I was doing some work for a client the other day and he was making recommendations that someone would be suitable for “reasonably unskilled work” like administrative and office/clerical work.
It got me thinking – do the general public really think that secretaries and other admin/clerical staff are “unskilled”?
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many administrative professionals hold diplomas – some hold degrees – in business management. Many have Cert IV Workplace Training & Assessment qualifications. At the very least they will have done some sort of training whether it be bookkeeping, switchboard operation, been to business college or done certificates in typing and software/computer skills.
Whilst it’s true that just about everyone can type these days, there’s a definite difference between the “chook peck” two – or even three – finger typist and a touch typist. Touch typing is a skill – no doubt about it – and when you can touch type at over 100wpm that too is skillful.
Secondly, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there is a definite distinction between a typist and a transcriptionist. Work isn’t just typed anymore. It also needs to be edited, proofed, laid out, formatted, in many cases grammar checked on-the-fly …
So that covers typing. What about the skills associated with learning specific software used by your employer – and in the case of a VA, by any number of clients operating different systems who all have very different requirements? More often than not, the boss has no clue – or at least a very limited idea – how to use the software on his computer. And ‘knowing how to use it’ in a cursory sense is different from understanding the full potential and power of many software programs. (I still have clients who don’t know how to track changes in Word. That’s just one example.) The computer on his desk is most often used to communicate via email, do internet research or work on a spreadsheet. He – or she – has clerical/administrative staff quite simply because they do NOT have the necessary skills to do it all themselves … or the time.
Administration in itself is a skill. Not everyone can do it. An effective administrator needs people skills, great verbal, written and listening skills, the ability to make decisions on the fly, delegate appropriately, deal with customer complaints, visitors, suppliers, and manage staff.
My partner left school at 16 and can’t type to save his life but he is the most skilled person I know when it comes to decorative ironwork, leather work, and has an amazing eye for photography. Does that make him ‘unskilled’? I don’t think so.
Whilst those who have spent years at university and hold degrees in this or that might view themselves as “more skilled” than others, isn’t this mindset more intellectual snobbery than fact?
I’m not saying those who have spent years at uni and hold degrees are better or worse than those who don’t but to say something is unskilled reflects poorly on the person making the comment. Some level of skill is required in most jobs – and admin support staff require skills on multiple levels.
© Lyn Prowse-Bishop, http://www.execstress.com/