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15 Challenges Only Secretaries Can Handle

15 Challenges Only Secretaries Can Handle

You’d be surprised to know that the most popular profession for women in 1950s and today is the same—secretary. About 4 million girls employed in the US fell into the category of “secretaries and administrative assistants” and I believe it is a job you can be proud of.

Being an executive secretary, personal assistant, legal, medical or a school secretary means dealing with a lot of ongoing tasks at once, mastering time-management and keeping razor sharp attention to details. No matter what they may say, it’s an important and rewarding job to take. Just think of the next 15 challenges we can handle with ease and grace as part of our profession!

1. You can smile and stay friendly even if you are not in the mood.

No matter what’s boggling your mind right now or tears your heart apart, you are a true professional and will always greet your boss’s clients with a bright smile and warm notes in your voice. You are particularly good at separating you work and emotions as you are the person who makes the first impression for the company you work for.

2. You can keep any secrets.

As a secretary you often deal with a lot of sensitive data and private information. The saying “curiosity killed the cat” has a sacred meaning for you. Yes being curios is part of the human nature; however, there’s a fine line between wanting to know more and and being so exuberant that you want to tell everybody what you have just learned.

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You are proud to say that you are someone your employer can wholeheartedly trust and stay sure nothing will ever leak, even the most hilarious or obscure things your boss does. Besides, you are perfectly aware of the difference between being helpful and being too bubbly. The latter includes spilling out information from a client’s file to a caller who barely introduced himself or going into too much details of what exactly your boss is now up to.

3. You can DIY basically anything.

All sort of emergencies happen in the office. Most probably you are the person to deal with them. So now you happen to know a lot of handy hacks from how to DIY last minute business invitation and business cards to creative ways to clean up wine spills fast and even making a lip scrub  (true story). Everyone in the office know you can figure things out and propose an unconventional solution to any problem out there. Surely, you feel really proud of that, but sometimes constantly feeling challenged is a bit overwhelming as well.

4. You can taking notes really fast.

Your typing speed is somewhere close to the speed of light, but you also know that taking longhand notes can be even more effective when there’s a lot of information to digest.  During the past few years you’ve mastered shorthand, developed your own writing system and bought at least 4 new notebooks. Also, you had to master calligraphy as you are the person asked to write some beautiful text on those last minute invitations.

5. You can always stay organized.

You just cannot let yourself zone out, daydream or be a tiny bit absent-minded. Even if you are woken up at 3 a.m. in the morning, you can fire out your boss’s daily schedule for the next month. You have a few to-do list apps in your phone, a corporate Google calendar sync with all your devices, numerous reminders on your desktop and colorful stickers everywhere with the most important tasks to handle.

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6. You are a planner.

As you spend most of your days coordinating events, scheduling company meetings and making all sort of other arrangements from travel to catering, in your daily life, you have become an absolute planner as well. The world “spontaneous” makes you cringe and think of how bad will those unplanned things turn out, even if it’s just a weekend getaway to the countryside with your SO. Your have a strict daily routine and you start slightly panicking when something intervenes and you need to make changes. Some of your friends say you are a bit boring, but you just love to keep everything well-planned and organized.

7. You need to care a lot about your appearance.

Part of your profession is to look and dress well and appropriate. You carefully plan your outfit, accessories and shoes in the morning, watch for new business fashion trends and even secretly flip those “dress for success books.” You frequently visit your hairstylist (sometimes more frequent that your wallet would want to), nail salon and other beauty parlors to look groomed. You wish you could wear anything to work and stop applying makeup in the morning, but sadly there is no way around the fact that people judge you and the company you work for by your personal appearance.

8. You are in constant search of new ways to become even more productive.

Typically, you have a lot of work at hand and loads of tasks to juggle at once. So you spend most of your evenings testing yet another time-management app, reading all about the new productivity trends and hacks out there. The truth is, sometimes you get so engaged that you actually procrastinate by trying to become even more productive instead of getting things done.

9. You can be very flexible.

That means you come early in the morning and stay out til late if that’s absolutely needed. You are okay with flexible working hours that often get sporadic and can easily adjust to nearly any schedule or working environment. However, that means you can’t maintain proper work-life balance and oftentimes sacrifice your personal time for the sake of work.

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10. You can deal with any type of person.

Obviously, you don’t work in a vacuum and apart from dealing with your boss, you also happen have a sort of interactions with vendors, clients, board members, other employees and all sort of other folks out there. Yes, most of people you interact with are genuinely pleasant, but you often get face to face with “difficult people” as well.  You are forced to exercises all your patients and professionals to keep the communication smooth and polite. In real life you’ve probably said the f-word already at least twice, but at work you can’t let your emotions dominate.

Apart from that you are sometimes bullied by those who see you as a subordinate. It’s another unpleasant situation you have to tactfully deal with and communicate assertively while keeping good work relationships.

11. You can always learn something.

Now you can master any new accounting software in about 15 min, set up any email client, deal with different models of printers, scanner and VoIP phones without calling the IT guys. You learn new things every day and master new skills depending on the task you are supposed to handle. However, being a Renaissance man sometimes gets tiring.

12. You can never be late.

Actually, being late is your worst nightmare. So you always set two alarm clocks in the morning, especially if you have an important meeting. You leave home well in advance to have some extra time in case you get stuck in a traffic jam or something else turns out.

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13. You can never throw papers away.

During your first month you were kind of afraid to throw any paper away as it might later turn out as important. Now, you need one quick glance to identify which pile the paper should go to trash; to add to the folder as it might be needed some day; important and “never through that away under any circumstances.”  The problem is: you’ve stopped throwing away papers at home to and keep them neatly organized in folders just in case it’s ever needed.

14. You are very attentive to details

As you deal with a lot of paper work and important data, one small typo can not only cost you a job, but get your whole company in serious trouble. Say, typing $600.000 instead of $60.000 in a vendor contract. Your job made you manically attentive to all the details, you triple check everything you send to other people. Also, you are probably a grammar nazi and can help telling your friend that he misspelled something on Facebook or didn’t use the correct tense.

15. You can always crack a good joke.

As a recent survey found, 98% of CEOs prefer candidates with good sense of humor. Yes, you are a true professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at the same time. People like you because you can give a witty remark or make a good joke even when things get really intense. Your sense of humor is among the things that help you handle even the most daunting challenges with ease!

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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