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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 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.

 What Qualities Make A Good Secretary?

A secretary is valued for attributes like:

  • Organisational abilities
  • Clear, friendly and professional communication skills
  • A personable phone manner
  • Initiative and drive
  • IT literacy
  • Honesty and discretion
  • Efficient time-management skills
  • A flair for championing a team ethic
  • The ability to cope with pressure, deadlines and multitasking
  • Professionalism
  • Project management skills

 What Does A Secretary Do?

There will always be different elements to each secretary’s job description, but you could say that the most valuable asset a secretary or business support professional can have is the ability to think on their feet.

Secretarial and business support work is demanding, with typical tasks including drafting letters, managing correspondence, diary coordination, organising travel and paying expenses.

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.

 How High Can A Secretary Go?

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, 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.

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