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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.
A good secretary has various qualities - both hard and soft skills that help them succeed in a role. These qualities can be learned and developed with a little bit of dedication. These are just a few of them:
Besides these soft skills, most employers expect a secretary to be educated to at least matriculation level, followed by secretarial training. Typing speed is an important skill for many employers.
If you can touch-type, your speed will improve the more typing you do – you’ll need to be able to type anywhere from 55 to 80 words per minute, and faster is always better.
Related: How to use the STAR technique to excel in job interviews
Learn to anticipate needs
The most successful secretaries work towards helping others when they ask for it, then anticipate what might be needed for the future. Be proactive and search out ways to anticipate requests and needs from others. Paying attention to detail on assigned tasks can help you anticipate what will be needed in the future.
Be meticulously organised
Keep detailed notes
Focus on clear communication.
Work on your communication skills to communicate directly, clearly and with intent to any stakeholders you interact with. Being able to write a concise email and speak well both internally and externally will be a huge advantage, given that a large part of your job is about communicating effectively.
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There will always be different elements to each secretary’s job description. However, generally speaking, a secretary is responsible for supporting various aspects of the business, often taking care of administrative tasks from taking meeting notes to managing schedules, organising events or making travel arrangements.
It is a varied role and depends a lot on whom 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.
An ambitious secretary can refresh their career every couple of years, once they have mastered and developed the latest role. This is the perfect time to take on more responsibility, developing the project management and supervisory aspects of a role.
Entry-level secretarial jobs generally have much room for growth, and a secretary can evolve into an administrative assistant, executive assistant, office manager, administrative coordinator or other senior administrative roles. With specialised knowledge of a department, industry or company, effective secretaries should see themselves moving up an exciting career path.
The alternative is to make a lateral move within an organisation to other departments or look to new pastures for the following external challenge. Project management and human resources are two sectors that many secretaries find themselves well-prepared for with transferable skill sets.
Related: 5 things you need to know about starting a career in HR
Employers look for stability on a secretary’s CV. 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 successful secretaries often become essential parts of the organisation.
Ready for your next career step? Check out these current job openings or submit your CV now.
Read more:3 important transferable skills for your careerHow to help build an inclusive workplace for womenHow you can be highly effective in a role from day 1
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