I was a secretary for nine years in the seventies in my hometown 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 is very 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.
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 (or Administrative Professionals’ Week, as it is more 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.
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” and so on.
What we 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, coordinating, communicating, planning: all the juggling that they have done so well as their role has evolved.
Look out for Part 2 of this article, where we look to the future and provide you with some great tips on how you can be a super secretary and an Ambassador of Excellence!