12 Essential Secretary Duties

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 22, 2021

A secretary can sometimes take on more responsibilities than merely answering phones and taking messages. Secretaries may also rely on a diverse set of skills to help them succeed in their jobs. Oftentimes, secretaries may be the individuals responsible for keeping office administration and operations running smoothly.

In this article, we'll discuss what a secretary's common duties are as well as some additional responsibilities a secretary may take on as part of their job.

What is a secretary?

A secretary is an administrative professional who plays an integral role in business and other organizational environments. Secretaries are typically the individuals who maintain and organize office tasks, implement procedures and carry out additional administrative duties, depending on the nature of their employment. For instance, the administrative tasks a secretary is responsible for can differ between industries such as law, private company sectors and government entities. However, a secretary may be responsible for several common duties that can include:

  • Working in a receptionist capacity to greet clients, customers and visitors

  • Answering and directing phone calls

  • Organizing documents and paperwork and maintaining a filing system

  • Assisting supervisors and staff with company projects and tasks

While these responsibilities are oftentimes required of secretarial work, the essential duties a secretary may perform in their job can include more administrative tasks, depending on where they work.

Related: Learn About Being a Secretary

Secretary duties and responsibilities

A secretary's duties can vary depending on where they work, and sometimes secretaries exceed their job requirements.

  1. Answering and directing phone calls

  2. Organizing and distributing messages

  3. Maintaining company schedules

  4. Organizing documents and files

  5. Greeting business clients and guests

  6. Documenting financial information

  7. Maintaining and ordering office supplies

  8. Scheduling meetings and conferences

  9. Assisting executives with project tasks

  10. Supervising staff and new employees

  11. Coordinating with other organizations

  12. Implementing administrative procedures

1. Answering and directing phone calls

Secretaries may be responsible for answering office phone lines and directing each call to the appropriate individual. Oftentimes, secretaries are the individuals that handle solicitation calls, client calls and taking messages. For instance, a legal secretary may regularly take calls from clients regarding casework or other information, and they need to be able to direct each client call to the appropriate attorney, as well as taking and distributing other messages and correspondences. A secretary may also need to have expertise in differentiating between urgent and less important communication.

2. Organizing and distributing messages

Another essential task secretaries may commonly perform is organizing 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 expected to organize and disseminate 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.

Read more: Learn About Being an Executive Secretary

3. Maintaining company schedules

Secretaries are also commonly in charge of maintaining the schedules and agendas of professionals in their companies. For instance, a secretary for a large marketing firm might organize team schedules for each of the company's departments as well as the executives' agendas by setting appointments with clients, vendors and shareholders. Secretaries may also be the individuals that keep staff on track with reminders and alerts for upcoming conferences or meetings.

4. Organizing documents and files

Keeping documents, records and files organized is another important task that secretaries can be expected to perform. For instance, a medical secretary may commonly take charge of maintaining a filing system for patient medical records, expense reports for medical supplies and medications, procedural documentation and other important documents. Oftentimes, a company's documents, files and other records are stored within a computer database, and secretaries may frequently be expected to have the technical skills necessary to use these types of filing systems.

5. Greeting business clients and guests

Secretaries may also take on receptionist duties in addition to their administrative responsibilities. For example, an executive assistant may act as a receptionist to greet clients who arrive for conferences or meetings and might be the individual who helps visitors get settled, brings refreshments, takes notes during meetings with clients, and generally works to maintain the professionalism and overall brand image of their company when greeting and directing visitors.

6. Documenting financial information

Another highly essential task that secretaries may take on is the documentation of expenses, earnings and other financial information. For instance, a secretary at a sales corporation might be responsible for documenting the revenue and sales numbers from the sales team's reports as well as the company's expenses and costs of operation. The secretary might then use spreadsheet software to organize financial data into specific financial reports for the company's CEO to analyze and approve.

7. Maintaining and ordering office supplies

Secretaries may also be the individuals responsible for keeping inventory records and maintaining office supplies. The secretary may also be responsible for putting in orders for supplies that are running out. For example, an office administrator might make a monthly spreadsheet to keep a running record of the number of supplies like copy paper, toner, pens, filing folders and other supplies to keep track of which supplies are needed and which supplies are sufficiently stocked.

8. Organizing and conducting meetings

Along with scheduling meetings and conferences, secretaries may also take on the responsibility of organizing and conducting meetings. For instance, an executive secretary for a CEO of a retail corporation might organize a meeting with clothing designers, fashion brands or other professionals in the industry. Then, the secretary may conduct the meeting by discussing the important points of the conference and taking notes for the CEO and other decision-makers at the company. Secretaries can be a vital team member in performing these types of tasks, as executives, directors and other high-level professionals may sometimes be unavailable in similar circumstances.

Related: Administrative Skills: Definition and Examples for Your Career

9. Assisting executives with project tasks

Sometimes a secretary can be invaluable in assisting their supervisors with completing small tasks as part of larger projects. For example, a secretary for a lead marketing director might assist by organizing reports, printing documents or preparing a presentation. Because of the range in tasks a secretary might perform, this type of professional must possess a wide range of soft and hard skills to succeed in the role.

10. Supervising staff and new employees

Secretaries might also be the mentors who work with staff when implementing procedures and when training new employees. Because of their knowledge and experience with their companies, many secretaries help lead staff and new hires in developing their skills, following company protocol and learning 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 organize casework and documents according to policy and the methods staff uses to complete tasks and handle clients.

11. Coordinating with other organizations

Secretaries also work to coordinate and form relationships with other businesses and organizations. For instance, a secretary for an engineering firm might be the liaison that connects with contractors, designers and other engineering organizations to set up conferences, purchase resources or form business partnerships.

12. Implementing administrative procedures

Secretaries might also play a role in developing and implementing company policies and various administrative procedures. For example, a medical secretary may develop a procedure for documenting patient treatment plans that includes following a set of steps to document medical information in a database. The secretary might then implement this new procedure by training nurses and staff on how to carry out the directives of the policy.

Because secretaries can take on a variety of different tasks and responsibilities, it can be crucial for secretaries to possess a wide range of skills like administrative skills, communication skills, customer service skills, technical skills, analytical and problem-solving skills. Secretaries may also rely on leadership skills to organize and direct office staff and procedures.

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