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Finding or Changing Paralegal Jobs

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Finding or changing jobs is one of the most important decisions you'll ever have to make. Your job is more than just a source of income or the place where you spend as much as one third of your life. It's part of who you are and who you're becoming. It's an education, a source of satisfaction and self- esteem. While in school and throughout your working life, you'll probably receive a great deal of instructions in the skills you need to do a good job. But, reflect for a moment. Have you ever had any real instruction on how to look for a job? Or on how to decide what job is best for you? Probably not.

For many people, job hunting is simply a matter of typing up a resume, answering ads, signing up with an employment agency, waiting for offers and then choosing from among them. While this plunge-right-in approach can be successful, you may be passing up an opportunity to decide what you really want and what you really have to offer. If you've taken advantage of this opportunity, you can go out and find the job you want rather than hoping that it will find you! Job hunting can be exciting-if you're willing to put some imagination and effort into it.



Clarifying Your Objectives

An old saying instructively asks: "If you don't know where you want to go, how will you get there or know when you've arrived?" Clarifying your career destination is the first and most important step on your job campaign.

What are job objectives? They are what you want out of your job, no matter what job it is you have. In setting your personal objectives, you'll have to balance your personal desires with your practical needs, such as your budget. And, in identifying the things that are truly important to you, try to be as specific as possible without narrowing your possibilities too much.

Salary: What is your minimum requirement to live within your current or projected needs? How much more do you want to make? Why? What else do you want to spend the money on? What are you earning now? How much are you willing to sacrifice to earn this level? Ask yourself these questions and then decide on a salary range.

Responsibility: It's a two-edged sword. It can be a challenge and a burden at the same time. Are you willing to accept the burden to get the challenge? Does responsibility challenge you?

Office Environment: Is your office environment important to you? Do you need a plush office, with art work on the walls and a view of the city? Would you like to work at a small firm, where you'll know all your colleagues, or at a large corporation with greater diversity? Do you prefer a casual atmosphere, where people are on a first-name basis, or a formal office where a three- piece suit is de rigueur?

Supervision: Do you like to work independently and solve all your own problems? Or would you feel more comfortable if someone gave you regular tasks to do?

Location: Do you mind commuting to work? Would you sacrifice other objectives if you could walk home for lunch?

Hours: What's the best schedule for you-flexible or set hours?

Typical Duties: What do you like to do at work? Negotiate deals on the telephone? Meet with people? Spend the day doing library research? If you're working now, are you satisfied with your assignments?

Job Title and Prestige: If your job title and the prestige that goes along with it are important to you, write it down. Many people, for example, have gone to law school for the "J.D." after their names. It's a legitimate objective.

Your Life after Work: If home, family, hobbies, entertainment and relaxing are the most important parts of your life, then you'll want a job which will not make too many demands beyond office work time. If you must be challenged in your work, then be pre pared to adjust your priorities around your job.

There might be dozens of other job objectives that you'll think up. The important thing is to get them down on paper so that you can work with them. For each objective, ask the kind of questions we've just asked, test it to see how firm and important it is.

If you're having trouble clarifying your job objectives, but know that you're dissatisfied with your present situation, use that knowledge as a starting point. If you're working now, and you feel your salary is too low, what would an ideal salary be? If your work is too routine, what tasks would you find exciting and challenging? Try to describe your ideal work environment.

Finally, rank the objectives that you've listed in order of importance to you. No one else can answer this for you. So trust your instincts, and be honest. If salary is your most important objective, say so, and list it first. If you'd be willing to sacrifice a higher salary for a more prestigious position, list them accordingly.

Throughout your job search, you might find yourself shuffling your priorities. You'll ask yourself, as you research potential employers, how each possible position fits your personal career objectives. Always compare your job objectives with the skills you have, to see how they mesh-and be as realistic as possible.

Taking stock of yourself is one of the most important parts of the job hunting process. It's where you're likely to discover that you have more to offer than you ever imagined. The key to doing this well is not to overlook even one positive quality you have, no matter how remote it may seem from what an employer might want. In this process of discovering yourself, you'll develop an insight into who you are and you'll be able to use this insight in writing your resume, interviewing, and in your daily life.

