Ms Spießberger is the National Chairman of EUMA Austria. She has been working as an assistant to the manager in a conference hotel in Salzburg for the past 11 years, being responsible for the PR and marketing areas and, since 2013, also for HR and book keeping.
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 Austria?
Manuela Spießberger (MS): As far as I know, we have no courses or seminars in Secretarial Techniques offered by universities. But we have advanced educational centers which offer seminars for office management or for economic assistants. Duration: 6 month on average. The centers offer this courses for years – so I think they are fully booked.
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 Austria?
MS: It is not very “masculine” working as an assistant. I would say the distribution in Austria is 80 : 20 (women : men). Exception: In the Austrian political parties the position of a secretary is still undertaken by men!
MJB: Is this a well rated profession in terms of the employment outlook for the next, say, 10 years?
MS: There was and still is a change in the perception of secretarial work – from the side of the companies and from the side of the secretaries as well. A secretary like it was in former times, doesn’t exist anymore. We moved from just an executing position to a “self-thinking” one! We are the “right and the left hand” of our boss and we overtook many application areas from him or her. So the profession of an assistant is well rated in Austria – except the salary! This has nothing to do with the profession itself but rather with the issue, that this position is mainly manned by women! – Equal Pay Day!
MJB: Do recruiters and employers look for specific skills? Do they look for technical training or base their choice mostly in soft skills?
MS: If you have a lack of technique skills you can attend different courses and seminars to come up to the needs. So I think employers and recruiters look especially for soft skills: good behaviors & diction, excellent in orthographie!!, well dressed, intercultural competences, aso.
MJB: Do these professionals have to have a specific license or to be part of a trade union in Austria?
MS: No specific license or membership of a trade union is necessary. To be part of a trade union is absolutely voluntary in Austria.
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 Austria?
MS: In Austria we still have the appellation of SECRETARY. But it is more and more replaced by ASSISTANT. No more names.
MJB: In some countries there is a (somewhat) vigorous debate about the name secretary vs assistant. Is that the case in Austria? Why?
MS: As I mentioned in the last answer, the name SECRETARY is going to disappear in the economic world. Not in the politic parities – there, the secretary is mainly a man and he is still a “secret carrier”, like the word “secretary” comes from. As you certainly know, Austria is a very high developed country but on the other hand we still have the bureaucracy and some names coming from the old “Habsburg-Empire” ! The secretary of the Prime Minister is still a secretary and not an assistant to the Prime Minister, f.e.
MJB: How is the virtual dimension of the profession evolving in Austria? Do companies look for virtual assistants?
MS: Yes, they do. They are searching for assistants to the manager, assistants to the CEO, aso.
Maria João Borges
Docente das UC de Práticas de Secretariado e Assessoria