By H. Langford Hoe
Closing Time - A Wiser Policy
Two of the most important qualities for the business girl to cultivate, if she intends to succeed, are thoroughness and accuracy in her work.
If speed and despatch are attained at the expense of accuracy, it will not pay her in the end, and she will never give her employers the sense of being able to rely upon her. And this quality of thoroughness goes much deeper than mere verbal accuracy in taking and transcribing shorthand notes. It means devoting all the energies and thoughts to the business in hand, and often keeping it in mind for days, so that when the subject comes up again it is quite clear.
There are many devices for keeping records of letters and particulars of all kinds at hand for reference at a moment's notice, but, unless the individual worker uses her brains as well, such aids are of little value.
When information has to be looked up, do not be content with supplying the least possible amount. It is better to have brought out two or three documents too many than miss one containing points that may have escaped the memory of the chief, who has to think of so many and varied things of the greatest importance. Times of emergency and rush come in all businesses, proving the worth of the individuals composing the staff. Many a girl has obtained her promotion through having shown herself capable of carrying something through without error and not worrying those around her.
A girl who, when a letter is typed and in its envelope, considers she has done with it, although she knows it is important, and the usual collection of letters has been already made, has really left her work unfinished. It should be her business to see that such a letter is included with any other "late" correspondence there may chance to be, or that it is taken specially to the post.
It is more than annoying to the one who dictated it to find the missive in the postbox the following morning, the typist blaming the office boy, and the boy aggrieved because "It wasn't my fault. I cleared the box at the proper time."
The "thorough" girl takes a pride in her work for its own sake, and for her own satisfaction. She hates to leave unfinished ends for other people to clear up. It may involve staying a few minutes after the time for closing the office; or, occasionally, a quarter of an hour's work before the commencing hour will make all the difference between rushing a piece of work through in a slipshod fashion, and completing it in the best possible way.
In very large commercial and other offices the duties of the employees are, necessarily," well defined, and each has her allotted work. But even there some emergency may arise, and one or other may be asked to do something out of the ordinary routine which may be considered inferior work. Take up such work willingly and cheerfully.
The office in which a girl starts by herself offers, in very many cases, one of the very best opportunities for her future. For one thing, she probably deals with the principal himself, instead of being under the heads of various departments, and so dependent on their report of her progress. She may commence by merely taking down and transcribing the correspondence; but as she gains experience of the work, if she has any wish to get on, she can make herself so useful and so conversant with the business that she will become absolutely necessary to the head, and be, in fact, his "right hand." But if she objects to doing one thing, and considers another beneath her dignity, she will probably remain as she entered the office, or find herself asked to resign.
There are occasions when this gospel is a little difficult to follow; but if, after cheerfully taking up the distasteful duties, an opportunity be taken of talking the matter over quietly with those responsible, most employers will do their best to rearrange matters more satisfactorily for the one chiefly concerned. If not, and the conditions are really too uncomfortable to be borne, it simply becomes a matter for deciding whether it is not better to look out for another post. A continual friction in working produces more nerve strain than anything else.
While a small office may offer good opportunities, a large, well-organised commercial house is the very best practical training ground, and the benefit of two or three years spent in one will be reaped in after days.
A charge sometimes brought against the business girl is that she is too prone to keep her eye on the clock towards closing time, and commences putting on her hat five, or even ten, minutes before that time. If the work is so arranged that all is finished, there is naturally a general clearing up, and all go off to the hour; but the girl who closes her machine and shuts her desk, regardless of unfinished letters or papers to be handed in for signature, is bound to gain an unenviable character. Often an important letter has to be dictated at the last moment, and it is much better for all concerned if the girl cheerfully stays beyond her time to attend to it.
It is often most annoying to be delayed; there may be an appointment to be kept, or a game of tennis to look forward to, but it is not good policy, from a business point of view, constantly to be pleading engagements. On the whole, employers are considerate to the girls they have in their offices, and the rule of give and take obtains here as elsewhere.