Suppose you've raised a family and haven't worked for years. What do you have to offer an employer? Managing a home and family can be more difficult than running a small business. You have to budget time and money, assume a great deal of responsibility and solve problems. And that can be just the beginning. What about your work in the PTA or a local charity, a religious or a political organization? Perhaps you've traveled abroad, helped to sell your house or are very patient and understanding. If you're a paralegal now, you might immediately think of the tasks you perform every day as "your skills," but they are only the beginning.

Personal Skills

The most important thing you bring to a career campaign is you-not your resume or your job title, but who you are as a person. What is a personal skill? It's anything you bring to life, whether in school, business, friendships, family, hobbies, sports, etc., that helps you succeed. There often is a lot of overlap between personal and career skills. Don't worry whether a personal skill seems applicable to a job. The important point is this: everyone has essential personal skills, it's just a question of clarifying them. All those traits that have made you a successful spouse, father/mother, friend, athlete, hobbyist or student can make you an equally successful paralegal or manager.

Professional Skills

Professional skills are those demonstrable skills you've learned or used while on the job, or which might be included as a job requirement. Of course, many jobs also require personal skills such as organization or "people ability." Professional skills and personal skills often overlap.

For a legal secretary, professional skills would include typing and steno, knowledge of legal forms and procedures, organizational ability, ability to handle pressure, and so on. One's professional skills might also include those gained from working in any other positions. The same is true for an experienced paralegal. Don't skip over this section, even if you think you already know the answers. Write down every task you perform and each area of knowledge connected with your current job and every other job you've had.

Education

There are hundreds of things you've learned about in school, at seminars, and from other special classes. Any of these could be of interest to an employer. Some of these acquired skills might be of use on the job: your speaking French on your summer vacation; your math skills, for some kind of business computations: that biology class you once took; those field trips through the natural history museum; that evening seminar on investing in the stock market.

Memberships and Credentials

Memberships and credentials may be another area in which you’ll discover other skills and experience you have. They demonstrate your interests and accomplishments. Your participation in a charity organization, for example, might easily be transferable to another type of organization like a business or law firm.

Identifying Job Possibilities

Identifying job possibilities is where your objectives (what you want) and your skills (what you have to offer) come together. Finding a job which fits your needs and requires your skills is the acid test of a realistic career pursuit. Before you start interviewing for positions, make a list of possible jobs you'd like to explore. Investigate these Jobs to find out what they offer, what they involve and what they require. Of course, some information can only be acquired at an interview. But you can find out a lot in advance by talking with people al ready in such positions and by doing some library research. You may find that no job meets your objectives exactly or that the jobs which make the best use of your skills and talents are not the ones of greatest interest to you. You'll have enough information after having gone through this process to make adjustments in your goals.

You might be coming up with a dearth of job ideas. You'll have to spend more time reviewing your list of objectives and skills. They can be useful in narrowing your choices, but they can also be used to generate job ideas. For example, you might be a paralegal with experience in real estate work. You want to change careers, and your first objective is a job with a lot of freedom, where you work independently and can set your own hours. You've reviewed your top personal skill and you've decided that it's working with people. Maybe a job selling real estate is right for you. It would draw on your professional skill in real estate work, your personal skill working with others, and fulfill your objective of independence and your own hours. Don't be afraid to be creative with job ideas. Don't be embarrassed to list ideas you think of as silly or farfetched. If films are what you love, consider applying to legal departments of film and communications companies. You might find a job that is right for you in litigation, advertising or contracts.

Your Resume

Your resume is an advertisement. Think of your job search as a marketing campaign. All the skills and experience you have are what your prospective employer buys when he or she hires you. But, how is your prospective employer going to learn about you and all you have to offer?

A resume is one of the most effective sales tools there is. Its purpose is not, however, to get you a job that you must do in person. The resume is designed to get you an interview, and it's on the basis of how well you interview that you get a job offer. Of course, your resume may well form the basis for discussion during your interview and you can, by referring to your resume, control the flow of questions and responses.

If the types of jobs you're looking for are very different, you may need more than one resume-especially if the skills and experience valued by each are different. For example, let's say you're a paralegal now and you would like to get another job as a paralegal at a higher salary or perhaps you want to move into a new field altogether. You'll need two resumes.

