The song (and the job) remains the same
Ask a boss, ask any boss who has worked with a secretary worth her salt and there is a good chance you will hear this statement, "we couldn't do what we do here without her," or maybe, "this place just wouldn't run if she wasn't here." The point- whether those in the office prefer to be called secretaries or administrative professionals, whether they are man or a woman, they tend to be the glue that holds any office setting together.
Since 1952, the International Association of Administrative Professionals has honored office workers by sponsoring Administrative Professionals Week. Today, it is one of the largest workplace observances outside of employee birthdays and major holidays. The week long celebration begins on April 24 this year, with April 27 being designated as Administrative Professionals Day.
Technological advancement and political liberation have brought about major changes in both the duties and perception of the office secretary, however, one indelible fact remains the same- somebody has to know what's going on in the office, even if the boss does not. This holy grail of competence and grace seems to be forever entrusted to the know all, end all and be all office secretary.
While some tend to think of the office secretary as a dying breed, the United States Department of Labor reported that some 6.2 million individuals were employed as office employees in 2008. The department characterizes these employees as those responsible for a variety of administrative and clerical duties necessary to run an organization efficiently. They serve as communication managers for an office, plan and schedule meetings and appointments, organize and maintain paper and electronic files, manage projects, conduct research and disseminate information via phone, mail, e-mail and the web.
While this list is extensive, most in the office professional's field will report that it barley scratches the surface of what they do.
"When I started this job I was typing invoices and statements from home," said Marlene Gurule who is celebrating her 30th year at City Sanitation in Price. "At this point I am the office manager and I basically do a little bit of everything."
According to Gurule's boss Wade Williams, she does a lot more than that.
"Both Marlene and LaNell (Denison) make sure all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed," laughed Williams. "They take care of the details concerning everything that goes on in this place; to tell you the truth it would be difficult to get to one day without them."
Gurule reports that she couldn't get through a single day without the technological advancements which have revolutionized her job.
"I used to have to hand type everything; thank goodness we went computerized, because I would be forever hand typing the statements we handle today," she quipped. "Computers are wonderful for organization. I learned this business from the ground up and that has made the transition to office manager much easier."
While Gurule's story is one of job consolidation, larger local companies like Loveless Ash have split many of their office responsibilities among many employees.
According to Loveless Ash President Colleen Loveless, this separation has led to specialized responsibilities which have allowed many employees within the company to excel.
"Sylvia Olsen, our receptionist, is truly an incredible individual to have out front for our company," she explained during a recent interview at their Price city facility. "We get phone calls from across the nation here and she is a real problem solver. If she isn't equipped to deal with the issue personally, she will transfer the call to the person who can. She is a great presence for a first time exposure to our company."
The Loveless president went on to detail several others within the company who focus on accounts receivable, invoicing, customer relations, accounts payable, assistant duties, human resources work.
Loveless reported that while many of these jobs fall to different employees, her staff is great with cross training, as they all exhibit unique job and personality skills all their own.
"Lori Perez deals with our accounts payable and is extremely important because she makes sure our bills are paid," explained Loveless. "She is just a great all-around employee, the type of person you can hand any job to and she will make sure she gets it done." The local company president went over six or seven different staff members, detailing just how much each person meant to the company.
"We started very small so I have done many of these jobs and it was difficult for me to let many of them go, however, our employee's professionalism has allowed me to focus on the administrative responsibilities I now have," she said. "I have let go of far more than I ever thought I could."
Not every company owner or president worked in a clerical sense, however most local Castle Valley business owners do have intimate knowledge of most every aspect of their enterprise. During several recent interviews it became apparent that when these owners and administrators find employees that care for the details as they do they tend to treat them like gold.
"Working at a car dealership is a lot like operating five different companies on one piece of property," said Price Auto Group Co-owner Gust Kalatzes. "Our office employees really have to stay sharp as we really have a huge amount of varied inventory coming and going at all times. At this location alone, we sell new and used cars, run a full service parts and service department and have our own custom body and paint shop. It's really a lot to keep straight and our people do a fantastic job."
According to Kalatzes, office managers within the auto industry are often referred to as "controllers," rather than secretaries or administrative professionals. Yet another title to ad into the mix. He commented that this moniker comes from their responsibility concerning specific inventory.
From local sanitation to vacuum sales to cars it seems as though the initial, undeniable truth remains. Somebody within the business needs to know what's going on and regardless of the business, antiquated or not, in one form or another, it's the secretary.