Universidade Europeia: www.europeia.pt  |  Licenciatura em Secretariado e Comunicação Empresarial: http://bit.ly/sce_ue

quarta-feira, 16 de outubro de 2013

À conversa com... Anel Martin, Presidente da PAFSA (África do Sul)

Ms Anel Martin is the President of the Professional Association for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants (PAFSA) of South Africa. She is currently working as a personal assistant for Telkom. She was awarded the title PA of the Year in 2011 by PAFSA. She hosted a webinar for the Executive Assistant Organization in the US and published articles in several magazines like Executive Secretary Magazine and DeskDemon (UK). 

Maria João Borges (MJB): In Portugal, a higher education degree in this area has been offered since 1962. However it seems that less and less people choose this career as a 1st option, even though there are lots of employment opportunities. Is there a similar trend in the Republic of South Africa (RSA)?
Anel Martin (AM): In my experience yes, people end up in PA or administration positions by chance rather than choice.

MJB: Initially a profession undertaken only by men, positions are now mostly filled by women. Can you estimate a distribution between men and women in the RSA?
AM: According to the South African census undertaken in 2011 there are approximately 63% female employees in the administrative field, the balance are male.

MJB: Is this a well rated profession in terms of the employment outlook for the next, say, 10 years?
AM: In South Africa there are extremes. If you work for a large corporate company the prospects, salary and benefits are excellent, if you work for a smaller company, then less so. The role has changed dramatically in SA (as it has around the world) with the radical advances in technology, downsizing of companies which has resulted in PAs taking on tasks that were not traditionally associated with the role like PR, HR, Social media management, event management and even some financial components. The outlook is very positive for the top PAs in SA, but the average and mediocre PAs will find themselves falling by the wayside.

MJB: Do recruiters and employers look for specific skills? Do they look for technical training or base their choice mostly in soft skills?
AM: In my company specifically they expect you to be extremely proficient in the Microsoft Office package, any specialization is to your advantage. You need a degree or diploma to be shortlisted for any position. They also do extensive psychometric assessments to try and establish your strengths and potential compatibility with your potential boss. This does however differ vastly in SA from company to company and province to province.

MJB: Do these professionals have to have a specific license or to be part of a trade union in the RSA?
AM: In general PAs are not unionized in South Africa and there is currently no specific license required.

MJB: In Portugal, as in some other countries, there is a wide range of names for this profession, which often do not translate into levels of responsibility or autonomy. What is the situation in the RSA?
AM: In SA we are still using the term Secretary and it is mostly without the stigma that the rest of the world assigns to it. In SA it also varies a lot from company to company with no real industry alignment but if I have to generalize from my own experience the hierarchy is as follows:
1. Administrator/Co-coordinator and Clerk – Entry level administrator
2. Secretary
3. Executive Secretary – generally reporting to an executive as the name implies
4. Personal/Professional Assistant – working for EXCO level management
5. Specialist or Snr Manager Office Support – Most Senior, typically working for a Chief or CEO

MJB: In some countries there is a (somewhat) vigorous debate about the name secretary vs assistant. Is that the case in the RSA? Why?
AM:  This is not the case in SA; in fact it is gaining popularity again with some administrative staff approaching their HR teams to change job titles back to secretary. If you look at the word secretary and its Latin origin it becomes clear why it is coming back into style here. Our Association is also called the Professional Association of Secretaries and Administrative Assistants (just as an example).

MJB: How is the virtual dimension of the profession evolving in the RSA? Do companies look for virtual assistants?
AM: It has not really caught on yet, there are some successful VAs in South Africa and in my personal opinion it would be amazing for companies with branches and subsidiaries in Africa to utilize this kind of service, so I see it as a major potential growth area.

Maria João Borges
Docente das UC de Práticas de Secretariado e Assessoria

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