So Much More Than "Just a Secretary"


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Years ago, while working as a Branch Secretary for a cemetery services company, I had a phrase uttered to me that would be repeated many times, in different contexts, throughout my career.

In the staff lunchroom one of the salesmen, James, was boldly rating the importance of everyone’s roles in the office and placing individuals on his imaginary rating scale. Management was, of course, the top of the food-chain. This was followed by the sales force who, according to James, was single-handedly responsible for bringing in clients and, in turn, money. Administration was relegated to the lowest level of the pyramid. “You don’t make any money for the company, ” he said to me. “Your role is a liability on the books. You’re just a secretary. ”

Now, even though James was somewhat of a pompous person in most things he said and did, this wasn’t the only time I heard or even felt the sting of these words. It is just the incident that I remember most clearly. This mantra has been repeated in different ways by better people in varying industries throughout my administrative career. It has been revealed in ways other than as a verbal phrase. It shows in my compensation, in my job evaluations and in the way I am treated in the office environment.

The thought process, throughout companies large and small, seems to be: “Administration doesn’t directly make any money for the company, therefore administration is less valuable. ”

I think they’re wrong. You, the Administrative Assistant, are the backbone of the company for which you work. You are the person that keeps everything running smoothly while juggling ten tasks at once. The value you add to a company is demonstrated in the many roles you take on in your job. It’s impossible to think that you’re “just a Secretary” when you consider the expertise you have in the following areas:

Customer Service

You are the biggest part of customer service because you’re usually the first contact a customer has when communicating with your company. You make a good first impression on that customer and make him decide it’s worth doing business with you.

Often you, the Administrative Assistant, know the customer better than the rest of the company, especially if this client is a frequent purchaser or visitor. You recognize his voice on the telephone and call him by name. You know where the client likes to be seated in the boardroom and that she prefers a glass of water over coffee. You often know about the client’s personal life, because you are the one they feel comfortable chatting with when they call the office or when they are stopping in for an appointment. Heck, you might even know their kids names!

This is what makes you such an important part of a company’s customer service practice. You take the time to put that smile in your voice with every phone call you answer and you get to know the customers. A company can’t put a price on the value you bring to customer service. It’s too high!


You probably know your company’s product or service as well as the CEO. You’ve typed the reports, you’ve answered the client’s enquiries and you know the lingo. Customers know you can answer general questions about the product. They also trust you to put them through to the right person when they have enquiries you can’t assist them with (remember, you’re a customer service expert!).

Just because you never see a commission cheque, it doesn’t mean you’re not one of the company’s top salespeople.


How many merge letters have you typed? How many envelopes have you stuffed? How many business cards and forms have you designed and ordered? Do you promote your company’s brand when you answer the phone? (“Good morning, XYZ Company. ”) Of course you do and these are all aspects of good marketing.

You are a huge part of Marketing for the company you represent.


Whether or not you handle the payables and receivables in your office, you probably have to stick to a budget within your department. Maybe you handle the billing in a lawyer’s office or are responsible for costing the office supplies to the appropriate department. You could be the person who prints and mails the invoices or maybe you receive the cheques and prepare the deposit for the bank.

We all have a part in accounting, in some way or another, when working in an office. You, the Administrative Assistant, get to add Accounting to your giant list of abilities.


This one is a no-brainer! You type, you file, you answer the phone, you greet the customers, you investigate and problem solve. In fact, you can probably do all of these tasks at the same time.

To the company you work for, you’re worth your weight in gold. You’re so much more than “just a Secretary. ” You’re an Administrative Genius!

Vicky Bach is the owner of Administrative Avenue - - articles, advice, tips and tricks for all Administrative Assistants. Administrative Avenue guides you on the road to success in your administrative career!


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