What is a secretary role and what does it involve?

Updated 23 July 2023

A secretary plays an important role in the operations of a company. They provide support and assistance to all members of an organisation, helping in several different business areas to ensure the smooth running of every department. There are many different duties of a secretary, which means no two days are the same, so organisation and remaining calm under pressure is essential for the job. In this article, we explore what the roles of a secretary are and how much money a secretary earns.

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What does a secretary role entail?

Listed below are some of the key duties of a secretary role. A secretary provides constant support and carries out various administration. They're usually employed by companies of any scale, as the role of a secretary is a vital one by most organisations. Working for a larger corporation may result in you having further responsibilities like the ones listed below, including managing your own projects:

Taking minutes in meetings

Taking minutes involves not only clerical work in terms of noting the attendants of each meeting, their times of arrival and those who couldn't attend, but also requires you to take notes. These notes detail the agendas to be discussed during the meeting, including what the tasks are and who is going to work on them. A lot of matters are discussed in-depth, so it is important to only write the basics in note form. Focus on the 'who' and the 'what' of each agenda discussed, using straightforward language so you can easily write up the report.

Related: How to take and distribute meeting minutes

Answering and directing phone calls and emails

Secretaries often play an essential role in the communication between staff and clients. You may receive phone calls and emails from prospective customers or frequently liaise with clients and external employees, responsible for providing relevant emails of the necessary employees or directing phone calls to them. You'll prioritise a range of important and trivial messages. For example, a legal secretary may regularly take calls from clients regarding casework or other information. They direct each client call to the appropriate attorney and take and distribute other messages and correspondences.

Scheduling meetings

Secretaries are not just required to take notes at them but also often schedule meetings themselves. An employee may come to you requiring a meeting with clients, shareholders or members of a partnering company, giving you the people who need to be present. It is your responsibility to contact those attendants, offering email invites and detailing where and when the meeting will take place, plus the meaning of the meeting. In addition, employees may sometimes ask you to arrange conferences where several people listen to a presentation, thus requiring careful planning and consideration.

Organising documents and files

The fundamental goal of a secretary's job is to ensure the smooth operation of their employer, often achieved by an organised, clean workspace, especially in large-scale corporations that use a lot of paperwork, which you may file and store in an organised, easy to understand manner. These documents could include important financial details, employee records and procedural files that any employee can easily retrieve. You may store these files on a computer system, ensuring that they are organised and maintained efficiently.

Providing administrative support

You conduct any administrative task that their employer may ask. These are often basic, common tasks that an employee may ask you to do, as they may not have the time due to other, more important duties. In a busy work environment, these kinds of administrative tasks may include photocopying and scanning documents, data entry, organising travel and transcribing notes onto computer documents. You may also help to implement new administrative procedures, such as making colleagues aware of new company guidelines that they have to follow.

Related: Administrative skills: definition and examples

Helping new staff and employees

Your job as a secretary may also involve training, supporting and mentoring new staff, training them and implementing procedures. As a secretary, you likely have good experience and knowledge of your employer's company, which may help lead staff and new hires to develop their skills, follow company protocol and learn about the overall company environment. As an example, a legal secretary might take on mentoring a newly hired paralegal and show them how to use the firm's computer, and filing systems, how to organise casework and documents according to policy and the methods staff uses to complete tasks and handle clients.

Maintaining office supplies

You are responsible for maintaining the supplies and equipment of an office, such as paper, pens and pencils, stationery and things like tea and coffee for the break room. You may choose to keep an inventory spreadsheet to help manage the number of supplies, helping you to know when you need to order an item before you completely run out. Additionally, colleagues may come to you when larger items, such as chairs and desks, are faulty and in need of replacement.

Greeting clients and guests

Another role of the secretary is to take on basic receptionist duties. Especially in organisations where meetings are frequent, and visitors often come, it is important to make them feel welcome and relaxed and offer your assistance to them wherever they need it. For instance, aside from taking their name and asking who they are meeting, you can chaperone them to the meeting room, offer them a refreshment while they wait and engage in general small-talk to help the company maintain a professional and healthy relationship with their clients and partners.

Related: Receptionist skills: definition and examples

Organising and distributing messages

Another essential task secretaries may commonly perform is organising and distributing memos, notes, messages and other written communications. Additionally, secretaries may have exceptional communication and analytical skills to take on communication tasks like these. For example, an executive secretary who works for a CEO of a large technology corporation might be responsible for organising and disseminating various messages or memos to bring only the most urgent communications to their CEO. An urgent message might relate to a change in a client's contract, and the executive secretary needs to be capable of quick and efficient communication as they pass messages along.

Upholding company schedules

Secretaries often work closely with senior members like CEOs, who have busy and complicated schedules and require someone to manage their time on their behalf. Therefore, they may ask you to manage their diary for them, acting as a personal assistant by organising their meetings, informing them of upcoming tasks or deadlines and ensuring that there aren't two activities booked at the same time. You may also organise the schedules of entire departments, informing them of upcoming responsibilities in due course, for instance, if they are required to undertake a training programme.

What are the essential skills of a secretary?

Here is a list of key skills that a secretary may require:

  • Organisation: Not only do secretaries themselves often have busy schedules, but they also organise their colleagues' schedules. Secretaries often assist several employees at once, often in differing tasks, and stay organised to ensure a smooth day-to-day running of the company. Many specific tasks also require strong organisation, such as filing and taking minutes.

  • Ability to multitask: Secretaries have many different roles associated with their job and may simultaneously support more than one coworker. It's important that they manage and cope with several tasks, perhaps by prioritising the most important or serious matter.

  • Communication: Secretaries are in constant contact with colleagues, supervisors and visitors. They are required to maintain a helpful, professional standard at all times, communicating in a positive manner to uphold the company's image. Additionally, secretaries also spend a lot of time communicating through phone calls and emails, requiring a good telephone manner and written voice.

Related: Time-management skills: definition, examples and tips for improvement

How much money does a secretary earn?

The average salary of a secretary is £20,870 per year. This value can differentiate on several factors, including your experience, number of years at the company and your location. You may be able to earn more money as a secretary if you carry out additional responsibilities outside your standard line of work or develop or enhance your skills through a course or certification.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌


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