8 secretary skills to develop for career success (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Secretarial skills are qualities and abilities that you can develop to effectively support an organisation. Strengthening these skills allows you to undertake a variety of clerical tasks in many industries. Understanding which secretary skills to focus on and how to develop them can help you pursue a successful career in an administrative role. In this article, we explain why secretary skills are important and list top secretarial skills for a successful career as an administrative professional.

Why are secretary skills important?

Through developing strong secretarial skills, you can help an organisation operate effectively by professionally handling important organisational and administrative tasks. Secretarial skills allow you to handle a wide range of responsibilities, such as scheduling trips or appointments to taking meeting notes. If you continuously invest in your professional development by strengthening these skills, you can make your CV more attractive to hiring managers and employers, which can be beneficial if you're considering changing jobs or careers.

Related: What is a secretary role and what does it involve?

Top 8 secretary skills for career success

If you've worked in an administrative role, you're likely to have some basic secretarial skills. If you wish to improve your skill set and qualifications for the role, there are still things you can do to impress your employer or explore more attractive job opportunities. If you're determined to commit to your professional development, here are some top skills to focus on:

1. Communication

Communication is a basic skill that any administrative professional can focus on to improve their qualifications and perform tasks well. They use communication skills to greet guests, answer phone calls or help their employer email clients or members of staff. There are various types of communications which secretarial skills comprise, including:

  • Verbal: As you develop your verbal communication skills, you improve your ability to express your thoughts, ideas and emotions using speech. In the workplace, you'd use this form of communication to give presentations, discuss projects in meetings or answer phone calls.

  • Written: Written communication skills allow you to easily exchange information in writing. Many administrative professionals who work remotely specialise in this form of communication, as their key responsibilities include writing emails, reports or managing the rest of the admin staff using digital chat tools.

  • Nonverbal: Nonverbal communication, also known as manual language, is the process of sending and receiving information without using words. Instead, it uses things like face expressions, hand gestures and body language to convey messages.

  • Visual: Visual communication is the practice of using imagery and other visual elements to communicate ideas and other types of information. Administrative professionals may use this form of communication daily, for example, to create insightful infographics or presentations.

Read more: 4 types of communication (with examples)

2. Computer and technical skills

Administrative professionals rely heavily on computers and other technological devices. On a daily basis, they use computers to communicate with employers, clients, suppliers and other members of the organisation. If you actively work in an admin role, you're likely to have at least basic computer skills that you use to manage emails, appointments and calendars. Improving your technical abilities demonstrates your commitment to the role and helps you explore more advanced opportunities.

To do that, consider learning new project management or organisational software. You may also benefit from learning to use common database and contact management applications. You can use these programmes to automate your employer's email marketing and client relationship management efforts.

Related: What is computer literacy and how to improve it in 6 steps

3. Typing and note-taking

Being a quick typist is an advantage for you if you work in an administrative role. Thanks to your ability to take accurate notes fast, you can support your employer during and after meetings. For example, you can use this ability to create transcripts from client and staff meetings. To improve your typing speed, consider completing an online course that teaches you about proper typing positions. It's also helpful to dedicate a portion of your time each day for practising.

4. Organisation and project management

Thanks to strong organisation and project management skills, you can effectively manage your employer's or clients' schedules and appointments. In an admin role, you'd use your organisational skills to catalogue files and documents. If you want to strengthen your ability to organise for your current role, it's important that you take your employer's needs and plans into consideration. For example, if they plan on digitalising their documents in the near future, it's more beneficial for you to learn how to securely store, manage and share digital files.

5. Customer service skills

Executives may ask you to contact customers on their behalf to answer questions, schedule meetings or relay important information. It's necessary that you have a professional, patient and courteous attitude when working with customers and clients to make sure they maintain a positive relationship with the company. Even if you encounter a difficult customer, try to understand their emotions and viewpoint. By showing that you're empathetic, you may help them calm down and make sure they're happy with the products or services that the company provides.

6. Flexibility and adaptability

Most people in admin roles work in fast-paced environments, regardless if they work in-office or remotely. Being adaptable and able to function well under pressure can help you make sure you perform all of your important tasks. To be more flexible at work, it's helpful when you use your time-management skills to prioritise or reschedule certain tasks to make room for urgent tasks and issues that your employer wants you to resolve immediately. When you focus on being more flexible with your time and mindset, you can ensure no tasks or unexpected changes overwhelm you.

Related: What are adaptability skills and how can they benefit you?

7. Attention to detail

Good administrative professionals are usually highly methodical and have a good eye for details. You can usually demonstrate your attention to detail through the level of focus and care with which you approach each task. For example, if your employer asks you to prepare a transcription from a meeting they've just finished, it's important that you make sure to use a grammar and spelling tool to ensure the transcript's high readability and linguistic accuracy.

8. Proactivity

Proactivity is a helpful soft and transferable skill that allows you to initiate change. Administrative professionals who are proactive are less likely to just wait for their employer's orders. Instead, they can effectively analyse their workday to determine what they can do to help the company operate more smoothly. For example, this can refer to developing new processes or researching new digital tools that can make the organisation's work more efficient.

Related: How to take initiative in the workplace: a 7-step guide

How to strengthen your secretarial skills

If you're ambitious to succeed in an administrative role, it's critical that you commit to continuously expanding your skills and qualifications. Consider these tips to make sure you can manage your standard workload and additional professional development commitments at the same time:

  1. Use to-do lists: To-do lists are simple organisational tools that help you manage your workload in a fast-paced environment. To maximise the potential of your to-do lists, make sure to categorise your tasks and use colourful pens to visually highlight those daily responsibilities you want to prioritise.

  2. Set reminders: Even if you're a highly organised person, using reminders can help you manage your workload, especially if you manage several executives' schedules. Thanks to setting digital reminders on your computer or smartphone, you can make sure you remember about every important meeting and piece of information.

  3. Develop a routine: Although working in an admin role requires you to be flexible, having a solid morning or evening routine is important. For example, you may consider starting each day with checking and replying to emails, which allows you to clear your mailbox before taking care of any urgent tasks that your employer requested.

  4. Invest in your education: Investing in your education is a great way to improve your qualifications and specialise in a narrow area of administrative work, such as when you want to work as a freelance virtual assistant. To do that, you can complete a certified online course or even obtain an additional university degree in project management, marketing or business administration.

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