Wanted: secretary/re-cep-tion-ist.

According to a recent Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce survey of businesses in the valley, the second most important position and the hardest one to fill in the 1990s will be that of qualified secretaries.These women (and men) will not only be called upon to greet customers, answer phones, type letters and file documents; they must also be highly trained managers who are skilled in English, technical writing and the use of computers.

The days of secretaries fixing coffee and buying their boss's wife an anniversary gift are long gone. A new day is dawning in the steno pool.

More often than not, you'll find secretaries with college degrees, using their management skills and surpassing their bosses in creating ways to improve business. After all, isn't it the secretaries of the world who have been keeping the business ball rolling for decades now?

It seems only fitting that we celebrate these unsung heroes of the business community April 22-26 during National Secretaries Week, with Wednesday, April 24, being National Secretaries Day.

If you're a boss, just stop and think what your secretary has done for you lately . . . probably everything from reminding you about an important meeting to "mailmerging" for the latest promotion. Maybe she (or he) located that lost report for the board meeting or, for that matter, maybe helped design it.

Whatever the job description, I can guarantee that if you have a good secretary, she is priceless. This is just another reason why businesses in the '90s will be offering fatter paychecks to secretaries.

If I sound like a one-woman cheering section or public relations officer for secretaries of the world, it is because I am also a full-fledged, honest-to-goodness secretary. I have been for 17 years. And I have seen changes in the workplace that are beginning to give secretaries a more honorable standing in the community.

For instance, when people used to ask me what my job was, I would answer that I was "just a secretary." I saw myself as a second-class citizen (albeit one with excellent phone skills).

No longer do I feel hampered by archaic traditions. My secretary friends and I have all noticed that we are being given more opportunity to share our talents and ideas at work. Some of us are being called office managers, we are being certified just like accountants and a few of us are even considered executives.

Several of today's corporate bosses were once secretaries working overtime to help other co-workers make it to the top. Now it is our turn to rise and shine.

I suppose that my boss, Brooke Adams, will find this column amusing and will ask me if I still like my job. I am also sure she already knows that for me, being the secretary of the Utah County Bureau of the Deseret News is one of the most rewarding career choices I have made.

That's right, being a secretary doesn't just have to be a "job" anymore; it can be a career choice with numerous upwardly mobile opportunities.

Perhaps some of us are still making coffee for the office, taking dictation and using carbon paper. But the great majority of us have left the old stigmas and are making a tremendous contribution to the business community.

So bosses and co-workers, when you see your secretaries this week give them a hardy handshake, a pat on the back, a thank-you card, some flowers or a free lunch and let them know how much you appreciate the hard work and support she has given you this past year. Ladies (and gentlemen), I salute you.

(Genelle Larsen, Orem, is an employee of the Deseret News' Utah County bureau.)