Secretary to High School
Principal - Carmel
Description of Job:
Answering telephone calls, making appointments, organising a
diary/daily schedule of appointments, typing, wordprocessing & keeping data bases on
files/other records, managing correspondence - filing, tracking incoming and outgoing
mail, fielding enquiries from the Principal - I deal with many rather than put everything
through to the boss; prepare for meetings, take minutes at meetings, brief the Principal
on issues, liaise between school/ students/ parents and teachers as well as outside
organisations (eg. unions, departmental & church bodies) organise catering for
functions/conferences etc... And the main job of making sure the Principal is well
prepared and able to deal with his next appointment etc.
My prefered career at school was to become a laboratory
technician or a nurse. I got into a science course because that's what I did best at
school. While I loved and did really well at biology, I soon realised I hated chemistry
and that was a big part of my course.
I worked as a shop assistant for a while until I got into the Commonwealth public
service and very quickly found I had good organisational and clerical skills.
My family didn't really mind what I did so long as I did something fulfilling and
which was secure. It didn't take me long before I was being promoted ahead of other
employees who had started before me and after a few years, I went into the personal
secretarial field specialising in Administrative Law and later Ministerial Services.
From there I developed a keen interest in politics and some time later, and after
the advent of the computer, became a Personal Assistant (usually called Personal
Secretary) to various politicians. These positions were short lived as politics can be a
very volatile area to work in - one day you have a job and the next you don't!
So, I moved on and I found this delightful position as The Principal's secretary at
a very busy and large all boys' Catholic school. It has just under 1600 students from year
4 - 12 and keeps me VERY busy. The Principal is like a politician or a company director in
many ways - his school is as big as some constituencies and his role is as varied as a
politician's - he doesn't have to grand stand as much but there is always a certain amount
of politics involved in positions of that level! It is a very worthwhile and satisfying
I guess you can say I was always hard working and dedicated
and that's why I've been successful in my different jobs. Alot of what you do depends on
your attitude in doing it!
However, to get into the top areas of secretarial work, the lucky break came when I
helped a friend who wanted to get into politics - we lobbied hard for him and he got
elected as our Federal Member of Parliament. I applied to work for him as his PA and I got
that job. This type of secretarial work took me to a different level of secretarial work -
much more responsiblity and working independently etc. and it involved alot of
versatility, working with many different people from all different walks of life. They
would come straight in off the street needing help - some cases were very complex
requiring changes in legislation and representations to different ministers etc. this
opened up many doors for me - having this experience on my CV made all the difference.
Unfortunately, at the next election, he lost but I applied to one or two other
Government Ministers who I thought I'd like to work for and I was successful again - not
only, that, politician who knew me, knew I'd be looking for a job because of my Members
loss, were seeking me out. I had a choice of jobs - pretty fortunate in a time when
unemployment rates were at around 13 per cent!
After some time, I realised a change in environment was necessary so I looked
outside of politics - and looked within the educational sphere - and this is how I got
into the life of this school.
Being a mother first, I had to put the high powered career of secretarial work at
Parliament House off until the children were a little older - I didn't plan it that way
but I was not a 'go getter' until I felt comfortable with the home front first. I believe
that was very important to me - I wanted to be the mother first and then the career woman
because I wanted my husband and I to be the main influence on my children when they were
young. All sorts of influences can affect when and why you choose
I can't say that what I am doing now is directly attributable
to what I did at school except that I developed work habits at school that I use know.
Regular homework, organisation of work loads, prioritising of commitments particularly
learnt during Years 11 & 12 - all play an important role in how I operate in my
While I originally wanted to go into the field of science or nursing, I did not end
up there. Soon after working in the public service, I was married and then I had a family
a few years later. All these life experiences had an affect on what I did and when I did
it - originally I thought I'd be at home until my children grew up and left home - how
naive I was!
Life taught me that it is a life long educational journey - you continue to learn
new things all life long - that's how come I learnt new skills in computing and office
management - If I depended on finding a job that linked directly to what I was good at or
was taught while at school I would have limited my opportunities.
What I chose as a career path at 18 is different to what I do now. I have met up
with some teachers in the 20 or so years since I left school and they we have discussed
what I do. What I do is quite a traditional type of career for a woman of my generation so
I guess it is not surprising.
In relation to the work I do know, I went to a TAFE college
and became trained in Computers and office management. Technology in the 1980's grew
rapidly and after having had two children and out of the work force for 6 years, I decided
I needed to re-educate myself.
After getting apart-time job in an office, I did more on the job training and more
short courses after work and on weekends. These courses were specific in nature - courses
on data bases, wordprocessing packages etc... Training is still ongoing - I recently
completed a specific course which was also in Office Management but relative to schools
only. It had very little to do with technology or office systems but dealt more with the
people side of office management and the responsiblities associated there.
Training or professional development as we know call it varies depending on what it
is you need or decide to do. Training in your career is a developmental learning
experience - the work place is forever changing and one needs to keep abreast of latest
technologies, legal and industrial devleopment etc...
My career path was always in the paid employment sector. When
I decided I wanted to work full-time after having my children, I looked for something I
could do well, and wanted to do and that paid adequately. I looked for secretarial work in
the field I was interested in - back then it was in social welfare.
I couldn't see myself working as a secretary for a mechanics firm or for a fast
food chain. Those fields do not interest me so I looked for something I wanted to do, the
Boss I guess found me - by taking me on. My first pay was very important - it meant I was
contributing to the running of our household together - I was no longer a dependent on my
husband and I felt that I contributed more to the family home - I was no longer just an
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about retirement - but I make sure that
superannuation is paid so that we have something to fall back on in our retirement.
My career does have a typical day - sometimes that means just wordprocessing for the
Principal and fielding phone calls and appointments, making sure he has what he
needs for each appointment and taking care of his welfare at work. In most instances it is
a very caring role - as well as a practical role.
My employer encourages growth and initiative. Professional
development is a common occurance and is encouraged. In a school setting where benchmarks
for teaching and support staff are continually changing, one has to continually upgrade
qualifications or be aware of changes within the field.
My hope is to take on further study next year - it is my aim to study for a Diploma
in School Office Management - which is a continuation from the Certificate I recently
completed. After the diploma course I hope to complete a degree in the same area -
however, it is not offered yet by the university so I have to wait until that becomes
Productivity is linked to professional development to a certain degree. Not in the same
sense as factory workers are forced to produce and account for every minute of their
working time but because in the long term, the professional development you participate
in, the more knowledgable and therefore marketable you become. To have up to date skills
and knowledge is always more attractive to an employer than someone who was once very good
at what they did but has not kept up with the times!
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