Private Service & The Stars in Your Eyes Syndrome

Many years ago I remember hearing the expression “Stars in your eyes” from a highly-experienced Estate Manager… Someone I admire for his skills and for his grounded professionalism among other things (he's also a fundamentally decent person). I knew what he meant by the expression, but I still asked about it.

He told me that, as an Estate Manager who is tasked with hiring for his Principals, he is always on guard against applicants who seem more attracted by high profile names, private aircraft, super yachts, and homes designed by world-famous architects than they are by a position being offered. His explanation struck me as familiar.

I also like the expression — “Stars in your eyes”. I get it. It’s apt. I would credit him properly, but I’m pretty sure that would be a breach of discretion. 😉

As a recruiter who has been working for ultra-high-net-worth families around the world for just shy of three decades (do I have stars in my eyes? Nah!), I have all-too frequently encountered applicants who fit the above description precisely. Don’t get me wrong. Flying private is a pleasure. Beautiful work environments are just that — beautiful. I don’t mean to minimize these things. What I do wish to argue, is if that is all that is attractive to an applicant, they are then applying for the job for the wrong reasons.

My eyes roll when I detect “oooh’s” and “ahhhh’s”. I see trouble when others see stars.

Allow me to explain why. A good job should speak for itself. It should never have to be “sold”. It should not be embellished with bright, shiny objects. If embellishment is necessary, there just might be something wrong with the role and there is definitely something wrong with the applicant who is captivated by those shiny bobbles.

A good job presents opportunity, interesting challenges, solid work colleagues, fair employers, and correct remuneration. It should also offer opportunities for professional growth. A person should want the job for those reasons, although there are others. I look for these interests in candidates. I want to hear questions that revolve around these matters. The right questions and emphases are good indicators that the applicant is grounded and professional. They usually make good employees who take pride in what they do for its own sake.

Sure, they might care about the private aircraft, but it’s because they are determining if their position might include liaising with the crew, a private chef, the chauffeur, and flight departments. They might care about a fantastic wine cellar because they will learn that their position might involve bullet-proof inventorying, safe transportation, and a wine broker. It suggests a person who takes the job for what it is — a job. They are not blinded by stars. They see what they need to see. They ask what they need to ask.

I think a lot of people think private service is all about glamour. If they get a job, they inevitably realize that it isn’t. It’s about work and always conducting oneself professionally.

I don’t intend this piece to be simply about those individuals with “stars in their eyes”. I also intend it as something of a warning. If an employer or recruiter is placing an inordinate emphasis on the trappings of the job, they are likely setting the applicant up for a trap. If employers need to be on guard against possible employees who are wowed by wardrobes filled with this season's couture, applicants need to be on guard against hiring agents who dangle stars in front of them. Those stars might be deliberately placed in order to blind and obfuscate the things they wish to hide. 

When applying for work, always get to the heart of the matter -- the job itself.

It’s a generalization, but I still believe after all these years that the best matches are made through a hiring regimen that is mutually authentic, honest, and grounded in integrity. Enjoy being exposed to the things that most of us would never have the opportunity to see and experience, but don't get stuck on them because you will just get stuck.

© Portico Inc., 2022

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