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What it takes to be a successful secretary
It’s often said that an executive is only as good as their secretary, executive assistant or personal assistant. Handling the day-to-day administration for a person, team or network, a secretary is the “eyes and ears” of a company, privy to unique and powerful insights about the company culture, performance and future direction. It can be a rewarding and exciting career path for any professional.
What does it take to be a successful secretary? Here are a few tips.
What qualities make a good secretary?
A good secretary has a variety of qualities that help them succeed in a role. These are just a few of them:
Clear, friendly and professional communication skills
A personable phone manner
Initiative and drive
Honesty and discretion
Efficient time-management skills
A flair for championing a team ethic
The ability to cope with pressure, deadlines and multitasking
Project management skills
What does a secretary do?
There will always be different elements to each secretary’s job description, but generally speaking a secretary is responsible for supporting other aspects of the business, often taking care of administrative tasks from taking meeting notes, to scheduling to making travel arrangements. It is a varied role and depends a lot on who the secretary is supporting and what type of company they are working for. Given that broad job description, one of the most valuable assets a secretary or business support professional can have is the ability to think on their feet.
Secretarial and business support work is demanding and requires someone who can wear multiple hats and multitask well.
These duties may fall under the remit of a secretary or administrator, with the main difference between these titles being a formal secretarial qualification. A secretary needs to be able to touch type and hold literacy in the Microsoft Office suite, while administrators often contribute on a project-by-project basis.
What does the career path for a secretary look like?
To start with, most employers expect a secretary to be educated to at least matriculation-level, followed by secretarial training. Typing speed is key – if you can touch type, your speed will improve the more typing you do. Otherwise, it is very difficult to exceed the average rate of 40 words per minute.
An ambitious secretary will refresh their career every couple of years, once they have mastered the latest role and developed it. This is the perfect time to take on more responsibility, developing the project management and supervisory aspects of a role.
The alternative is to make a sideways move within an organisation to other departments, or look to new pastures for the next external challenge.
Employers look for stability on a secretary’s CV, as this demonstrates highly prized attributes like resilience, the ability to make considered choices, commitment and reliability.
Choosing a career path as a secretary can be fulfilling, and succeful secretaries often become essential parts of the organisation.