Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Experience = No Job? 5 Things You Must Do NOW!

You have done well in school and you finally have your paralegal degree. You were certain law firms would be banging on your door on graduation day offering you fantastic jobs.
Didn't happen? You're not alone! Unfortunately, this is an issue for many new paralegal school graduates.

Here are 5 things you MUST do NOW to keep yourself in the game and find that job you've been looking for:

1. Update Your Resume – Often. “An update?” you gasp. “Why update a perfectly good, nearly new resume?"

Your resume should be a work in process because “one size does not fit all”. It should be customized to each position you are seeking. Read the job details carefully for the specific requirements and then tailor your resume to that job.

Limit to your resume to 1 page and print it on nice white paper. Do not use anything fancy or colored.

Be sure your resume spotlights your skills and experience. You have no experience? Not true! You have been in school, you may have done an internship, perhaps volunteer work, and what about your previous jobs? You may not highlight each one specifically but do highlight the the experience you gained and the skills you learned to demonstrate how those apply to working as a paralegal at the specific job you are applying for.

2. Take A Job While Waiting/Looking for THE Job. In this economy, you may not find the dream job you thought would be waiting for you when you finished your education. It is important to be employed, though, if for no other reason than you like sleeping indoors and eating 3 meals a day.

This is where taking “A JOB” comes in. Look for something related to the field so you can gain get that experience under your belt. You may not be working as a paralegal but come as close as you can.

Consider targeting a law firm or corporation where you would eventually like to work and take another job there just to get your foot in the door. You should also consider doing some volunteer work with a legal aid clinic or the court system. You will not only gain a lot of practical experience, but it will look good on your resume and show what you have been productive during your unemployment.

A JOB will be of assistance in making connections that that may lead you to THE JOB.

3. Leverage the Internet and Social Media. The importance of participating in social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in particular) cannot be overstated.  Even if you don’t find a job through social media (and it is possible you will), it provides you with exposure to other professionals. It also affords you the opportunity to research would-be employers.

Potential employers use social media to search for information on prospective employees. You will want them to find you there and see that you would be a spectacular employee. Having a professional picture posted on these sites is essential so have one taken NOW.

LinkedIn is particularly important because it is a professional “resume type” site. You can join forums, participate in discussions, and make new contacts. Also, ask people you know to give you a recommendation on LinkedIn.

Whatever you do, though, do not allow the Internet make you invisible. Read on!

4. In-Person Connections Remain Key. This is not the time to hide out in your home office surfing the web for a job. The truth is that your next job is probably right in your back yard, so to speak, because personal connections are a primary source of hires. You should focus the majority of your efforts on face-to-face networking.

So many jobs are found by word of mouth that you have to network both with the people you have known forever and with anyone new you can meet. Begin with the people you knew in school (fellow students, professors, guest speakers), and widen your web to the people you met while you were interning, members of your local association. Join that association and attend any events possible, including job fairs and CLE events. You never know whom you’ll meet today that will recommend you for a job tomorrow.

5. Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk. Dress, act and speak like the professional you aspire to be. Your student days are behind you so do not revert to “student casual” clothing when you are networking.

Professionalism should be at the top of your mind when you are on social media, too. Never post anything (including pictures) that you would not want your mother OR a future employer to see.

Searching for a job can be difficult, discouraging and depressing. Try to get past that and maintain a positive attitude. Begin every day planning on good things to come your way and be sure you take these 5 steps:
  • Update your resume to tailor it to the specific job you are seeking
  • Take A Job while you're seeking THE Job
  • Use the Internet to your advantage but do not disappear; personal connections are key
  • Have a professional photograph taken NOW
  • Act, dress and speak like a professional
Remember, getting a job IS your job – for now.


© 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.


1 comment:

Equus Spirit said...

Let me add a couple of things, Vicki-
1. Leave off that "Objective" thing. It's a given-you want a legal job! Hello?! Anything else is just looking stuffed and self-serving. Just don't.
2. Highlight real SKILLS-if you are a whiz with Excel-say so. Financial law firms need people who can handle spreadsheets. Can you speak another language fluently? Now's the time! Toot that horn.
3. Be completely unafraid to look somebody in the eye and say "Look-I know school didn't teach me everything-but I'm willing to learn whatever it is that you have to teach me." The LAST thing somebody wants to do is hire a know-it-all. Just because you got good grades in class does not mean you know enough to handle a law office-it does mean that you have a good base for learning HOW to handle one! Know the difference.
4. Be willing to jump in and make mistakes. Again. For those of us starting a new career, this is rough. We've already had our share of "road rash" and didn't like it the first time-and now we have to do it again?! I'm afraid that's the truth. Just keep a goodly supply of the bandages, liniments, and bath salts plus dignity splits for the old pride.

Fasten your seat belts, boys and girls. It's going to be a bumpy flight!