CAREER GUIDE Friday, April 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

Hallmarks of a smart secretary
Prem Parkash Pahwa
ITH the rapid revolution in the field of information technology, the working of a secretary is no longer limited to taking dictation, its transcription, handling files and keeping the information confidential. Following the introduction of computers with sophisticated softwares and other modern devices of office automation, the secretary is required not only to master the complete knowledge and skill of the commands and working of various computer softwares but also to imbibe certain professional ethics.



Hallmarks of a smart secretary
Prem Parkash Pahwa

WITH the rapid revolution in the field of information technology, the working of a secretary is no longer limited to taking dictation, its transcription, handling files and keeping the information confidential. Following the introduction of computers with sophisticated softwares and other modern devices of office automation, the secretary is required not only to master the complete knowledge and skill of the commands and working of various computer softwares but also to imbibe certain professional ethics.

The problem in this profession is that the ethical character of a secretary cannot be categorised. Rather, it has to be imbibed, depending upon the atmosphere and environment of the organisation in which and the executive with whom he or she works. However, some of the ethics which must constitute the basic character of a secretary are:

Confidentiality: A secretary must learn that reticence is the best policy i.e. to consider every phase of his work as confidential and not to discuss it with anyone inside or outside the office. He must learn to give indirect answers to directions from office associates.

Honesty: It means not to take credit for something you have not done and always revealing facts to the boss.

Loyalty: Office associates can easily discern the loyalty a secretary has to his employer. If he is loyal, he does not discuss his personality weaknesses with them. The secretary must not sell his loyalty at any cost. If one displays his loyalty, he will receive the same in return.

Sharp memory: A secretary’s brain must act as an information bureau. A client, who visited an organisation after several months, when called by his name by the secretary and on learning that his telephone number and address, and the details of his dealings were on the tips of the secretary, could not resist forming a wonderful impression about the organisation. Similarly, recognising the client by his voice on receipt of a second telephone call from him indicates the sharpness of a secretary’s memory.

Reliability: By showing his punctuality for work at all times and by performing the given assignments within time, depicts the reliability of a secretary. The secretary must ensure that every task given to him must be completed to the best of his ability.

Responsibility: A secretary must prove by his actions that he is a responsible fellow by setting his priorities and carrying out tasks in a timely manner and adjusting to the needs of his executive.

Efficiency: It means careful work with speed and accuracy. It also means economy of motion i.e. to have all supplies at hand before starting a job, doing it in a methodical manner and planning the movements so that these are as tireless as possible.

Initiative: After a secretary becomes familiar with his work and office, and the executive’s personality, he finds frequent opportunities to do certain helpful works without being asked, where he uses his initiative. Initiative must be with full knowledge of the circumstances.

Resourcefulness: Resourcefulness is often required for a follow-up, turning to other sources or trying other methods. The boss needs certain technical data that he believes cannot be obtained from different departments. A secretary must be resourceful in securing such data from other organisations, either personally or through telephone and note it down in shorthand.

Cooperation: A secretary must be cooperative. He must always assist and share his expertise with his colleagues where it is necessary and possible. Even when he says "no", he should say so gently and must explain why he cannot do a particular task.

Flexibility: The office time is over. The boss needs certain important reports to be prepared for tomorrow’s meeting. The secretary must always be flexible and adjustable. You just never know when you may want an hour off at a minute’s notice to attend an emergency.

Versatility: The job of a secretary has become versatile in view of the increased expectations of the bosses and the organisation in which he works. He is expected to be more an organiser, supervisor and trainer rather than the performer of duties of taking shorthand and typing. His versatile duties include research, typing, filing, Dictaphone transcription, screening telephone calls, appointments, liaisoning with clients (which includes handling difficult situations many times) and staff members, attending meetings, minutes recording, composing letters, making travel bookings, supervising, training staff (including the boss), making arrangements for senior executives, ordering flowers and gifts and allied jobs. By imbibing these qualities, a secretary is bound to be successful.


What is the Early Decision Plan?

Q After school I would like to go to the USA for my studies. What is the Early Decision Plan? Will it guarantee admission? Please advise.

Karan Suri

A Perhaps the best and most crucial advice you will ever receive about the college application process is to start early - a good 18 months in advance.

Besides securing an excellent SAT score, you will probably find that the most difficult part of the college selection process is trying to predict the outcome of your decision. Will I be accepted? Will I be happy at the college of my choice?

Unfortunately, good decisions don’t always guarantee successful results.

By its very nature, decision-making involves risk. You will be in a better position, however, if you do a thorough job of collecting and evaluating information.

