We'd like to present this story from Career Contessa, an online platform guiding career-driven women to success. This Contessa offers us a behind-the-scenes peek into life as an assistant to one of the most lovable celebrities in the biz — Giuliana Rancic!
Being a personal assistant to a celebrity is a dream for most people, but for Sarah Knight, 26, it's reality. Sarah began working at E! Entertainment as an intern during her senior year of college and has since moved up the ranks, now acting as talent coordinator for the company and assisting Giuliana Rancic on a minute-to-minute basis. From the Golden Globes in Los Angeles to the royal wedding in London, Sarah has been there for it all — even with a few guest-appearance moments on Giuliana's reality show, Giuliana & Bill!
Without any formal training, Sarah had to learn the hard way just what it took to be a high-profile personal assistant. However, with hardly a slipup to her name, it seems fair to say that she has been able to make the transition smoothly and gracefully. Creating her own rules — being a yes-person and keeping a positive attitude — not only allowed her to become a great assistant, but also to become one of Giuliana's closest friends.
It's easy to see why Sarah wouldn't want to work anywhere else. Right now, she loves every day she spends with Giuliana and is looking forward to the future. Read on to find out how Sarah made it in the grueling world of entertainment and why she freely admits to having the time of her life. Read the full story below.
Her Starting Point
Many people find the transition between college and "real life" a bit daunting. Can you tell us about your journey between the two? What was your first job postcollege?
I actually started my career at E!, oddly enough. I was fortunate enough to get an internship with the E! News Bureau my senior year of college and, through that, met so many amazing people who helped me get to where I am today. That internship showed me how much I love the entertainment industry and what it would be like to work for a great company like E! I knew that I didn't want to work anywhere else, and the rest, as they say, was history.
How did you land the position as Giuliana Rancic's assistant? Did you have any prior experience?
I was actually recommended for the position by my boss at the time, Ken Baker. He is an E! News correspondent and is great friends with Giuliana. She was between assistants at the time and was looking for a permanent right-hand woman. Enter: me! I interviewed with her on a Thursday afternoon and started the following Monday.
I didn't have any prior experience as a personal assistant, but being familiar with the E! building and the people around the office definitely helped.
There isn't necessarily formalized training for becoming a personal assistant. How have you learned the ins and outs of your job?
That was the scary part when I first started. I had no formal training and didn't know anyone else who was a personal assistant to ask for help and advice. Luckily, Giuliana was so patient with me and taught me so many things along the way. But I have to be honest — I am still learning, even three-plus years later!
To be a great personal assistant, you have to follow a few simple rules. Be a yes-person. If your boss asks for something, always say yes! Even if you are unable to complete the task for circumstances out of your control, your boss will love that you went for it. In fact, I think being a yes-person is good for any job! You'll also want to pay close attention to detail. So much of assisting someone revolves around making sure you are helping to make their day-to-day life go as smoothly as possible, and you will not succeed if you mix up your meeting times or accidentally forget to say, "No onions!" on their lunch order. Yes, we are human and make mistakes, but being detail oriented is très importante in this position.
Attitude is everything, too. This goes hand in hand with rule number one. As a personal assistant, you spend a lot of time with your boss, and let's be frank, no one wants to be around someone who is in a bad mood. Of course, everyone has bad days. I have bad days. Giuliana has bad days. But the important thing is to not let that creep into your work. Put a smile on, and maintain a positive, can-do attitude. It's infectious.
And finally, treat everyone with kindness. This is unquestionably a rule for life in general — however, as a personal assistant, there will be times when you need help. You will inevitably need to ask the security guard in your building to hold open the door for you if your hands are full or help you carry heavy boxes from point A to point B. You will, at some point, likely have to take an incorrectly made latte back to Coffee Bean and ask the barista to make a new one. If you make a point to treat all of these people with kindness, they will want to help you! And besides, it just makes you feel good to know that you went through your day with kindness. Getting that kindness in return is just an added bonus.
Her Big Break
We're dying to know — what's it like to work with Giuliana?? How have your relationship and job evolved since you first started?
I absolutely love my job and love waking up to go to work every single day. When people tell me that I have the best job in the world and that I am so lucky to be G's assistant, they are absolutely right. We have so much fun every single day, and she is one of my best friends. Yes, I am her assistant, but she always has treated me as a friend and taken me under her wing — from day one. She has taught me so much about life, love, courage, and strength over the past three years, and I can't imagine not having this job. Between G, her glam squad, and stylist, we have become a little family. It has been an absolute dream job.
