You might also be doing someone’s calendar, as in setting up appointments and making sure the boss has the materials he needs.
This is what I did in an average day when I was a secretary:
Answer phone calls, take messages, direct calls.
Make calls for boss – for example, calling all department heads and saying “Ms. Boss would like to remind you to bring your equipment requests to the next monthly meeting.”
Prepare memos, notes, reports, etc for boss. Sometimes, this means taking your boss’s handwritten notes or email drafts and making them into a formal memo. Some ofices use a dictaphone, and I personally would like to bludgeon whoever it was who invented this horrible piece of torture. Other times, the boss says “write a memo to Joe Smith telling him blah blah blah” so you have to do more of the actual writing yourself.
Open mail, read mail, direct mail to appropriate person.
Keep mail log database – when each letter is received, and what happens next (do you file it, reply to it, send it to Joe in Accounting, etc). Make copies as appropriate.
Make appointments for boss, confirm appointments for boss, keep track of any materials needed for particular meetings.
Keep track of photocopier and other equipment. Call repair person when needed. Chat up repair person so that the next time it breaks, you don’t have to wait two weeks for the repair person.
Order office supplies (before you actually run out)
Prepare coffee and snacks for meetings, depending on what is appropriate at your office, whether it is making coffee yourself, or ordering coffee from the deli, or keeping the coffee supplies well stocked so that everyone can make their own.
Greet people who come into the office, direct them to the appropriate person or area.
File a lot of stuff. Retrive stuff from files.
Be responsible for petty cash. Process bills.
Make travel arrangements, including car service, train, air, and/or hotel.
Establish a good working relationship with other secretaries at the place of business. This is key. Help them out and they will help you out when you need it.
All sorts of weird little stuff – you might have to renew newspaper or magazine subscriptions annually, or if your boss as a company car, you might prepare and submit monthly milage reports. I used to keep track of the key box – if someone forgot their office key I would give them a loaner, and then had to make sure it was returned. There will be lots of these little tasks depending on the type of business where you work.
The hardest part of being a good secretary is the most abstract part. It requires an effort to get to know your boss so that you can predict what he/she needs. If you boss always loses things, get into the habit of making two copies and having the second copy ready to pull out of your desk, rather than calling another office and asking them to send another copy. Be very clear when you talk about assignments – if your boss asks how you are doing with a certain report, and you say “fine” he might think you mean “fine, it will be done in two minutes” when you actually mean “fine, it will be done in one hour.” If you get another assignment, speak up and ask whether assignment A or assignment B needs to be completed first. Write everything down so you can refer to instructions later – when you’re a smart person, it’s easy to think that you can remember all sorts of simple instructions, but it’s harder than it looks and has nothing to do with being smart.