For this, browse the Net extensively and prepare a shortlist based on what you are looking for in a university. Applying "Early Decision" (for admission and financial aid, if appropriate) is a good option.

Colleges (262) that subscribe to this plan, agree to follow a common schedule for Early Decision applicants. If you apply under the first-choice plan (EDP-F) you will have to withdraw your applications from all other colleges as soon as your first choice college sends you an acceptance notice. Under the single-choice plan (EDP-S), you need not apply to any college other than your first choice unless you are rejected by it.

If you are accepted, well and good (Princeton and Columbia admit nearly half their freshmen this way). If on the other hand, you are deferred to the January pool, you still have a second chance and you have one application out of the way. If you are rejected, that too is okay, because at least you know what your options are, and completing one application makes the others much easier.

Besides, ED gives you a better idea of where you stand before going into the much scarier admissions process in December and January. While everyone else is anxiously biting nails until May (and frantically writing applications all of December), you will know where you stand and concentrate your energies on your academics (besides having to work on only one essay question).

The only thing about EDP is that you have to be fairly certain which college you want to attend. You don’t want to discover after you’ve been accepted that you’d rather be somewhere else. However, if you are flexible and have a fairly good idea of what you are looking for, ED can certainly make your life a great deal simpler.

However, it is not unusual for colleges to reject students they consider overqualified, consigning to the waiting list those applicants whom they suspect will snub them for a better offer.

The bad news, however, is that the ED option may dwindle in the coming years because its critics consider it to be "flawed". Already one top college, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has abandoned it, and some of the other elite ones may follow. But as of now, that’s a long way off.


Q I would like to know about the Indian Information Service and the nature of work.

Nutan Singhania

A A Group ‘A’ service of the Indian Civil Services, the Indian Information Service (IIS) oversees the functioning of nationalised media (AIR, DD, Prasar Bharti, DAVP) and advertising agencies. Operating under the M/o Information & Broadcasting (MIB), which is the apex body for formulating and administrating the rules, regulations and laws governing information, broadcasting, press and films, the IIS is also responsible for handling press/public relations nationally as well as internationally for the Government of India and its various ministries, PSUs, defence forces etc. It also plays an important role in developing and promoting the film industry by organising film festivals and cultural exchanges.

As an IIS officer in the Junior Grade, you could be posted anywhere in India in various media organisations of the M/o Information and Broadcasting/ Defence (D/o Public Relations requiring journalistic or PR related work.

The scales in this service are exactly the same as those in the other Civil Services up to the Sr Administrative Grade, which has a fixed salary, equivalent to that of most senior Additional Secretaries. IIS officials are assigned to any of the following divisions: All India Radio (AIR), Directorate of Audio & Visual Publicity (DAVP), Doordarshan (DD), Directorate of Field Publicity (DFP), Film Division (FD), National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), Photo Division, Song & Dance Division, Press Information Bureau (PIB), Prasar Bharti, Publication Division, Registrar of Newspapers in India, Research, Reference & Training Division (RRTD).

You can also look at jobs in Group B which comes under the Central Information Services (CIS). Those who enter at the Jr. Grade of CIS are appointed as Sub-Editors, while those who qualify for the Sr. Grade are appointed as Assistant Information Officers or Field Publicity Officers.

Incidentally, in keeping with the MIB’s decision to abolish 1,334 posts, half of these have already been done away with last year. The media units where posts have been identified for abolition are PIB, Publications Division, Song & Drama Division, RR&TD, DFP, DAVP and FD.

Correspondence course

Q I am a class XII student in the commerce stream. I don’t want to join a regular college. Instead I would like to work and do a correspondence course side by side. Please tell me what factors I should keep in mind while choosing a course? Can a regular and correspondence course degree be pursued simultaneously?

Brijender Singhal

A Increasingly, students have begun to opt for your kind of decision. In order to zero-in on the best course, you must go in for a recognised Open University. Do check out the jurisdiction criteria though. Except for the Central/Open Universities, many others stipulate their own domicile requirements.

Also, if you decide to opt for a university located elsewhere, do check whether it offers contact programmes in your city from time to time as these can be a great help.

As far as the course is concerned, opt for an ‘honours’ degree instead of a ‘pass’ course if available in the field of your choice. You can also pursue a correspondence course along with your regular course since there is no UGC guideline that prevents you from doing so. On the contrary, there is a move to facilitate the process even for students wishing to pursue two courses from the same university. So provided you can handle the pressure, you can happily proceed to have your cake and eat it too.

Pervin Malhotra, Director, CARING

Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to:

Editor, Query Hotline,
The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at