Stop being a secretary*

In The Netherlands, a new movement has been started, a little over 18 months ago. There is no proper English word for it, but in Dutch, it is called Ontsecretaressen. This can be translated as stop being a secretary. What is this movement? I would like to give an explanation.

It is not about quitting your job. It is about take some distance from the classic secretary tasks, like making appointments, making minutes, bringing coffee and tea, remind the manager of birthdays and so on. Not because you do not want to perform these tasks, but with the coming of all kinds of devices which make mobile working possible, those tasks will disappear in the end. It is about preparing yourself for this time. Educate yourself, improve your other skills like working with social media, or take a step sideways and focus on a complete different line of work (e.g. projects).

I like being a secretary, so what should I do?

It is perfectly possible that you want to be a secretary. Really want to be the best secretary there is. And there is nothing wrong with it. On the contrary: for your employer, there is nothing better than to have motivated employees. And if you want to be a secretary, you can enhance your value for the company even more by improving your skills. Just bear in mind that the world doesn’t stop evolving because you don’t like or are not ready yet for the evolution.

I want to improve my skills, how should I do that?

I truely don’t know what is going on in the international world of secretaries. However, if you can improve your skills, don’t let anyone stop you. Take (free) courses, learn yourself to work with new and different applications, be interested in what others do and do some networking. In The Netherlands, a lot of former secretaries are working in the coaching branche. After all, secretaries are renowned for their communication skills, their quick learning capabilities, they are multifunctionals. Don’t let them put you down because you are ‘just’ a secretary. Set your goal and believe in yourself.

It’s all about motivation, skills and talent

Do you remember a situation which gave you a lot of energy? You were working hard, yes, but you didn’t feel tired whatsoever. At the end of the project, people praised you because you did something in a relatively short time and you did it good. You were able to use your skills. Didn’t that motivate you? When you are using your skills in a way it energizes you and you have done the job in a way no one in your surroundings could do better, than you have a talent for it. Improve your talents, focus on what you are doing good already.

Damage control Don’t waste energy on things you don’t like and are no good in. Damage control is the best you can do for those items. Restrict the ‘damage’ to the best achievable limits. For example: it is entirely possible that you can write letters or emails which are considered harsh. For you, the content is strictly businesslike, with no harsh intentions (“hey, it is just the way I write”). However, if a lot of different people think otherwise, they may have a point. You might take writing classes, to learn how to write a bit more friendly. You might think the contents are too coaxing. For others, the tone might just be correct to consider your letter or email worth reading. That is damage control. And there is nothing wrong with it.

The message

The message is: if you are not content with being a secretary, look around, improve your skills and step out of that world. But do it well prepared. Or if you are content with being a secretary, keep up the good work. But keep improving yourself and your skills and see the changes coming.

*In the USA, secretary is usually translated as assistant. The word “secretary” has a different meaning. In this article, the word secretary will be consistently used in the meaning of assistant.

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