Marjeta Peternel is the National Chairman of European Management Assistants (EUMA) Slovenia. She speaks five languages and has been working as a personal assistant to three CEOs for 15 years. She enjoys fast paced environments and for the last five years has been working as HR Officer, dealing with staff training, recruitment, benefits, data management and Health & Safety issues.
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 Slovenia?
Marjeta Peternel (MP): Also in Slovenia, the trend of education for this profession is lower in the last years and is often option No. 2. The reason is lack of employment opportunities.
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 Slovenia?
MP: Men occupy 11% of administrative professions, what means that we have 3.504 men on these places. Comparing to the fact that men represent 56 % of active working population, we can talk about strong feminization of administrative professions.
MJB: Is this a well rated profession in terms of the employment outlook for the next, say, 10 years?
MP: I am afraid it is difficult to make prognoses but I believe this also depends on employer.
MJB: Do recruiters and employers look for specific skills? Do they look for technical training or base their choice mostly in soft skills?
MP: Technical skills are very important (computers, accounting). These skills are of more importance as BA are dealing a lot organizational work.
MJB: Do these professionals have to have a specific license or to be part of a trade union in Slovenia?
MP: They should have proper education, certificates like EDCL or similar are welcome. Trade union is not obligatory (many people aren’t members).
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 Slovenia?
MP: The role of BA is sometimes hidden under 21 different working titles that describe administrative worker, what is also connected with salaries.
MJB: In some countries there is a (somewhat) vigorous debate about the name secretary vs assistant. Is that the case in Slovenia? Why?
MP: We have no problem with it as we have standardization of the profession. Person with high school can be secretary; person with higher education is Business Secretary or Business Assistant.
MJB: How is the virtual dimension of the profession evolving in Slovenia? Do companies look for virtual assistants?
MP: Some smaller companies do look for outsource services in accounting or HRM, but virtual assistant is not usual practice.
Maria João Borges
Docente das UC de Práticas de Secretariado e Assessoria