Secretaries work in a variety of industries, providing administrative support to managers and executives. Secretaries may specialize in one area, like finance or human resources, or they may work as generalists.
Secretaries may handle a variety of administrative tasks, including scheduling meetings, answering phones, taking notes during meetings, and filing documents. They may be responsible for the office’s finances, maintaining files, and other duties.
Secretaries must have excellent organizational skills and be able to multitask effectively. They must also be able to keep confidential information secure.
Secretary Job Duties
The following are some general secretary responsibilities:
- Perform clerical tasks such as typing, copying documents, and maintaining office supplies
- Schedule meetings and events for senior management
- Take minutes at meetings
- Organize files to ensure that all records are up to date and accessible
- Prepare presentations for senior management by collecting information from various sources
- Answer phones and relay messages to the appropriate parties
The job description of a secretary varies based on the size of the company they work for, their level of experience in the field, and their position within the company’s hierarchy.
Secretary Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for secretaries is $40,159, and the highest earners make over $61,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in education and health care.
The number of secretary jobs is expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to the growing popularity of electronic filing systems and other technology that allows organizations to handle administrative tasks themselves.
Secretary Job Requirements
Securing a position as a secretary may involve certain requirements depending on the level of jobs for which you’re applying, including:
Education: Employers prefer that candidates have a high school diploma or equivalent. Many employers prefer applicants with some college education in business administration or secretarial studies. Some employers require specific certification and/or experience.
Training: Most employers offer on-the-job training and require that candidates attend training classes before beginning to work.
Certification: Professional organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) provide professional certifications.
To be a successful secretary, you must have the following skills:
Attention to detail: A secretary is responsible for ensuring that all correspondence is handled correctly and in a timely manner. Attention to detail is therefore very important.
Communication skills: The secretary needs to know how to interact with people from all walks of life. He or she must also have a way with words so he or she can speak clearly and professionally when speaking with clients over the phone or face-to-face. He or she must also write clearly and concisely.
Knowledge of office equipment: Knowledge of office equipment such as fax machines, copiers, and computers will help secretaries perform their jobs more efficiently.
Time management: Time management is important as secretaries must complete a number of tasks each day. They must also ensure that their boss arrives at meetings on time and that any necessary travel arrangements are made well in advance.
Problem-solving skills: Because problems inevitably arise when running an office, problem-solving skills are a necessity for this position.
Secretary Work Environment
Secretaries usually work indoors in comfortable offices. The work requires multitasking and sometimes working under pressure from supervisors or clients. Secretaries must have excellent organizational skills to keep all aspects of their office running smoothly. Although secretarial jobs are not highly technical, they are mentally demanding and require thinking on your feet.
As one of the gatekeepers to their employers, secretaries must be firm and professional in dealing with demanding people, both internally and externally. This requires them to have strong interpersonal skills. They deal with a variety of individuals throughout the day including co-workers, supervisors, employers, and customers.
Secretary Career Advancement
Some secretaries advance to the position of Administrative Assistant. This is typically the first step towards becoming an Executive Assistant. As an Executive Assistant, you’ll be responsible for scheduling meetings, managing calendars, drafting correspondence, and coordinating travel.
If you’re looking to advance within your company, you may want to take on more responsibilities, such as learning to type or learning how to use the company’s CRM platform. Your manager may help you learn these things, but you should also consider taking classes or certifying on your own.
You may also advance to the position of office manager. As the office manager, you’ll oversee office operations including the planning of office parties and business travel. You’ll also schedule meetings and events and manage the office budget. You’ll likely have a team of office assistants working under your supervision.
Here are three trends influencing how secretaries work. Secretaries will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increased Importance of Project Management
Administrative professionals are increasingly needed to serve as project managers, which means that they will need to be able to think strategically and lead projects.
Project management is becoming more important because the growth of technology in the workplace is changing how companies work—businesses now rely on employees who can efficiently manage both traditional tasks and digital tasks.
It is unlikely that secretaries will disappear entirely, but as technology continues to improve and automate many administrative tasks, the role of the secretary is likely to evolve. Secretaries and administrative assistants will need to become more tech-savvy in order to adapt to the changing needs of the office.
While many jobs are being automated, secretaries are often asked to manage or assist with these new technologies, requiring them to know how to work with software programs like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, QuickBooks, etc.
Greater Importance of Communication and Decision Making
The rise in automation of tasks and electronic document management systems allows secretaries to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time focusing on the skills that make them most valuable, such as maintaining professional relationships with other staff members or making critical decisions about business priorities.
How to Become a Secretary
1. Planning Your Career Path
A career as a secretary requires the ability to take directions well, so strong communication skills are key. It’s also important to be detail-oriented and possess good time management skills; this is because your work will often involve juggling multiple tasks at once.
Depending on the type of company you work for, your duties may vary. Some companies may expect you to greet clients, run errands, or provide administrative support; others might only require you to answer phones and type up documents. Whatever your job entails, it’s important to know that each role comes with its own set of challenges.
So how do you get started? Consider volunteering in an office setting before applying for full-time positions. Not only will this help you determine if a career in this field is right for you, but it will also give you the opportunity to meet people who can potentially help open doors down the road.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for secretarial positions emphasize their strong organizational skills, ability to work well in a team, and ability to communicate clearly. Your job descriptions should list the kind of traits employers look for in a secretary.
To showcase your ability to work well in a team, it is useful to include statements about how you worked with others on team projects such as committees or improvement teams. When providing your work history, be sure to highlight any instances where you demonstrated leadership by managing projects and people. It is also helpful to describe how you contributed to the company and what value you added.
If relevant, you can list additional skills such as typing at a specific speed and computer proficiency with specific software.
3. Applying for Jobs
There are several resources online that will help you find the most recent job openings; check out Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com for more information. Keep an updated online presence, and sign up for notifications from job boards on LinkedIn and other networks.
When applying for jobs as a secretary, think about how you can stand out from the crowd as there are usually many applicants for administrative jobs. One way to be remembered is to ensure you professionally follow up on your application. As secretaries are required to keep a highly professional image, following up by email and phone will allow you to showcase your personability and professionalism.
4. Ace the Interview
At any level of the job interview process, you need to be prepared to answer the standard questions relating to your strengths, weaknesses, and goals for the future. Prepare to answer these in relation to the secretarial position, so that it allows you to showcase relevant skills such as organizational skills. Prepare to answer these questions with specific examples from previous jobs.
As interpersonal skills are important for this position, you may be asked how you’ve handled difficult clients in the past. It’s likely that you will be asked for more context about your previous roles, so interviews can gauge the extent of your experience as relevant to their organization and requirements. It can, therefore, be helpful for you to review your own resume beforehand–particularly if you have extensive experience–to remind yourself of the context of your past jobs.