Tips for secretaries

When discussing success in life, a well-known saying that is often heard is the following: "Behind every successful man is a good woman." A similar axiom may apply to today's modern office: "Behind every successful manager is a good secretary."

This is because a good secretary knows what's going on in the firm and, in fact, the word "secretary" comes from a term that refers to a "person entrusted with secrets".

This origin gives an indication of the importance of such a person to an organisation.

Indeed, when you consider the range of skills a modern secretary needs, it's small wonder how a manager could function without one.

If you are a secretary in an office, consider the following pointers.

Types of secretaries

In the past, there was normally only one kind of secretary - a person who would sit at a desk outside her boss's office, as in Hollywood movies, but nowadays, there are many different kinds of secretaries.

In the modern office, there are many roles for the modern secretary. For example, there are legal secretaries (who work in lawyers' offices, and who are sometimes used as paralegals); company secretaries (who take care of the corporate work aspects of companies); personal assistants, or PAs (who help with time and diary management, scheduling of meetings, etc); and executive assistants (who are authorised to make decisions that may materially affect the company).

Just as important, where secretaries used to be exclusively a female preserve, nowadays you can increasingly find men carrying out secretarial roles.

Telephone skills

Today's typical modern secretary has a wide range of skills, among which is the ability to communicate properly and effectively on the telephone.

This means that, for example, he or she is able to deal with difficult customers, and let others within the company know if there are changes to departmental or board meetings.

A good secretary knows, for example, how to use appropriate language in a situation where the cancellation of a meeting is unavoidable, such as "This is Suchada, Mr Bumphiri's secretary. I'm calling to inform you that today's meeting has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled for later in the week. I hope this does not cause you any inconvenience."

Similarly, a degree of diplomacy is sometimes needed as secretaries are required to screen telephone calls. An example of such a situation is when a senior manager or director calls and wants to speak to the secretary's boss.

Consider this language: "I'm afraid Mr Bumphiri's not in the office right now, but I'll be sure to have him call you when he returns. Would you like to leave a message?"

Other roles

In addition to the above, a secretary is also responsible for a range of administrative and clerical duties that are essential to the efficient operation of a business.

This means, in effect, that she needs to be well-organised, have a system for filing away important company information, and have the ability to quickly locate and retrieve information when needed.

Along with maintaining correspondence with customers, making hotel arrangements and booking flights, the secretary must also initiate and follow through on plans for conference meetings.

The secretary will also function as a liaison between the managerial side of the office and the back room staff (the office clerks, sales people and technical people who are in and out of the office throughout the day).

It is clear, then, that an efficient and effective secretary is indispensable to the smooth operation of a modern and efficient office.

For pointers on using the English language effectively and forcefully in business, visit or email Corporate English Consulting at or call 02-248-8306 - 13.

About the author

Writer: Thomas Tuohy
Position: Writer