Secretary: job description
Secretaries and administrators help to keep an organisation running smoothly, taking care of the administrative and organisational tasks that make the organisation function. The job title ‘administrator’ and ‘secretary’ can be used interchangeably to describe the same role, or ‘secretary’ can be another, more old-fashioned name for a personal assistant or executive assistant.
Typical responsibilities of the job include:
- answering calls, taking messages and handling correspondence
- maintaining diaries and arranging appointments
- typing, preparing and collating reports
- organising and servicing meetings (producing agendas and taking minutes)
- managing databases
- prioritising workloads
- implementing new procedures and administrative systems
- liaising with relevant organisations and clients
- coordinating mail-shots and similar publicity tasks
- logging or processing bills or expenses
- acting as a receptionist and/or meeting and greeting clients
- if more senior, recruiting, training and supervising junior staff
An administrative role can sometimes be a way into a profession, particularly those in the media or marketing; that is, many professionals in sectors such as marketing and the media start out in an administrative role and 'work their way' up. Similarly, university students and graduates often do short-term temp work as an administrator or secretary via a recruitment agency during the holidays or after graduating. This sort of office experince can be an asset on a CV: read our top tips for temping.
However, if you wish to specialise in an administrative role, career progression can come from taking on more senior administrative positions; what these are exactly will differ according to the organisation. In some, you might become a senior administrator or team leader; in others, a personal or executive assistant; in still more, an office manager. It’s also not unknown for secretarial and administrative staff to specialise in working for organisations in particular sectors: for example, pharmaceuticals or law.
A huge range of organisations across the public and private sectors employ secretaries and administrators.
Jobs can typically be found on jobs boards, directly through the employer’s websites, through recruitment agencies and in the print and online versions of local and national newspapers.
Formal academic qualifications are not always needed, although some employers do require you to be educated to a GCSE/standards or A level/highers level. A small minority might ask for a degree, in which case a degree in a English, business, IT or information science may be beneficial.
Most employers require applicants to have office or administrative work experience; relevant experience can be gained through temping via recruitment agencies. This, in turn, can lead to permanent work.
Some organisations ask for the ability to type a certain number of words per minute or to have experience in audiotyping; however, shorthand is no longer asked for as standard. A range or secretarial training courses are available online or via further education colleges.
- Good communication, customer service and relationship-building skills
- Teamworking skills
- Organisation and time management skills
- Attention to detail
- Negotiation skills
- Tact, discretion and diplomacy
- The ability to be proactive and use your initiative: to see what needs doing and to do it
- The ability to use standard software packages (eg Microsoft Office)and to learn bespoke packages if required