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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 July 18, 2019

How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

Most people grow up with dreams to go to college and graduate with high-paying job offers waiting for them the week after graduation. Others may favor non-traditional career paths. But the desire is the same: to find a job we love where compensation is commensurate with experience.

However, plans change. For instance, what started out as a dream to be a surgeon is cut short by a nasty injury and you’re debating how to transition into a new role. Or you might be facing being let go from your current employer and are anxious about “options out there.”

Whatever the case may be, switching careers can be intentional or unintentional. What matters is that you’re well-prepared, and the only way to do so is to learn new skills — hone in on your transferable skills.

Why Hone in on Your Transferable Skills?

There are several reasons you need to develop these skills if you want to go far in life and your career. In a nutshell, honing in your your transferable skills can lead to:

Better Job Offers

Continuous assessment and improvement of your skills widens the pool of job offers for you to make selections from. You’re no longer tethered to one industry as you’re able to lead your career by design, not by default.

People with transferable skills on a resume also open up opportunities for more potential employers.

Increase in Pay and More Responsibilities

You’ve heard the saying “with great power come great responsibility.” In your case, transferable skills make you more marketable to employers which could lead to pay raises.

Although this isn’t an automatic process– you have to be proactive about what you want in the marketplace, there is a chance that these pay raises will come with change in titles and roles.

A Shot at Entrepreneurship

Yes, changing career paths also includes the possibility of working for yourself. With these skills and work experience, you could live anywhere in the world and design a life and career you want.

We’ve talked about why you need to strengthen your transferable skills but what are some these skills, and how can you work on them?

13 Tips to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills

1. Update Your Resume

You might be surprised to know this but yes, updating your resume is a skill. The very first thing you should do while thinking about switching careers is to highlight attributes that make you very desirable candidate to employers.

Think about your volunteer experiences, freelance projects, and school projects. Although they might seem insignificant, they demonstrate your ability to deliver results that several companies are looking for.

While you might have held several positions since college, switching careers will require you to have a different type of resume.

There are three different types of resumes: functional, chronological, and a combination resume. However, if you are looking to switch careers you’ll want to have a functional resume. A functional resume is strengths-based that emphasizes skills that are transferable rather than a collection of dates and job titles.

2. Brush up on Your Communication Skills

Every attempt to get ahead in business and in life starts with the need to communicate effectively. Whether it is interpersonal, intercultural, or multi-generational, the ability to be seen and heard while respecting the boundaries of work relationship matters.

That’s why it’s one of the top skills you need to master. Strong communication skills allows you to effectively tailor your messages to specific audiences, which will make you a stronger asset to any organization.

To hone this skill:

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Pay attention to your listening skills. To communicate effectively, you need to first learn how to understand others.

Your ability to decode overt and implied messages, no matter how nuanced they are, is key to knowing how to foster deep relationships with others.

This article can also give you effective ways to enhance your communication skills:

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

3. Learn Technical (or Business) Writing

Another form of communication, writing, is a skill that can take you anywhere.

Companies communicate a lot through written memos, emails, newsletters, and other audio-visual means. But at the crux of this all is someone or some people who are tasked with translating the organization’s vision into statements anyone can understand.

To hone this skill:

Consider taking some free or paid classes online. You can accomplish this through several community colleges or online platforms like Lynda, Udemy or edX .

4. Practice Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

No matter how intelligent you are, no one will take you seriously if you’re unable to pull off a decent level of persuasion through presentation skills.

Most presentation can be done through either electronic devices or require your physical presence. Your chosen career may require you to be in front of several hundreds of people or you could be charged with developing materials for presentation.

To hone this skill:

Volunteer to lead projects that give you some responsibility for putting together presentations.

Also, try taking courses that will improve your public speaking skills if you feel lacking.

These tips on public speaking would be helpful too:

The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

5. Get Comfortable with Identifying Problems and Solutions

Every organization has got its problems no matter how greener the grass is on the other side.

How to hone this skill:

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Practice being resourceful.

Do you know where to find every company policy on the intranet in less than five minutes?

Think about a time you noticed some inefficiency at work and proposed a solution. Think about instances where you lent your voice to a cause which resulted in improved processes for your department.