Education

Depending upon a number of factors, the next section after your objective, if you choose to include one, is either your Education or your Professional Experience. If you're currently employed, remaining in the same field, and have a straight forward employment history, you'll usually list your work history first. Some job applicants, however, should put their education first: for example, if you're a recent graduate, applying for a first job; or if you've graduated from an outstanding university, or if you have an exceptional academic background. In general, if you consider your education more relevant than your experience, put your education first. A career changer who has recently gone back to school and who has completed a paralegal course might want to list education before employment.

Your education section should include the schools you've attended, degrees earned, academic honors won, important extra-curricular activities, and dates of attendance or graduation. The dates can either appear in the left hand margin, before the name of the school, or after the school and degree listing. Always list your highest degree or most recent educational experience first. College graduates do not need to include the name of their high school. If you haven't attended college, or did not graduate, list your high school and any post-graduate or vocational training. College graduates some times enter their grade point averages, LSAT or GRE scores. This is recommended only if your grades or scores are out standing.

Professional Experience

The work history section of a chronological resume should list all your jobs, including volunteer positions, in reverse chronological order. The section is usually signaled by a headline, often uppercased or underlined: "EXPERIENCE," "PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE," or "WORK EXPERIENCE."

You can list the name and address of the company first on one line, followed by your job title on the next. If you'd like, you can underline your job title and/or company name, or place them in caps. The dates of your employment can either be placed in the left margin, or included in your job description.

See 6 Things Attorneys and Law Students Need to Remove from Their Resumes ASAP If They Want to Get Jobs with the Most Prestigious Law Firms for more information.

If you worked for a major law firm or a well-known corporation, there's no need to elaborate upon the nature of their business. For lesser-known companies, it can be useful to indicate something about the size and scope of the business, e.g.: "retail firm with $3.8 million annual sales"; "400 bed metropolitan hospital"; "largest real estate law firm in the city."

Memberships and The section on memberships and credentials can be important. It's an indication that you're a "doer," and that you've accomplished something. Membership in an association could catch the eye of a prospective employer who belongs to the same group, or who respects its-or your-activities. Credentials include any licenses or certification that you might have. Like memberships, they indicate your accomplishments and the scope of your activities and interests.

Special Skills and Interests

Special skills and interests should be included in your resume if they indicate unusual accomplishments, or the mastery of a subject or a skill that's clearly applicable to a law firm or business. No employer cares that you like to ski, travel, or listen to records. He or she would be interested, however, if you have studied French in Paris and speak the language fluently. Some skills, like language ability, can be of value at a law firm or business. Others, like athletic accomplishments, can be important in that they indicate your expertise in a difficult skill. One tip: don't refer to your extra-business activities as "hobbies." The word makes them sound like superficial entertainment, rather than as serious pursuits.

Here's a quick reference list of resume "Do's and Don'ts":
  • Don't use "I," your name or personal pronouns in the job description section of your resume.
  • Don't include personal information such as health, marital status, religion, politics, number of children or date of birth. In a few rare instances these may be helpful, but most often are not.
  • Don't send out a resume with spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Don't submit a resume with smudges, or one that is poorly reproduced.
  • Don't include a photo, or decorative graphics.
  • Don't give reason for leaving your job.
  • Don't list salary or earning objectives.
  • Don't list the names of your supervisors.
  • Do leave plenty of margin space.
  • Do use the resume writer’s poetic license, but don't stretch the truth until it breaks.
Developing Your Self-Marketing Campaign

Right at this moment there are probably scores of available jobs which you'd love to have and which would love to have you. Equipped with the best job-getting tools-your resume, your skills and experience and you-you're ready to go out there and get one. But how do you find out about open positions? How do you get the interviews and then get hired?

There are two ways of finding out about open jobs-let them find you, by answering want ads and applying to employment services; and by applying unsolicited to various companies.The most important ingredient in mounting a successful self-marketing strategy is thoroughness. Do your research, pursue every opportunity and remember to follow up on each effort. Use all the methods for job finding. Don't rely on just one.

