerals need a steady supply of compassion, a high level of awareness, and a talent for creative thinking. But if you think you have what it takes to launch your career in personal services, read on to find out where to begin your online search, and how to take advantage of the resources you find.

Know what you're getting into

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There's no way to sugar-coat this: Some positions in personal services - especially those that cater to celebrities and other high-ranking clientele - demand overtime availability, a high level of patience, a thick skin, and the resourcefulness to turn unreasonable-sounding demands into realities - all while wearing a smile. Though plenty of celebrities and other estate owners do treat their staff with kindness and respect, it's not always easy to determine how your own employer will behave until you've spent a little time on the job.

To get some idea of what you could be letting yourself in for, read the very short article "A Day in the Life of a Celebrity Personal Assistant" (subtitled "Hell in Hollywood"), which documents just how tough - and how rewarding - a job in personal assistance can be. It all comes down to finding a boss with whom you work well - and until you do, you may find yourself jumping from position to position, wondering if you've made a huge mistake.

Some positions in personal services demand overtime availability and lots of patience.

But tough assignments are no reason to call off your quest altogether. Many hard-working personal assistants eventually find employers who treat them with dignity - and even treat them to presents and trips on occasion. The point of this background research isn't to scare you out of looking, but to help you make an informed decision about whether this is the right type of career for you. If you think you can handle it, you may end up gaining access to an elite world that few people ever get to glimpse.

Check in with an agency

If you're aiming to land a position on the domestic staff of a respected household, agencies in the US as well as the UK are waiting to help you out. In the States, the Starkey International Institute for Household Management has been placing qualified candidates in service as household and estate managers, nannies, personal assistants and chefs. In the UK, meanwhile, the Marshall Harber Domestic Staff Agency and the firm Greycoat Placements both specialize in matching candidates with positions on estates, on private aircraft and on yachts.

Some domestic placement agencies will train you until you're qualified.

Even if you're not yet professionally certified to take on a job like this, some domestic placement agencies are willing to train you until you're qualified. Certain agencies' websites also offer free salary information and details of job duties for various types of domestic positions - while other agencies even host classified ads for current openings. Browsing these websites can give you a clearer idea of what kind of openings are available in your area, what salary range you can reasonably expect, and what level of training will be expected of you when you apply.

Finding out where you might fit in is as simple as contacting an agency in your area and arranging a consultation - by phone or in person. If you've already got a solid resume, a staffing agency may be able to place you in a position right away - and at the very least, they'll be able to tell you what steps you can take to move yourself toward the kind of service position you want.

Put your network to work

While you're sharpening your credentials and waiting for word from an agency, it's also worthwhile to connect with other personal-services professionals on the same social-networking websites you use to connect with your friends. The domestic agency Butler for You, for example, maintains active pages both on Facebook and on LinkedIn - as do the well-known sites Sittercity and GoNannies.com, which specialize in connecting parents with qualified sitters and nannies.

It's easy to connect with other personal-services professionals on your favorite social-networking websites.

You can track down even more social-network groups by taking advantage of Facebook's advanced search functions, which allow you to sort your search results by category, and to search specifically for pages your friends have Liked. LinkedIn's search functions are even more precise, allowing you to target group pages as opposed to personal ones, to focus on groups centered in your own geographical area, and even to target companies that are actively recruiting candidates via LinkedIn.

Group pages can also provide opportunities for you to connect with others in your particular area of personal services - from potential employers to sympathetic fellow employees to well-connected networkers. If you find a group that's well-trafficked, active and informative, don't be shy about posting a few questions and comments of your own. You never know when an online friend might turn out to be the source of a real-world opportunity.

No two assignments in the world of personal services are quite alike, but that's a big part of the excitement. Depending on how flexible and adventurous you are, you could find yourself serving dinner in a mansion, sailing the world on a ship, catering lavish weddings or handling the drama of a powerful person's daily life. But whatever path you choose, your path will be clearer if you stay informed, up to date and well-connected with others who share your passion for service.

Helpful links

Care.com -- A service that matches clients with adult or child care providers, tutors and sitters.

Sittercity -- A one-stop information hub for sitters, including loads of job postings and educational resources.

Butler for You -- An agency that reviews, trains and places candidates in domestic services positions.