A guide to working as a sectretary
Published at 09:27, Monday, 03 March 2008
SECRETARIAL and administrative work has changed significantly over the years, and the role varies greatly depending on sector, the size of the employer and levels of responsibility.
Most work involves communication and word processing skills, and within specialist fields such as law, many secretaries and administrators are required to have relevant, high-level qualifications.
Most secretaries and administrators will undertake typical work tasks: general word processing, dealing with telephone and email enquiries, creating and maintaining filing systems, keeping diaries and taking appointments for staff.
Depending on the sector, the role could also include devising and maintaining office systems, booking rooms, arranging meetings, taking minutes and keeping notes; ordering and maintaining stationery and equipment supplies; using shorthand and audio tapes or copytyping to produce letters; using content management systems to maintain and update websites and internal databases.
They may also be responsible for recruiting and training junior staff, and delegating work as required.
Salary and Conditions
RANGE of typical starting salaries: £13,500 to £18,000 for jobs outside London; £19,000 to £25,000 in London.
Salaries can rise with many years of accrued experience, languages, chartership and qualifications, or employment at a law firm or FTSE 100 company. A chartered secretary with 15 years' experience working for a FTSE 100 company in the City can earn over £120,000 per annum.
Working hours are typically nine to five, possibly with some extra hours being almost entirely office-based. Interim, part-time and temporary roles are common. The majority of secretarial jobs are still held by women.
The job can be stressful at times, since the work is always focused on the needs of the manager or team and deadlines can be imposed suddenly, demanding flexibility and occasionally the need to work extra hours to complete tasks.
REQUIREMENTS for formal qualifications vary according to employer and sector, and qualifications tend to be more desirable than essential. However, for roles with more responsibility, degree and HND subjects such as secretarial studies, government/public administration, business/management, business with languages, may increase your chances.
There are special secretarial courses available for graduates, often through private colleges. Specific secretarial training is useful for entry to legal or medical roles.
Relevant experience is often more highly valued than specific secretarial qualifications, although excellent IT skills will always be in demand.
Potential candidates will need to show:
l an ability to plan your own work
l work on your own initiative and to deadlines
l an ability to manage pressure and conflicting demands, and prioritise tasks
l oral and written communication skills
l tact and discretion
l a pleasant, confident telephone manner
Knowledge of another common business language such as French or Japanese may boost potential earnings.
A good way of gaining experience or getting a first job as a secretary or administrator is by temping through an agency, and this often leads to permanent positions. If you do not have much previous experience, a temping job will be an opportunity to try different sorts of secretarial or administrative work and help you decide what aspects you find particularly enjoyable and the sort of employer or sector you would like to work with.
Competition is not usually severe, although it depends on the area of employment as demand for skilled, experienced staff remains high. Exact requirements for particular typing speeds and knowledge will vary from vacancy to vacancy depending on the nature of the post, but a minimum typing speed of 45 words per minute is normally required. Agencies are a common way of gaining jobs in this occupation, but applying directly to organisations that appeal to you can be effective.
Employers regard experience very highly in this field of work, so mature entry is not generally a problem.
ALTHOUGH you can become a secretary and administrator straight from university without undertaking additional qualifications, once in post you may choose to undertake specific qualifications, such as those awarded by City and Guilds (including Pitman Qualifications), the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) International Qualifications and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA).
Courses available include full-time fast-track qualifications, often favoured by graduates as they can be completed quickly and provide wide-ranging knowledge about office procedures and secretarial skills.
Entry to more specialised areas, such as legal or medical secretarial work, may require additional qualifications, sometimes offered through trainee positions or by gaining extra accreditation on a secretarial course.
It is important to keep up to date with new technology and take advantage of any training courses offered, either externally or in-house. The range of IT skills you will need will depend on your specific role, but increasingly secretaries and administrators are responsible for a range of IT projects. You may wish to undergo training in web-authoring, PowerPoint, and statistical packages.
Most other training is on the job and will usually focus on business operation, although some soft skills training, such as assertiveness or customer service, may be offered. Common general areas of training for secretaries and administrators include health and safety, first aid, records and content management and industry and company procedures.
THERE are a number of ways in which your career could develop; you may wish to specialise in one industry or area, such as legal or medical secretarial work, or become a personal assistant to a company director or other senior manager. Alternatively, you could choose to use your organisational skills as an office manager, co-ordinating the work of others within a department or organisation. It is possible in some sectors, in charities or property for example, to move up through internal vacancies and opportunities, so working in admin in a sector that you are interested in can be a good 'foot in the door'. Joining a professional body, such as the Institute of Qualified Professional Secretaries can offer more scope for career development.
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk