How to stand out at work

SECRETARIES’ Day (also known as Administrative Professionals’ Day) is observed worldwide, albeit on different dates.

By Nonto Masuku

In North America it is celebrated on Wednesday — the last full week of April. In France it is celebrated on the third Thursday in April. In South Africa it is celebrated annually on the first Wednesday of September. Zimbabwe seems to have adopted the latter date.

Secretaries’ Day is observed to recognise the work of secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists and other administrative support professionals. The event is celebrated worldwide through community events, social gatherings and individual corporate activities, as well as by recognising support staff.

Last week there was excitement in the business community as secretaries celebrated their day in different ways. That said, it is unfortunate to note that a large number of organisations chose to ignore the day altogether.

In honour of these very important people, I would like to belatedly celebrate with them by sharing a few simple business etiquette tips that will make them stand out in the workplace:

Always greet visitors and customers in a warm and friendly manner. Not only are you employed to do so, but these are the same people who contribute to your paycheque at the end of the month.

Have a basic understanding of what your firm does, its industry and basic terminology.

Handle incoming calls professionally. Last week I called a company in Kwekwe. I asked to speak to an individual there and the receptionist answered me in a local language. It is good to be patriotic, however the business language in Zimbabwe is English therefore let us stick to that.

Handle incoming calls with discretion. If the boss is away gallivanting for example, do not tell a client that. I called a reputable organisation the other day and the receptionist blatantly told me that the manager was in the toilet. I did not need to know that information. A simple “she is away from her desk at the moment”, would have been adequate.

Dress appropriately for the office. You cannot go wrong with a smart suit in neutral colours. Too much make-up and jewellery is a “no-no” for the office.

A firm, well-timed handshake to pair with your smile is a sure way to stand out. A handshake is more than just a greeting. It is also a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, a handshake is an important tool in making the right first impression.

Always reply and acknowledge receipt of your business e-mail. E-mail should be replied to within at least 24 hours, and preferably within the same working day. Good business etiquette will only keep your customers happy.

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