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Today’s Secretaries – Ambassadors Of Excellence

I was a secretary for nine years in the seventies in my home town of Sheffield, England. During that time I would have listed my main duties as shorthand, typing, filing, answering the phone, greeting visitors and making tea and coffee – oh, and don’t forget buying the boss’s wife a birthday present!

I started my working life as a secretary on a manual typewriter, then progressed to electric (does anyone remember the excitement of the IBM golfball typewriter with lift-off tape?) and then to electronic with a one-line display. As a secretary back then I was also responsible for keying laboriously into the telex machine; as I sent messages across the world, I used to marvel at the wonders of technology that brought us such a wonderful machine like telex!

The life of today’s secretary’s is very much different. Technology has advanced so much, bringing us word processing, computers, fax, mobile phones, teleconferencing, video conferencing, the Internet, email and so much more. All this means that not only is the world becoming smaller and communications becoming quicker and easier, but the role of the secretary has become so much broader and much more exciting and challenging than it was in my secretarial days.

Today’s secretary

Times have certainly changed, and the role of the secretary has evolved enormously. Secretaries have shown their flexibility, their dedication and their commitment to their evolving role by expanding their skills and competencies to meet the needs of a changing workplace. Through all the changes in technology and business structures, secretaries have emerged in a stronger, more important position than ever before. Current trends are showing that today’s ‘secretary’ (or ‘administrative professional’, as she is becoming more commonly known) is using even broader skills in management functions and technology. Some typical duties of today’s secretaries include:

  • project management
  • integrated computer software applications
  • organisation and scheduling
  • Internet, Intranet communications and research
  • document preparation, storage and retrieval, with emphasis on electronic record-keeping
  • customer service and public relations
  • planning meetings and other events
  • staff supervision
  • office management

 

Names are changing too

The traditional image of a ‘secretary’ no longer fits many of the duties that are actually being performed within the workplace. Many ‘secretaries’ today are handling more advanced responsibilities beyond just typing or performing strictly clerical functions. As a result the name is changing. Popular titles now are Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, Office Manager, Co-ordinator and Specialist.

Ambassadors of Excellence

The official theme for Secretaries Week 2004 (or Administrative Professionals Week, as it is accurately known) is ‘Ambassadors of Excellence’. This theme signifies that ‘admins’ play a key role as front-line public relations representatives and communications hubs in today’s global business environment. This theme also signifies that admins have a responsibility to serve as positive role models for their chosen profession.

(NB: For more information on Administrative Professionals Week, see the website of the International Association of Administrative Professionals.)

Will these trends continue?

It seems certain that the current trends will continue. Organisations will no longer want the old-fashioned traditional secretaries. That is not to say that very senior people will not still need someone to organise their lives for them – they will. Many successful executives could not do their job without a PA who says “You need to do this today, you can deal with this tomorrow, remember to call this person” etc etc.

What we are now see happening more and more is the secretarial role developing into being the ‘glue that holds the team together’ – ‘secretaries’ will be doing even more organising, scheduling, co-ordinating, communicating, planning – all the ‘juggling’ that they have done so well as their role has evolved.

The future

As we move further into the 21st century, secretaries should continue to do what they have been doing in the past… Take every opportunity to develop, to grow, to learn, to adapt and to move with the times. There will always be a need for well-qualified and experienced secretaries who make a continuing commitment towards increasing skills and competencies. So go on secretaries, show that you are truly ‘Ambassadors of Excellence’. You have certainly come a long way, and with your role evolving all the time, the future looks very exciting – and the only way is UP!

How can you be a Super Secretary?

Here are my tips for how you can be an Ambassador of Excellence:

A

dvance yourself constantly. Learn new software programs, develop new skills, attend workshops, seminars and refresher courses.

M

aximise your people skills. In today’s team-orientated work environment, learn how to build and maintain positive relationships at work.

B

e open minded. What you thought was so yesterday may not be so today … and vice versa. Be willing to look at new information in a new light so that you can make new decisions to keep yourself fresh and up-to-date.

A

djust your goals and set new ones. Work towards making them happen.

S

witch on to technology. Work towards making them happen.

A

djust your goals and set new ones. New jobs are evolving constantly because of computer knowledge. Make sure you’re ready.

S

pend time with people you admire the most. Learn whatever they can teach you.

A

void negative people. What they have is contagious, and very difficult to cure.

D

evelop your skills and abilities. Seek new challenges constantly, and take on new responsibilities that will expand your skill base.

O

utshine yourself. Give 100% every time, not just when you think there may be something in it for you. Give your best every time and it will build consistently into a superior performance.

R

evise your working routines and practices constantly. Look for new ways to do things better, quicker, more efficiently and more effectively.

 

Super Secretary Checklist

If you want to be a Super Secretary, here are my tips:

S

witch on to technology. New jobs are evolving constantly because of computer knowledge. Make sure you’re ready.

U

tilise your skills and abilities fully. Seek new challenges and take on new responsibilities that will expand your skill base.

P

rocess your people skills. In today’s team-orientated work environment, learn how to build and maintain positive relationships at work.

E

xceed your own best. Learn something new every day – from co-workers, newspapers, TV, wherever. Stretch your mind and it will stretch your limits.

R

emove minutes, dollars or hassles from the tasks you do regularly. Play “beat the clock” with yourself. Use good time management.

S

pend time with people you admire the most. Learn whatever they can teach you.

E

ducate yourself constantly. Learn new software programs, develop new skills, attend workshops and seminars.

C

onstantly set new goals for yourself. Work towards making them happen.

R

evise your working routines and practices constantly. Look for new ways to do things better, quicker, more efficiently and more effectively.

E

xcel yourself. Give 100% every time, not just when you think there may be something in it for you. Give your best every time and it will build consistently into a superior performance.

T

ry to be true to yourself. Know your values and where you draw the line.

A

void negative people. What they have is contagious, and very difficult to cure.

R

etain an open mind. What you thought was so yesterday may not be so today … and vice versa. Be willing to look at new information in a new light so that you can make new decisions to keep yourself fresh and up-to-date.

Y

es! Say yes! Don’t let your first thoughts be “it’s too much work” or “I don’t know” Approach everything with a positive attitude – say “I can”, not “I can’t”!

 

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© 2013 Shirley Taylor.
Shirley Taylor is a recognised leading authority on business writing and communication skills. For almost 30 years she has presented keynotes and training programmes that help people and organisations boost communication skills and develop great relationships both orally and in writing. Shirley is bestselling author of 12 books, including Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business Documents, which has sold half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into many languages. If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit www.shirleytaylor.com.

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