We have been through so much together, from her cancer diagnosis and journey to motherhood to my recent engagement and journey into adulthood. I was only 22 when I started working with Giuliana, and I have grown up and changed so much since then. It's really fun to look back at pictures of us when I first started — we were both so much blonder!
How do you handle the work/life balance?
Balancing my professional and personal life does have its challenges, but I have managed to make it work. My fiancé, Bryce, plays professional baseball, so he is actually gone for six to seven months out of the year. He is extremely understanding of my sometimes-hectic schedule. I also have learned how important it is to make plans (and keep them!) with friends. Whether it's happy hour or going for a jog, it's crucial to not only make time for your friends, but to turn your brain off from work at the end of the day. I've never regretted keeping plans with a girlfriend after work — I regret the times when I canceled because I was too tired from work.
From the royal wedding to cameos on Giuliana and Bill, what types of opportunities have come your way? How have you (in a positive way!) taken advantage of these?
Through this job, I have been able to travel the world (London twice!), meet incredible people, and learn the value of a strong work ethic. Some people don't have opportunities like that even once in their lifetime, so I know how truly fortunate I am. Attending a royal wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I can't believe I was actually in London as it all took place.
Being on the reality show is definitely fun, but I am just being myself and doing what I normally do on a daily basis, so it's not too exciting to me. My mom will tell you differently. It's a weekly television event for her!
I have learned to savor each of these opportunities and not take them for granted. It's important to go see the sights when traveling, introduce yourself to new people, and just enjoy the moment!
How do you stay organized? What tools/resources do you utilize (e.g., iPhone, apps, etc.)? What skills are essential to do your job well?
I am constantly glued to my iPhone. I have it synced up to our Outlook calendar, so I can look ahead at each day and know what to expect and what to prepare for. I also have the apps for every major airline, so I can make travel changes quickly and easily.
As I said before, it is very important to be detail oriented in this kind of job. Also, it is essential to write everything down and to make notes/reminders. It's nearly impossible to keep everything straight by memory alone.
Could you let us in on any stumbles you might have made in your high-profile position? How did you get through them?
We all make mistakes. Luckily, I haven't made any that have been too catastrophic, but I have definitely mixed up meeting times before. It happens, and all you can do is apologize, learn from it, and move on to the next thing.
What is your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?
My favorite part is just being able to essentially work with my friends every day. We are all so close, and we are constantly laughing and having fun 24/7.
The most challenging part is staying organized. Sometimes there are so many things going on and so many moving parts that it gets a little overwhelming, but it almost always works out!
If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like? How many hours do you put into your job daily?
On an average day, I wake up at 7 a.m. and am at the office by 8:30 a.m. Giuliana and I go over upcoming events and our "to-do" list before we start prepping for E! News. She is typically taping E! News from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day, and we are usually running to meetings before and after that. We usually leave the office around 5 p.m. if there isn't another shoot to go to.
There really is no typical day for us and that's what I love about it! I love the fast-paced nature of this job.
What other career opportunities exist in entertainment for personal assistants?
So many incredible opportunities come about from assisting a celebrity, and personally speaking, I am so fortunate to have a boss like Giuliana who wants to help me grow and thrive and take advantage of additional opportunities.
For example, in the past several months, I have taken on a new role for her clothing line as her social media liaison for G by Giuliana Rancic for HSN. It has been a wonderful opportunity learning about the power of social media and the impact it has on sales. It has been great to learn the business side of things.
I also have become an ambassador for her daily newsletter, FabFitFun, which means I write for them, pitch ideas, and help out with their recently launched VIP Box. It has been awesome to grow and branch out to do other things in addition to my "normal" day-to-day duties.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What's next for your career?
I am always thinking about what might be next for me in the back of my mind, but for now, I am loving each and every day with G and all in the process of planning my wedding! It's a super exciting time right now, and I couldn't be happier!
You keep your energy up by . . . Frequenting Starbucks almost every single day! I also keep snacks like Kind bars in my bag at all times to keep my energy up.
Most starstuck moment/person? I get starstruck any time I see George Clooney. Swoon!
Favorite award show to attend? Golden Globes! You get the best of both worlds with the biggest movie and television stars on that red carpet!
Go-to beauty product? Nars satin lip pencils. If you don't have time to put on all of your makeup in the morning, just putting on some lipstick makes you look polished and put together. And I love Nars because it doesn't dry out my lips and it stays on all day.
Source: Joanne Pio