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The Value of Evening Study-how to Advance in Business-choice of Subjects-languages-posts Abroad-domestic Training
If a girl has any force of character or "grit" she will, from the very first, determine to get on in the profession she has chosen, or which circumstances have forced upon her.
In the former case she should decide by what means she can qualify herself for promotion or higher positions on the same lines, and in the latter she should endeavour to obtain, in her spare time, the necessary training to take up some branch of work which is more congenial.
She should never allow herself to feel that she knows all there is to know about her work. The beginner, especially, should be on the alert to take the opportunity of learning any kind of work in the office that may be fresh to her. The absence of some member of the staff may necessitate someone taking up her duties, and it is a great relief if the head of a department discovers that the one selected to do so has at least a slight knowledge of how to proceed.
In some offices a system of interchange of work is insisted upon; thus a wider experience is gained by each member than if she were strictly confined to one duty day after day. How often one hears a girl say, "Oh, yes, I am having a.fortnight's holiday, but I shall have a month's work after it in getting level. The others know nothing of my work." This cannot, it is true, be avoided in some instances, but a good deal can be done by the staff themselves to minimise the difficulty.
When really proficient in actual working in shorthand and typewriting, it will be wise to consider what other subjects will be likely to advance business interests.
A few months' actual experience will probably suffice to discover the weak places in the commercial subjects studied at the training college. Book-keeping, for instance, may not be used at all, but if a girl has an aptitude for figures, and there is a possibility of her undertaking duties in which it will be required, let her by all means continue its study, and if she has not already obtained a certificate, it might be quite worth her while to do so.
After the purely commercial subjects comes the question of languages. French, if persevered in till business correspondence is mastered-a very different matter to the French usually taught in schools-is almost certain to be valuable, and will enable a better position to be secured later on.
In large commercial firms, especially those having many branches at home and abroad, one can never tell when an opportunity for advancement may come, and such firms usually give the workers trained in their own methods the preference for the more important posts. A large firm in London with several women clerks opened a branch in Paris. One of these clerks had been studying French in her spare time for years past, and had had some experience in French correspondence in the London office. She was offered a considerably improved position in the Paris house, which she was at once ready to fill. The French business is extending, and another girl on the London staff, who has likewise qualified in French and German by means of evening classes for some five or six years, has not only obtained the promise of the next vacancy in Paris, or transference to Berlin should they open there, but is obtaining valuable experience in both these languages in the London office by undertaking the foreign correspondence. A clerk was also required for Milan, but as no member of the staff had studied Italian an outsider had to be engaged, much to the firm's regret.
French may be the most commonly known foreign language, and therefore its knowledge does not carry so much extra remuneration; but, as it forms a stepping-stone to other languages, it is well to study it, to some extent at least. German is extensively used in commercial circles, but is found very difficult to learn by many. Spanish and Italian are two other languages that should not be overlooked by the girl who has an aptitude for languages, if there is the slightest chance of being able to turn such knowledge to account.
Any language that is taken up should be thoroughly mastered and persevered with until it is possible, not only to translate a letter or other communication into English, but the reverse, from English into correctly phrased French, German, or Spanish.
The next step is to write shorthand in the foreign language, but this cannot be attempted until the student is quite at home with her subject, and in many instances will never be required unless she should take up a position abroad.
A Word of Warning
It may be mentioned here that no foreign appointment should be accepted without making the fullest inquiries through the British consul regarding the standing of the firm. Further, a stay abroad for some years, although it may give a thorough knowledge of the language spoken, may break the business connection that is being built up in England, and it may not be easy to pick up the threads on returning. But, as in so many other instances in daily life, no hard and fast rule can be cited; each case must be decided on its merits. To be continued.