Career Advancement… Is it Possible for Secretaries?
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I told the story before of how I ended up where I have worked for nearly thirty years, Melmor Associates, Inc in Niles, Ohio. My cousin, who was the office manager at the time, called me and said she had a two-week project and asked if I could come and help. I always say that nearly thirty years later, my two-week project turned into a life-long career.
When I began working, I thought I would work there for a few years, get experience, and move onto a “big” company with multiple admins, in a big beautiful office building. (Insert sound byte of tires screeching to a stop) Needless to say, that didn’t happen for me. We are a small office. At the time I started, there was the office manager, one other secretary, and myself. Not a lot of room for advancement. So how does one advance in a small business?
Weeeelllllll…. we’re a “unique” office, to say the least. As this point there is only myself and my two bosses. I call them my bosses because technically they are, but they are more like co-workers. My “big” boss (as I call him), the owner/President, has been with the company since 1978. He purchased the company about seven years ago, from the family of the original owners. My other boss has been with the company since a year longer than I have been. Everyone else who has worked there has come and gone, generally staying 3-5 years maximum. Now when I say we’re unique, we are not the average office. We don’t do things like most offices. We call it the “Melmor” way… usually very, VERY unconventional. But it works… for us. I have determined that the reason the three of us have had such longevity is that we all think alike. Very much alike. We are three very different people, and we approach a situation very differently, but all of us have the same bottom line in mind. It’s kind of freaky actually. And after all these years we know each other SO well, we know what the others are thinking before they speak. One other thing that I think has some karma-related affect on our being together for so long: we were all hired in the month of March. All three of us. I actually looked it up in our payroll records. The three of us were the only office employees to be hired in the month of March of any year. Weird, isn’t it?
All right, getting back on topic. Advancement. How could it be possible for me to advance in this small company?? Bottom line: it’s not. Now if we were a larger company, say a university or a chain corporation with multiple offices/locations, I’m sure advancement would be easier. Many of my colleagues in IAAP work for these larger corporations and when secretarial positions come open that are above their level they have the opportunity to apply and move up. Some of these companies will classify the different secretarial positions by their duties, ie. Secretary 1, Secretary 2, Administrative Assistant 1, Administrative Assistant 2, Executive Secretary 1, Executive Secretary 2. But in my company – no. Now I have advanced ever so-slightly. I was basically an hourly employee with few perks when I started in 1985. In 1990, my cousin retired and it was a natural progression for me to fill her spot. By the time she retired, she was pretty much just an adviser anyway – I was actually performing her duties. I did get a raise and got switched to salary, and got some other nice perks. I took on the title of “Office Manager.” As the years have passed, my salary has increased, bonus’ have increased, perks have increased. We became computerized in 1997 and over the next few years we eliminated the other secretarial position in our office because there just wasn’t enough to warrant a second secretary. We had a young man in our office who did the daily shipping. When he moved on, we didn’t replace him because the computer enabled me to take on those duties. Essentially, I’m doing three people’s jobs – easily. Did I get both of their salaries? No. But I would say that I am certain that I get paid more than the average secretary or Office Manager.
I still think sometimes about advancement. I never finished college so I don’t have a degree. I did take the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) exam and passed. I also took the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) exam and passed it too. I recertify them every five years. I do attend workshops and seminars to expand my computer and software knowledge. I am still constantly learning, so I don’t feel I’m stagnant in my position. Even after all these years, every day is different in our office. And I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. But… will I advance? No. And I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want to be any place else. I don’t think I would find the comfort and freedom any place else like I have at Melmor. We are a family oriented company. We are a company that supports its employees and the community. It’s a wonderful place to work and I’m privileged to be here.
Sometimes the comfort and freedom can out weigh the thrill of advancement. I think I’ll stay right where I’m at.