Sunday, June 24, 2012

Your Job: An Opportunity, Not a Privilege

If you have not had an opportunity to review The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success that I co-authored with Charlsye Smith Diaz, PhD, you might believe that it focuses entirely on how to land a paralegal position.

I
t is true that the first 8 chapters spotlight traits paralegals need to succeed, job search strategies, preparing a winning resume, and nailing the interview. Each chapter has valuable information for starting your paralegal career.
It is in Chapter 9 that we get down to brass tacks with:
  • Getting organized for your job;
  • How to update your wardrobe to fit the current situation;
  • What to do on the first day;
  • How to settle into an office environment; and
  • Developing a good reputation at work
When you land a job, you have been given an opportunity. You will waste that opportunity and perhaps very quickly find yourself without a job if you:
  • Spend your 1st or 2nd day at work linking to your personal email accounts, providing your work number to family and friends and taking their frequent calls, and organizing your personal knick-knacks, instead of focusing on learning about your new job.

    This is not the time to haul in all your pictures, books, and trophies. It is not the time to talk on the phone for hours with your mother and your best friend.

    Instead, carry a notebook with you at all times and focus on the office: learn everything you can about the equipment (honest, no 2 copy machines are alike!) and office systems. Take notes so you don’t have to ask questions later!

  • Arrive a few minutes late and leave a few minutes early, especially during the first week of employment. When you start your job, you are establishing your reputation as a person who is punctual and dedicated to your work. Arrive early enough so that you have had your coffee and are ready to start work on time. Do not leave until quitting time.

  • Express indignity when you’re asked to do something you consider to be a menial task that's beneath you. You are not above any work, especially when you’re just starting a job. You are a member of a team and it takes teamwork to complete legal work.

    Each task is an important piece of the final work product. Accept tasks with grace and do them well. If you can’t do even the small tasks well, no one will be willing to give you more substantive work.

    Also, it does not matter who gives you the work: another paralegal, an attorney, a much younger person…smile and get the work done.

  • Exaggerating your abilities on your resume.  Never tell someone you can do work when you have no idea how to do it. In other words, if you’ve never heard of a trial notebook or CaseMap, don’t try to fake it. You will not win that game.

  • Taking time off during the first few weeks of employment. Unless you had a vacation planned and cleared the time off with your boss during the interview process, buckle down and take NO time off until you have earned it.

  • Checking Facebook and Twitter every 5 minutes. You are being paid to work, not play on social networks. Save all of that for your own time after you leave work.

    And remember to NEVER post anything negative about your employer and co-workers. You will be in deep trouble (and you may lose your job) when your posts are discovered, whether you posted them on your own time or not.

  • Arguing politics, religion and professional associations. Keep this information to yourself, particularly if your opinions differ from those of your boss.

    While the First Amendment gives you the right to free speech, it does not take away your employer’s right to send you packing if you are irritating and belligerent.

  • Blaming everyone else for your mistakes.When you make a mistake, do 3 things: 1) own up to it; 2) learn from it; and 3) move on. Blaming someone else does not work.
Too many people ruin great opportunities in the legal field because they do not see the job for what it is: an opportunity.

Many new employees have a sense of entitlement and an attitude that once they have a job, it is theirs forever. Your job is not a right or a privilege and you can be replaced.

Always remember that getting a job is not nearly as important as keeping a job.
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© 2012 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.

1 comment:

Heather Gonzalez said...

Keep up awesome job! I enjoy reading all your articles and blogs!

Heather
VAP Services, LLC