Secretaries' Day (or why I don't want to be a secretary)

Subject: Secretaries' Day (or why I don't want to be a secretary)
From: mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 10:59:24 -0500

Years ago, before I knew I wanted to be a tech writer, I graduated
with a degree in Greek and religion. There was a recession on. I
could type 110 words a minute, so I took a secretarial job because it
was all I could find.

After several years of finding other doors closed to me once employers
found out I could type fast, I applied for a reporter's job at my
present company. When asked if I could type, I thought, oh no, not
again! I said, doubtfully, "Well, yeah, I can type my own stuff.
<rolling eyes> You wouldn't want me typing anybody else's stuff,
though!" The interviewer said that was fine.

I found out later that it was an advantage for reporters to be able to
type fast, that the potential employer desperately needed a reporter
and had no use for a secretary, and that it would have made no
difference if I had admitted to my true typing speed. But that's
*this* company. I can't tell you the number of companies and
headhunters that immediately pigeonholed me as a secretary once they
heard my typing speed. It was terribly easy to find a job for a
secretary. It was hard to find a job for an editor, which was my
ambition at that time.

So what's wrong with being a secretary, some of you ask? Aside from
the fact that I don't enjoy that work, it doesn't pay anywhere near as
well as tech writing. Once a company pegged me as a secretary, my
career prospects there were shot.

In every job I had that had some sort of administrative duties or
title, I made sure that I played up the writing and editing duties.
In one place, I even put my typewriter at the far end of my work space
and put a cover on it. Even so, it wasn't enough to get me out of
secretarial work. I had to switch companies to do that.

When I was a secretary, I hated Secretaries' Day. Forget flowers,
forget lunch. Give me money. That's what it's all about, IMO.

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer
mhunterk -at- bna -dot- com
(standard disclaimer)

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