Learning to become a secretary is a serious career decision, and not something you do twice!
So it’s important to choose a training program that will give you the skills to enter the profession with the maximum professionalism from the outset.
Your training goal is probably to win a high status, high income job and these notes will give you a quick checklist to make sure you match your study plan to your aspirations.
1. Only Study Secretarial Courses From Recognised Training Providers.
Your certificate or diploma will stay on your CV for life, so make sure it’s awarded by an institute respected by recruiters and employers everywhere.
Important names to have on your resume include Pitman Training, the oldest and best known provider, ILEX and AMSPAR.
Secretary courses offered by local organisations are less likely to be recognised nationally or abroad and you never know where your career will take you in the future!
2. Make Sure You Get Plenty Of Opportunity To Practice!
Secretarial courses by nature are not academic.
They have to be practical and you need to practice everything you learn until it becomes second nature to you.
So make sure your secretarial training gives you lots of supported opportunities to repeat lessons, exercises and drills.
You need support on tap while you’re practising so that bad habits can be eradicated early on.
3. Check Secretarial Courses Content.
Before you enrol on any secretarial courses, make sure the course content is wide enough, goes deep enough and has sufficient future-proofing to get you through the next 5 years at work. Wide enough means asking whether it covers Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook plus fast touch typing, letter layout, minute-taking and possibly shorthand.
Shorthand will put an extra couple of thousand pounds a year on your salary and is a sought-after skill.
Deep enough means double checking the Microsoft skills they teach.
For example, in Word, will you learn how to track changes and macros?
In Excel will you learn formulae and pivot tables?
You’ll need these and many other technical skills.
Future-proofing refers to how long it has been since the course material was rewritten as well as the version of MS Office they teach. If they’re still using Office 2003, your skills will already be out of date when you graduate. Make sure they offer training on the latest versions.
4. Look For Flexible Timetables.
As mentioned previously, secretarial courses must provide lots of opportunities to practice but in addition to that, examine what support is offered if you miss a class through illness, pressure of work etc.
How will they help you catch up? You can’t afford to have a gap in your skill set.
Also, identify whether you’ll have to wait for term to start before you can begin studying.
The job market doesn’t stand still and neither should you.
Find a course that you can start immediately.
5. Ask If You Can Specialise Or Upgrade To Other Secretarial Courses.
Ask whether your programme offers a path to enable specialisation or upgrading.
Don’t get boxed in at this early stage of your career development.
Legal and medical secretaries usually earn more than generalists and you may want to set your sights higher than you had originally planned.
6. And Finally.
Always ask to visit the training centre to sample some of the secretarial courses you’re considering. It’s normal and necessary to try before you buy!