What do you think of when you hear the words ‘administrator’ and ‘secretary’? Do you think of a skilled professional whose contribution is critical to the success of any organisation? Be honest now!
Administrators and secretaries still face the perception in the minds of many that their jobs are not really all that important and that anyone with half a brain could do them. Unfortunately, very often administrators and secretaries themselves are guilty of perpetuating that view. I was at a party recently chatting in a group of mainly health professionals. One woman when asked what she did said ‘Oh I’m just a secretary! This lack of belief in one’s value is something that I hope will change as administrators and secretaries begin to appreciate the value of their complex set of work skills. Possibly then, as they being to appreciate their own roles, their value will also become more apparent to others.
Administrators and secretaries nowadays require many of the same skills and competencies as managers. Of course they still perform those tasks long associated with the role such as typing letters, answering phones, filing, and scheduling meetings but now they also need to be skilled communicators, to be proactive in their approach, to have an understanding of the industry they work in, and to have excellent customer service skills since they may the first point of contact for many of the organisation’s key stakeholders. They also need to be emotionally intelligent and effectively handle ‘difficult’ people. In many cases they may need to take decisions to move a project forward. People who are able to do these jobs well are pretty special individuals. They need a span of skills most of us don’t have. They need to be prepared to photocopy and file at one end of the spectrum (oh and fix the photocopier when it breaks down!) and have an intelligent conversation with a visiting high level executive at the other end of the spectrum.
Additionally most organisations now run much leaner operations with the result that administrators and secretaries no longer support just one person. Often they will support an entire department, a job that requires a highly organised individual who can prioritise multiple tasks and deal with a wide array of personalities. Few bosses today expect an administrator or secretary to focus on making tea or coffee or to pick up their dry cleaning. Instead, administrative professionals frequently provide more strategic support and are as likely to write the letters and reports as to type them.
With all these added responsibilities many companies are changing the titles from ‘administrator’ and ‘secretary’ to ‘Executive Secretary’ ‘Executive Assistant’ ‘Personal Assistant’ to try to highlight that these jobs are highly valued and on a par with the executive management team. So next time you hear someone saying ‘I’m Just a Secretary’ make sure you remind them of how important their job is.