Secretaries and other administrative assistants generally have a wide range of duties and responsibilities. Their main duty will usually be to provide administrative support to the senior managers in an organisation. However, they may also be required to take on a variety of secondary duties. The nature of the administrative support that a secretary is required to provide will depend largely on the following factors:
The level of seniority of the position in which he or she is employed.
More experienced secretaries may be employed in senior administrative roles, where they may be responsible for overall office management, project management, and training of junior admin staff.
The type of organisation by which he or she is employed.
Secretaries employed in a legal office environment, for example, may be required to do legal research, draft pleadings, and deliver documents to court. Secretaries employed in a corporate environment, on the other hand, may be required to prepare reports and compile presentations.
The size of the organisation by which he or she is employed.
In a large organisation, a secretary will most likely have clearly defined responsibilities. In a smaller organisation, however, a secretary may be required to take on a variety of additional responsibilities, such as basic bookkeeping, payroll administration, and events planning. The reason for this is that smaller organisations often cannot justify the expense of employing someone to handle these tasks on a full-time basis.
The general duties of a secretary
In general, secretaries may be required to perform some or all of the following tasks, regardless of where they are employed:
- Answering the telephone and redirecting calls.
- Handling correspondence via post, e-mail and fax.
- Managing electronic and paper filing systems.
- Managing diaries and scheduling appointments.
- Booking meeting venues and making travel arrangements.
- Taking minutes at meetings.
- Preparing reports and presentations.
- Purchasing office supplies.
- Conducting research.
- Handling requests for information.
- Photocopying and printing documents.
- Working with confidential information.
- Negotiating with suppliers.
- Handling petty cash.
- For more senior positions: training and supervising junior admin staff.
In order to perform these duties, secretaries need to have the following skills and characteristics:
- Excellent communication skills (both written and verbal)
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Basic numerical skills
- Problem solving skills
- Time management skills
- Honesty and integrity
- An eye for detail
- A strong work ethic
- An ability to work independently and as part of a team
Learning how to perform the duties of a secretary
You can learn to perform the duties of a secretary both through formal education and practical work experience. Due to the competitive nature of the job market, it is recommended that you complete a course in secretarial studies, in addition to gaining the relevant practical experience. Some employers are happy to employ secretaries who have not yet completed their qualifications, but are in the process of working towards their secretarial certificates or diplomas.