I’ve been a secretary for three years, now. I think I think I am loved mostly because I’m darned lucky, but many, just maybe, some of these things have helped me, and maybe they’ll help you.
I like being a secretary, oddly enough. I like trying to be effective and organized – like some 1950’s stereotype.
3. Apologize right away, even if the mistake wasn’t yours. People will think what they will think anyway, and if you apologize, then they stop looking for ways to cover their own backsides and you can move on to finding a solution to the problem.
4. Meet people in the eyes when they talk. Try, even when you’re stressed, to mile and make sure that they know you are looking forward to doing the task. Of course it’s a lie. But it’s so much better if you look confident and willing. When people call you, smile when you enter their office. In everything you do, you want to deliver a message that you are happy to do things for them.
5. Have a drawer where you can throw your stuff every night. This is one of those “if you can” suggestions. In my workplace, I have a very deep drawer, a file drawer, really, and no pen drawers. I use it for pens, envelopes, etc, but at the end of the night everything goes into it until I have a neat and clean desk again. Leaving your workspace neat will make everyone think that you are together, and, as a bonus, will make you feel good when you sit down at your desk.
6. If your workplace allows it or can afford it, try to get color files. I love mine, and they make organization easier.
7. They key to everything is organization. Keep every email…you can file them in folders in most programs…keep every attachment. You never know when someone will ask you for something…and trust me, what they ask you for is always the thing you were sure they wouldn’t need. Keep good records.
8. Never, ever talk about the people you work with to other people you work with. Allegiances change. I know a couple of departmental secretaries who regret some of the things that they said. Also, when people realize that you keep your mouth closed, they will say things in your hearing. A good secretary likes knowledge.
9. Use lots of signs. Know that no one will ever read them. But at least they feel stupid when you smile sweetly and point it out – but, also, try to keep them neat and nice looking, use Publisher to make them extra nice. Keeping your work area looking clean and professional (even if it can’t always be neat) is important to morale.
10. Try to act deferential even when you don’t feel it. People try to take the arrogant down, but sometimes they raise the (mostly) meek up. It makes you seem easier to get along with, and then you can concentrate on your work in peace. I like to go for the invisible in the background thing…even though I’ve gotten away from it a bit.
11. Don’t assume you will remember it. A running to do list can save your life. I also leave everything in my email inbox until it’s finished, then file it.
12. Thank people whenever you get the chance. If someone in another department has done a lot for you, email them and say that you really appreciate what they’ve done. At the end of every email asking people to do something, thank them for their help. People need encouragement, it makes their burden lighter.
13. Every once in awhile, do something fun or silly. If your work environment permits it, get people to go in with you for pizza, and sit around and have a good talk with your office mates. Ask questions that have little to nothing to do with work, and listen.
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