Above: June, one of our highly valued receptionists
by Warren Heggarty
With all the kerfuffle around the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I nearly overlooked an advertisement for a vacancy at Buckingham House. The job of Private Secretary to HRH The Princess Royal has become vacant.
This led me to wonder what sort of a person would or could do such a job. Such a role would be top in its field, so surely there are some important lessons our readers could learn to help them over the bar for secretarial roles a little closer to home.
The job is responsible for managing The Princess Royal’s official engagements, and she is one of the busiest Royals of all. The advertisement stipulates that the successful applicant will ‘work to high standards with great attention to detail.’ That is something that we can all aspire to do.
I asked Flourish Australia’s front desk receptionist June Harrison (above) what it was about Secretarial or Receptionist work that she liked.
“I like that I have the opportunity to greet, guide and assist people; and it’s nice doing things that actually come natural to me,” says June who has been in the job for almost ten years. “There’s a sense of being needed, I like that what I am required to do. It comes naturally to me, I find it very rewarding. I also like the banter I have with my colleagues at Figtree/Head Office.”
Kim Jones, a project officer with Flourish Australia who formerly managed a medical office echoes this. ‘Sometimes people don’t fully appreciate the things that get done behind the scenes.’
June says, “I mainly like that I’m trusted to be the public face of Flourish Australia, (so to speak.) I also like that my personality matches this kind of public contact, as some bubbliness is always helpful in this role.”
Conference Centre assistant Matt Stonier (above), who does relief duties on the front desk says that one of the best things about the role is that you get to know everyone and interact with them. ‘I’ve always wanted to know how an organisation like Flourish Australia operates and being on the front desk has allowed me to learn about that.’
‘Sometimes on the switchboard’ says Matt, ‘people launch straight into their story without realising that it is my job to connect them with the appropriate person rather than solving the problem myself. At times phone calls can be few and far between, but there are other times when several come at once and you end up having to put people on hold.’
One of the chief challenges of a front desk role is ‘multitasking’ a term which you often hear bandied around as if it were some basic skill that everyone should have. In reality, a person can only ever do one thing at a time.
Kim says ‘you have to prioritise, pick, choose and juggle. You have to set time aside to do this. You have to see whether there are tasks you can delegate to others or whether you need to get help from other people.’
When you are on the front desk like June, people often ask for assistance with various things. For June, the answer to the multitasking dilemma can be found in prioritising. And most importantly, you must be respectful at all times.”
“When the phone rings; which is also attached to the boom gate – people have questions about signing in/out of the attendance book – others may even just want to say something to me. When this is all happening, it can be challenging as everything can’t be done at once. I find my organisational skills are helpful here, by writing things down that have been said to me.”
“Everyone needs to feel important, they don’t want to be fobbed off, or be put through to just anyone, it’s a must to reassure callers in a friendly manner that you will do your best to get them to the appropriate area as soon as you can.
Kim says ‘you need to be confident and to speak up and ask for help when you need it. It also helps to be a people person, because sometimes it is not just work but personalities you have to juggle!’
As the advertisement for Princess Anne’s private secretary says ‘as well as strong cultural sensitivity and diplomacy, excellent judgement will be the key to this role, along with exceptional interpersonal and communication skills.’
So, secretaries, receptionists and administrative people do much more than paper shuffling! If you develop the skills relating to reception work to a high level, who knows, you might find yourself attending on royalty one day!