Secretaries like wise administrators play a vital supportive role in organizations where they are employed to undertake a variety of administrative tasks.
What does a secretary or administrator do?
Secretaries and administrators help to keep an organization running smoothly, taking care of the administrative and organizational tasks that make the organization function.
The job title ‘secretary’ can be another more old-fashioned name for a personal assistant or executive assistant.
Basic responsibilities of the job include:
- Answering calls
- Taking messages and handling correspondence
- Maintaining diaries and arranging appointments
- Preparing and collating reports
- Organizing and servicing meetings (producing agendas and taking minutes)
- Managing databases
- Prioritizing workloads
- Implementing new procedures and administrative systems
- Liaising with relevant organizations and clients
- Coordinating mail-shots and similar publicity tasks
- Logging or processing bills or expenses
- Acting as a receptionist and/or meeting and greeting clients
Probably, if more senior, recruiting, training and supervising junior staff.
An administrative role can sometimes be a way into a profession, particularly those in the media or marketing; that is, many professionals in sectors such as marketing and the media start out in an administrative role and ‘work their way’ up. Similarly, university students and graduates often do short-term temp work as an administrator or secretary via a recruitment agency during the holidays or after graduating. This sort of office experience can be an asset on a CV.
It’s also not unknown for secretarial staff to specialize in working for organizations in particular sectors: for example, pharmaceuticals or law.
Employers of secretaries
A huge range of organizations across the public and private sectors employ secretaries.
Jobs can typically be found on jobs boards, directly through the employer’s websites, through recruitment agencies and in the print and online versions of local and national newspapers.
Qualifications and training required
Formal academic qualifications are not always needed, although some employers do require you to be educated to a GCSE/standards or A level/higher level. A small minority might ask for a degree, in which case a degree in English, business, IT or information science may be beneficial.
Most employers require applicants to have an office or administrative work experience; relevant experience can be gained through temping via recruitment agencies. This, in turn, can lead to permanent work.
Some organizations ask for the ability to type a certain number of words per minute or to have experience in audio-typing; however, shorthand is no longer asked for as standard.
A range or secretarial training courses are available online or via further education colleges.
Key skills for secretaries
- Good communication, customer service and relationship-building skills
- Team-working skills
- Organization and time management skills
- Attention to detail
- Negotiation skills
- Tact, discretion, and diplomacy
- The ability to be proactive and use your initiative: to see what needs doing and to do it
- The ability to use standard software packages (eg Microsoft Office).