No matter how small or inadequate you might feel, you’ve got some problem-solving skills that some organizations want.

If you look for more ways to improve your problem solving skills, take a look at this article:

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

6. Recognize Your Team-Building Ability

Your ability to smoothly switch careers also depends on how well you can energize your team, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. Unfortunately, team-building usually isn’t something you learn on the job in most careers unless you hold a managerial position.

The good thing is that you possibly know one or two things about team-building. Think back to moments in college when you had group projects with colleagues and had to work with 3 to 4 other strangers for months. Were you able to get past your differences and disagreements to focus on the uniqueness of everyone at the table?

Making a career switch might require that you work with multidisciplinary teams whether you have a deep knowledge of what the other team does or not. I can easily think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers working closely to achieve the goals in a patient’s care plan.

How to hone this skill:

Look for collaborative projects and team building activities that excite you and challenge yourself with new possibilities.

Try some of these tactics to keep your team motivated as well:

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

7. Lean into Your Leadership Skills

Although similar to the previous point, leadership skills extend far beyond building teams, managing time sheets and correcting behavior.

What I’m referring to here is your ability to develop a vision, believe in it, and inspire buy-in from everyone involved. This isn’t about knowing how to run a particular machine; it’s about how to lead a team of people with various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of how things should be done.

How to hone this skill:

Although more complex than the rest, it all starts with an introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses. Then get a mentor or a coach who can bring out your leadership qualities so you can operate from a place of strength.

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Learn more about the effective leadership types here:

5 Types of Leadership that Help You Build a High Performance Team

8. Improve Your Analytical Skills

Are you good at taking large amount of data and interpreting them? Your skills could come in handy.

Organizations are looking for people to make sense of the data around them, explain how it affects profitability, and make projections based on it. Best of all? You don’t need to be an accountant to be analytical.

How to hone this skill:

Try taking data interpretation classes online or at a community college. Learning Microsoft Excel or Access is also a plus. If you’re ambitious enough, you could consider getting additional certifications to up the ante.

Take a look at these ways to help sharpen your analytical skills:

What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success

9. Don’t Discount Your Time Management and Prioritization Skills

How good are you when it comes to deciding how important tasks are, organizing schedules, and coordinating plans?

Should you be willing, there is a market waiting for you out there. Organizations and busy executives are always looking for talented individuals to outsource these tasks to.

How to hone this skill:

Although not everyone possesses secretarial superpowers, you can improve this skill by focusing on taking huge tasks and breaking them into smaller goals or steps in order to achieve a bigger goal.

Here, you can learn to prioritize to achieve more:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

10. Embrace Your Creative and Critical Thinking Side

Although it’s often believed that creativity is for the arts and right-brained people, I believe everyone is capable of being creative. In fact, most organizations recognize creativity as a vehicle that will drive successful inventions in the future.

How to hone this skill:

Try doing something fun. As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised to learn how much. In fact, behavioral and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, says taking a walk might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing.[1]

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Anyone can be creative, you just need the right way to train your brain:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

11. Don’t Stop Learning Tech Knowledge and Skills

Being tech-savvy is a huge plus. If you have an affinity with computers, software applications and are abreast of technological improvements, it is a transferable skill that is worth highlighting.

You don’t have to be a young college graduate with silicon valley dreams to work

How to hone this skill:

All you need is the determination and the readiness to learn. This article will give you some ideas on the types of skills to learn:

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

12. Build Networks and Relationships

You aren’t free from networking. Not at the moment. With your goal to switch to a different career, your networking skills will come in handy.

Fortunately for you, networking doesn’t have to be so hard.

How to hone this skill:

Attend conferences and job fairs. Chances are you already have people in your network you can move you closer to your dream career.

To enhance your networking skills, take these steps:

How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

Final Thoughts

Although there are several people with the same qualification and degree(s) you possess, what ultimately determines hireability comes down to a myriad of things such as culture fit, how teachable you are, cultural sensitivity, inter-generational awareness, and your ability to navigate uncertainty.

You have a chance to stand out by letting your dream companies know how these soft skills make you an invaluable asset, and how saying ‘YES’ to you is a win-win for both parties.

Happy career switching!

More Resources About Career Advancement

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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