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The Training of a Secretary:
 Mechanical Helps

 Filing Room And Library

 Overlapping With Other Officers

 The Private Secretary

 The Social Secretary

 The Building And Loan Association Secretary

 For Any Secretary


 Famous Secretaries And Their Careers

 In General

 Read More Articles About: The Training of a Secretary

The Private Secretary

( Originally Published 1922 )

Some years ago, the secretary of a technical society, of which I am a member, counted up thirty kinds of engineers. I am sure there are more varieties of secretaries. As has been pointed out already, their duties vary with the objects of the organizations with which they are connected. But there is the Private Secretary, and there is the Social Secretary, man or woman, whose work is for one person Of these I shall speak briefly.

Lord Chesterfield's letters to his natural son, Philip Stanhope, for whom he had pro-found affection, written between 1739 and 1768, contain nearly all there is in the way of worldly wisdom, sound common sense and instruction for meeting most of the circumstances of life. Stanhope had not the mental calibre to appreciate the pearls of thought which were so generously bestowed upon him. I have no doubt that he read many of the epistles with indifference, if indeed he perused them at all ; and according to most accounts, he remained a dolt throughout his life, or at best he did not rise above mediocrity in personal qualities. It seems to me that every secretary, business, private and social, would do well to read these letters as a matter of general education, remembering perhaps that they were written in a grosser age than the present.

A private secretary must be acquainted with many things. I asked an able member of the profession what a person had to know to be a secretary. With a smile he replied, " What doesn't he have to know? "

I take it to be the province of a private secretary to relieve his employer of every last item of detail work. He does not have to be told what to do. He tells his employer what he has to do and when it must be done. He is the mouthpiece of duty. And because of the variety of his tasks I cannot imagine any branch of knowledge which will not be useful to him at some time, usually unforseen, in addition to an intimate acquaintance with his employer's business or avocation.

The secretary whom I questioned keeps his employer notified with cards, of his daily and evening engagements to the hour and minute, makes his tax returns, financial statements and annual reports, carries separate accounts of household expenses, such as chauffeurs, workmen and servants, the farm, garden and greenhouses. For all expenses of these, he has a power of attorney to sign checks. He keeps the capital account, records of charities, church work and the details of a number of important organizations, into the activities of which his employer has been drawn by altruistic impulses ; and carries on his correspondence. He, the

secretary, started life. as a bookbinder, an unusual preparation for the numberless duties with which his life is now crowded; his career is another example which every-one meets with and often experiences him-self, of the diametrically opposite vocations of early and later life.

The secretary should be thoroughly familiar with his own tongue. Of this I shall speak in a later chapter. If he can read, translate or speak one or more modern foreign languages, that is admirable, and, a smattering of several others is desirable. If he has the gift of public speech the gods have been good to him. That bud of talent should be cultivated until it bursts into full flower. Shorthand and typewriting are indispensable for a private secretary.

Everybody knows that the price of eminence in any profession is constant study. Early education only provides the tools with which one works and the methods by which he climbs the ladder of proficiency and consequent success. Ambitious persons will get the tools and acquire the methods, somehow, sooner or later.

An examination of the catalogues of well-known schools of business shows that they provide excellent courses of secretarial education, I mean the foundation of such an education, upon which the superstructure may be built, but never finished. If time and means permit that superstructure may be, and it should be, begun in one or another of the splendid business courses of the great universities, but the structure can be built outside the university if the builder will have sufficient courage and persistence. Below is given a list of the courses pursued in a good. business school:









Commercial Law



Office devices

Business Forms and Customs Commerce and Transportation

In some of the preliminary schools, while the courses are good, the time assigned to them, in my opinion, is too short for the thorough absorption of the knowledge to be desired, even for a novice.

For those who desire to prepare specially for secretarial work in the Young Men's Christian Association, the following excel-lent schools are available:

The Young Men's Christian Association College, Chicago, Ills.; International Young Men's Christian Association College,

Springfield, Mass.; Southern College of Young Men's Christian Associations, Nashville, Tenn. ; the Eastern Association School Inc., Silver Bay, N. Y.

For training for commercial organizations there is a National School for Commercial Organization Secretaries, the first session of which was held at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ills., in July, 1921. This school was inspired by the National Association of Commercial Organization Secretaries and has the approval and support of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.

The secretary must make himself familiar by experience with the special work of his own position. Generally speaking there is a best way for doing everything. The efficient secretary invariably will discover it.

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