Ms Kotsapa is the National Chairman of EUMA Cyprus. In recognition of her work coordinating the Corporate Social Responsibility Programme of ExxonMobil Cyprus and its implementation, her boss nominated her for the I Made a Difference Award which she won in 2007. She was also the winner of the European Smart Secretary/PA & HP Original Thinking Award in 2008.
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 Cyprus?
Rita Kotsapa (RK): In Cyprus we have one of the highest percentages of university graduates in the world. Most professional and academic qualifications are gained either at the local University or Colleges, but mostly at EU and American universities.
Therefore most young people opt for Law, Engineering, Medicine, Accounting, Economics, Business Administration, Management. I would agree that like in Portugal the Office Administration Degree is not chosen as a first option although there are employment opportunities in this area. However, we are hoping that the trend will change, as currently, more and more foreign organizations seeking for a PA are looking for holders of University Degrees such as Business Administration or Management. Those who eventually opt to follow the MA profession they discover that, if they are focused in life-long learning, willing to exhibit initiative and undertake added tasks then they are in the right path of following a fulfilling career.
P.S. Currently the environment in Cyprus is very volatile due to the economic crisis which has hit our country.
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 Cyprus?
RK: I personally do not know of any men in the profession so I would say 99.9% to be on the safe side.
MJB: Is this a well rated profession in terms of the employment outlook for the next, say, 10 years?
RK: My opinion is that the role has evolved mainly due to the rapid technological advancement and the assignment of added tasks to the Assistant rendering her a “Manager” of the office of the Manager. Therefore if we manage to convey to the business world that the “Secretary” role is obsolete and the new position is a Managerial one, then we will be able to attract the University degree holders in Business Administration, Management, Marketing, H.R. Management etc.
MJB: Do recruiters and employers look for specific skills? Do they look for technical training or base their choice mostly in soft skills?
RK: Employers and recruiters definitely seek technical skills as well as soft skills.
MJB: Do these professionals have to have a specific license or to be part of a trade union in Cyprus?
RK: Employers are looking for professionals with a diploma in office administration and also to be well versed in computer skills.
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 Cyprus?
RK: The most common names in Cyprus is Personal Assistant, Executive Secretary, Management Assistant, Administration Manager, Office Manager
MJB: In some countries there is a (somewhat) vigorous debate about the name secretary vs assistant. Is that the case in Cyprus? Why?
RK: As I mentioned above, the role of secretary has evolved, however, we still see ladies performing the tasks of Secretary in numerous small companies. It is up to the professional to demonstrate her potential, convince that she is career-oriented by investing in Life-Long Learning and thereby move up the ladder to Personal Assistant/ Office Manager.
One of the hallmarks of a successful career is to push into new territory and expose yourself to new challenges. You have to establish yourself before you are in a position to be qualified for promotion. As EUMA Cyprus we strive to convey the message to our members the need to advocate with their Manager their multi-task job and the importance of the position. “That they are true leaders and are the blood and oxygen that pumps through the heart of every successful organization.”
So in other words whether Secretary or Assistant the path to a successful career is hard work. And as a quotation from Abraham Lincoln says: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”
MJB: How is the virtual dimension of the profession evolving in Cyprus? Do companies look for virtual assistants?
RK: I am not aware of companies looking for virtual assistants but there is a number of Assistants who work as part-time or on contract.
Maria João Borges
Docente das UC de Práticas de Secretariado e Assessoria