Well, I could not believe my eyes and truly rubbed them in disbelief when I saw an advertisement recently.
A leading Jewellery shop advertised, among other requirements, for the services of Secretary to its Managing Director. That in itself is not weird. But one look at the advertisement copy made me very curious and I am surely dying to know the result of the quest.
The copy said that there were two positions – one each of either sex (the headline said ‘Secretary’ in singular and certainly not in ‘plural’) and that the preferred age for the Lady Secretary was 30 years and for that of the Gent was 35 years. Now what difference the age is going to be? In India, maybe elsewhere also, it is firmly believed that the women are sharper at a young age than men and so even when marriages take place, in India, the bride is normally quite younger than the groom. So the advertisement could have made much sense if the age preferences were vice versa?
Sorry for digressing but here’s the next and most amazing requirement:
‘Graduate with 5 years (of) experience in relevant field (in secretarial field or jewellery field?). Should possess excellent communication skills (write, read and speak) and pleasing personality. Should be computer literate & pro-active. (But now comes the real googly) Fluency in English, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu is a must. Exposure in Typewriting and shorthand is desirable’
The problem is in a city like Chennai, finding a polyglot who is fluent in the languages desired would be tougher than getting Manna from heavens onto the earth, to feed the two million people of Sinai. And the desire for the combination of typewriting and shorthand skills makes the ‘Mission Impossible’ look paler.
Some three decades ago, the Typewriting and Shorthand institutes were available, in India, almost one in every street with thousands of aspirants learning and appearing for the technical examinations. But in the past two decades, as the electronic technology brought in many innovations, aspirants steadily dwindled and trickled down to such abysmal numbers of about a few hundreds, that the typewriting institutes mostly have either closed shop or reinvented themselves in allied courses of skill training.
When I started my career, I found that stenographers and secretaries were better paid in the company where I worked as a mere ‘clerk’. That was the importance given to their time, skill and perseverance.
While the Pitman’s Shorthand really requires dedication, concentration, good memory power and most importantly rigorous and continuous practice, the new found electronic gadgets make life simpler. When even mobile phones can take videos and record sounds and voices, many, including journalists who were once excellent ‘stenographers’, prefer to use these gadgets than waste precious time in learning the art.
I excelled in typing (though now I suffer from ‘typing dyslexia’) which I find very useful while using my keyboard of the computer. But then I was a total dud as far as shorthand was concerned. My learning of shorthand never crossed the ‘pee’ / ‘bee’/ ‘tee’ / ‘dee’s. Yes, I am a polyglot, but as I am nearing sixty, I cannot qualify, even if I wish to aspire.
And that is the issue. The qualities expected by the advertiser, in this case, would most probably be available in people who are nearing retirement age and thus there is a mismatch in the age factor and the relative attractiveness. Moreover, many of these Stenographers would have climbed the ladder of growth and must be holding very senior positions with very good pay packets. Those who could not make it big may not be practicing their skills enough.
The new generation employees are what I call the ‘factory graduates’ with almost 50% of them not having any employable skills. Most of the rest, find jobs through campus placements. And those who are not lucky enough to do well in education, may learn some secretarial skills like typewriting and ‘Newrite’ (a new system of shorthand originally invented as ‘Steno’ by Walter P. Kistler). But chances are that they may not be polyglots and maybe could speak no more than two languages and that too not fluently.
As a person who is keen in watching changes, I am certainly curious to know the results of the permutation and combinations, as also the sacrifices the advertiser will have to do in obtaining the intended goals of recruiting secretaries in the preferred age group and with the qualifications sought for.
For future, though, there is one hope. With several vital systems and servers being hacked methodically, across the globe, already a serious thought is going with the powers that be, to ‘resurrect’ the typewriters and stenographers to go to basics of making hard copies ‘for the eyes of…only’ and destroying the carbons and extra copies where not needed.
That and the once in a way advertisements like the present one, could kindle hopes of ‘resurrecting’ the ‘extinction’ of stenographic skills and equipment.
So, what is your guess? Is it going to be ‘extinction’ or ‘resurrection’? You tell me!
Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish)
Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy