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The Changing Face of Secretarial Jobs

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The role of the secretary and the requirements for the job have evolved immensely over the last hundred or so years. Back in the 1920's, the quintessential secretarial jobs were little more than someone sitting in front of a typewriter and typing documents on behalf of the boss all day long. Sometimes the role would involve preparing tea for their manager. But those days are now long gone as the work environment underwent rapid transformation that completely redefined how many traditional jobs functioned. Nowadays, secretary jobs have a much broader range of responsibility.

But what really caused the transformation from the past role if the secretary to what we have today? The need for multi skilled staff is one of the main reasons. 30 or 40 years ago, getting a job in the US was not difficult. With little more than a high school certificate you could easily land a job that provided good pay. As time went on and the skill level of the workforce went up and the country faced a number of periods of financial distress, jobs became much more difficult to find.

In addition, office technology was changing and things could now be done faster and more accurately by people who knew how to use technology. Organizations began to focus on people that had post high school academic credentials and that had skills in more than one area. That way, businesses did not need to hire two people when they could hire one. Today's secretary jobs represent this convergence of skills that institutions increasingly demand.



Office secretaries must be skilled in correctly answering calls (i.e. phone etiquette), have intermediate bookkeeping skills and have strong mathematical aptitude. They will not only be responsible for overseeing the purchase of office supplies but they will also be tasked to run with or support a number of office projects. As opposed to competence in using a typewriter, today's secretarial jobs have to be at least computer literate but preferably be well versed in the most commonly used office desktop software applications.

At the heart of all secretary jobs is the ability to capture and manage the flow of official communication within an office. Secretaries will be expected to balance their responsibility to answer calls, send and receive faxes as well as overseeing the distribution of incoming and outgoing office mail. In bigger institutions, these roles might not fall within the secretary's docket and there may be other persons and departments that would be charged with this. Even then, admin assistant and secretarial jobs may still retain some oversight of the processes.

Another function of secretarial jobs is to help managers develop and adhere to annual spending budgets. Secretary jobs in smaller companies will be required to pay cheques and balance the ledger thus wearing the firm's accountant hat. The secretary will also help make travel arrangements for staff as well as accommodation and itinerary plans for visitors from distant places. Secretaries must also keep a keen eye on office equipment and supplies so as to make orders for new supplies in good time well before the stationery runs out.

Good secretaries are effectively the point person between management and the rest of the office staff. This is not only important in the sense that the manager can work in peace with minimal disturbance from the outside world. It is also important because secretaries can be a vital form of intelligence on what is the general feel among members of staff. Such information is vital in informing key management decisions such as promotions, salary raises, end of year bonus payments or scaling up employee benefits. Integrity for secretarial jobs is a must have. During the course of their work, people holding secretary jobs will be exposed to a significant amount of sensitive information whose disclosure would have a negative impact on the individual concerned or lead to poor perception of the institution in the market place.

Competent secretaries can rise through the ranks to become an executive secretary. A secretary can also easily make the transition into a management role by taking up appropriate academic and professional classes to shore up their skill level. In such instances, they would have the advantage of having worked among managers and already have a good amount of on the job training on what constitutes good management practice.
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