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

segunda-feira, 3 de março de 2014

À conversa com... Gina Theofilidou, Presidente da EUMA Grécia

Gina Theofilidou is the National Chairman of European Management Assistants Greece. She got a diploma in Secretarial Studies at Saint George Commercial College in 1992 and started working at VIEXAL in 1993 as Assistant to the Client Service and to Account Department. In 1995 she began working at GfK as Assistant to the Client Service Department, where she now is Senior Administrative Assistant / Marketing Communications, Travel Management.

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 Greece?
Gina Theofilidou (GT): In Greece there are only vocational training institutes (private or public) and seminars (30-50 hours duration) for the profession.  As it happens in many countries in northern Europe, our profession operates as an “open door” from graduates from Marketing, Economics and Human Resource Management to the labor market. This has been a significant impact to our profession with many dimensions. Increases the trend of companies asking university degrees on those sectors for appointing Executive and Management Assistant positions, but offering a significantly lower salary than they would offer to another position in the same company with the same studies. This situation has as a result that older management assistants, at the age of 40-50 with no university degree lose their jobs.

The second factor increases the unemployment rate since companies have the opportunity to select from a great variety of candidates, younger and higher educated.

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 Greece?
GT: In Greece, the profession is not undertaken by men, so there is no difference in percentage. There are positions that a man could start as an Assistant but the job description of the role has nothing to do with our profession. Men preferred for leadership and management positions. For example they could work as Assistants to the General Manager but what they actually mean is Deputy General Manager.

MJB: Is this a well rated profession in terms of the employment outlook for the next, say, 10 years?
GT: The profession still remains in the top ten hardest jobs to fill in according to surveys conducted among employers. What affects not only our profession, but all the working place in Greece, is the current Generation Y – given birth round 1980, called “Millennials”. The new managers that shape the future workplace.  The technology is their sixth consciousness.  It is the way they know the world.  This generation has a considerable influence in shaping the future workplace because they transform specifications of the ideal company, relationships and behaviors through communication and technology. For them the ideal company is one that provides good work and ability to undertake multiple roles resulting in elimination of some roles as this of a secretary to the concept that existed until now because they do it all by themselves.

Personally, I see that change as an opportunity for secretaries that pursuing the development and their career evolution to find the path that will help them to stand next to these young managers giving new dimensions to their role.

MJB: Do recruiters and employers look for specific skills? Do they look for technical training or base their choice mostly in soft skills?
GT:  The evolution of our profession requires management assistants to managing company’s web presence and social media, coordinating senior leadership of diverse nationalities in multiple locations, coordinating online webinars and conferences with multiple nationalities and regions and liaising with numerous stakeholders and suppliers, internally and externally.
So the job successful profile of a candidate is:
  • Knowledge:  Business Acumen
  • Skills: Flexibility,  Adaptability, Problem Solving, Multi tasking, IT Skills, Internet savvy, ability to act as an “ambassador”, quick Learner.
  • Values & Mindset (Attitudes that people bring to jobs and jobs need in people): Critical Thinking, Professional Attitude, Organizational Awareness, Trustworthiness, Credibility, Loyalty, Integrity in an era of transparency.
  • Personality & Intelligence (Basic character & moral traits): Intellectual Curiosity, Proactive, Self-confidence, Stress Tolerance. 

MJB: Do these professionals have to have a specific license or to be part of a trade union in Greece?
GT:  As I mentioned before there is no university degree for our profession, so there was never a real need for a specific license that people need to have to work as secretaries, executive assistants etc. Although, when you study in public vocational training institutes you give examinations for your diploma to the Organization for Vocational Education and Training, a Public Entity established, it has administrative and financial autonomy and it is supervised by the Ministry of Education, Life lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs.  One of its services is the recognition and vesting professions relevant to the education and training provided by the Vocational Training Institute, according to the data and the needs of the Greek market, but also that apply in the EU.

There is no any official trade union to represent our profession since our profession is not legally established in our country.  In Greece, EUMA association aims to represent our profession in the business world by specialized training and networking among professionals.

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 Greece?
The situation in Greece is almost the same. The titles differ from company to company and especially between national and multinational companies.  Although there are samples of job descriptions among level and title, the percentage of companies using them to describe and most important evaluate our jobs is very small.  In Greece the phenomenon of a management assistant having a huge range of responsibilities and capabilities but not the title and the salary is very common.

MJB: In some countries there is a (somewhat) vigorous debate about the name secretary vs assistant. Is that the case in Greece? Why?
The same debate existing also in Greece and it is related to the phenomenon I have mentioned before. If you name a person as your assistant, this could automatically mean that this person has could have same authorities, skills, education as a manager or a CEO etc, but has just started his/her career and needs guidance and a final approval –decision to initiatives and proposals.  From the other hand, when you name a person as secretary, you could have the same skills, education, doing most of your work, operating as your right hand, but with less money. So the title in our career totally depends to the manager you have, his age, his beliefs and his business culture.  In my opinion our profession and its evolution depends on specific characteristics of leadership that our supervisor has or not.

MJB: How is the virtual dimension of the profession evolving in Greece? Do companies look for virtual assistants?
For a country such ours that suffers from economic crisis, you would expect a significant increase of virtual assistant profession. However, the percentage of companies using virtual assistant services is a single digit. That occurs from the fact that those companies offering such services are focus to operate as call centers mostly. Other services offered are transcripts, translations, creation of PowerPoint presentations, typing. However, even in that difficult economic period, that companies struggle to cut their budgets, they do not work with outsourcing secretarial services easily.  It is more possible to give a job to another person in the organization if a secretary cannot do it or decide to cut this position, than to give it outside.

VA’s profession could be a great opportunity for people of 40-50 year old that lost their jobs, to develop their abilities, uses their experience and being the CEO of their career.  

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

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