Training Your First Secretary

You have really arrived if you have your own secretary. Usually you will share one with other people or, even more likely, use the secretarial pool. If you share a secretary, I advise you get to know the people who do your typing and congratulate them if a job is done particularly well or faster than you had expected. You will thus be assured of attentive service in the future.

If there is a secretary who works for you and for one or more people, you will need to find out the approximate amount of time you can count on for yourself by discussing this with the people who share the secretary. There are periods of heavy work, others of lighter loads. Check to see how much the secretary has to do, and always say how speedily you will need a particular piece of work. For example, I ask my secretary, whom I share with other faculty members, whether she can get an assignment out on the same day and am thankful if she can. If I have a project that is not urgent, I always let her know, and she’s grateful for the information so that she can manage her time better.

If you have a secretary all to yourself, then you must train this person to be your assistant. Your secretary can screen phone calls and visitors, keep your calendar, remind you of deadlines and appointments, and set up meetings. Your secretary can open your mail and write responses if only routine answers are required. During the training period, give your secretary samples of your writing, show bow you like letters set up, and share your work- related ideas.

Your secretary should know exactly what you anticipate and that should include knowing when to interrupt you, when it can be postponed, what information you need and where to get it. Your secretary should also be able to set up work priorities, not need to ask questions about details, and show interest in your work and in the organization’s goals. Keep this person abreast of what is happening. The more informed your secretary is the more effective he or she will be. Your secretary can be your ally (although not your confidante), your liaison, your editor, and your research assistant. Do not ask your secretary to do personal tasks for you. This person is not your servant, unless this is part of the job description and agreed upon beforehand. Of course, there are always emergencies, but such times are not routine. Delegate as much work as you can. If you cannot trust your secretary to be polite with others, to be well-organized and timely, then change secretaries.



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