Want Ads

The most common place to find help-wanted ads is in your daily and Sunday newspapers. Read these carefully and comprehensively. Don't only look under "paralegal" or "legal assistant." Scan all the listings, especially those headed "college grad," "administrative assistant" or "researcher." If you're interested in banking, finance, publishing, advertising, real estate or sales, read those listings, too. Don't confine your reading to the local newspaper. Read legal magazines and newspapers if you're interested in law firm work, and check the trade publications in your area of interest.

Also help-wanted ads don't only appear in newspapers. Many businesses post job openings on their bulletin boards or in their newsletters. University placement offices are also a good source for job information. If you're not registered in school, or working for a company that interests you, ask a friend who is to check for you.

There are a few things about "Help-Wanted" ads appearing in newspapers and trade publications which you should know. There are ads which list the name or title of a person or company to contact. There are also those which don't. These ads are called "blind" ads and only give a post office box, usually in care of the publication, to which you should send a resume and cover letter.

The organization placing an ad in a newspaper or magazine may be the employer or a middle person, an employment agency. You'll only know for sure if the ad isn't "blind." Help- wanted ads only represent a small fraction of the jobs avail able. Every job opening isn't advertised. Help-wanted ads are a great way to contact possible employers, but they certainly are not the only way.

If you are currently working, be wary of answering "blind ads." The job advertised might be an excellent position-but it could also be for your own employer! Needless to say, this could result in some embarrassing situations.

Hidden Job Market

As we mentioned, you should scour the classified ads in Tips from Ads the newspaper for every position that interests you regardless of job title. If you're unsure about a specific job, apply anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised. And it's better to turn down an offer for a job that you didn't want, than to miss a chance at a job you would have wanted had you "only known." What about all those jobs you'd like to have but for which you're not fully qualified? They ask for two or three years experience and you have three months. You have training or related experience, but not what is asked for.

Minimum qualifications in employment ads are fairly arbitrary. After all, the employer just wants people who can do the job. How much experience is enough? It's not the quantity of experience but the quality. If you've had three months experience you might have as much knowledge as someone with six months, a year or more. Often, the level of knowledge is not the most important factor. The most important factors may be how quickly you can learn, your professionalism, energy and willingness.

So, how should you apply for a position for which you're under-qualified? In your cover letter or initial conversation before you get the interview, you'll have to stress: your relevant experience, focusing on "quality not quantity"; your learning ability (good grades, early graduation, knowledge of a different field, like chemistry or ancient Greek); and all those special elements of your personality that make you someone who the employer should at least meet.

A special version of this is to respond to an ad for a position well above the one you're seeking. If an ad seeks a manager for a department, you may not have even remotely the qualifications for the job, but you may have enough to be the manager's assistant. If you're looking for a paralegal position, respond to an ad for a junior attorney. There's a big overlap between what attorneys and paralegals do. So, if they need an attorney, chances are they could use a paralegal, perhaps even instead of an attorney. Perhaps the firm or corporation doesn't have paralegals. Perhaps the firm could use a paralegal to help out while they're looking for an attorney, a lengthy process. Perhaps, in order to make the new attorney really effective, the firm could use a paralegal to handle the tasks that the lawyer need not do. There are big costs advantages to using paralegals. This may be a selling tool, too. Even if you don't directly respond to help-wanted attorney ads, these may indicate firms or companies that are growing and that may need paralegals. One reminder: many ads for attorneys are placed not by the employer but by an executive recruiting agency. The technique discussed above is really most effective when you're responding to an ad placed directly by the employer. But take a risk with "blind box" ads if you're not already employed as a paralegal.

Cracking the Hidden Job Market

Only a small share of the jobs in any field gets advertised. If you want these jobs, you can't wait for them to find you. You've got to go out and find them! But how? If you're a paralegal now or want to become one, research skills are probably one of your fortes. Put those skills to work on your job search. The main branch of your public library and any special business or law libraries which you can use has a wealth of resources to help you crack the hidden job market. The most important are business and legal directories and periodicals.

Using directories and peridocals, you can find the names of potential employers. You can begin to develop a target list by classifying them according to industry, specializations, size, location, and so on. You'll also note the address and phone for each. Some directories like the Law and Business Corporate Legal Directory will tell you who's who at each firm or company.

You'll want to get the name of the decision-maker in each department that you'd like to work for, not just the name of the personnel manager. The higher the position of the person you contact, the better. You'll start at the top and have the boss who may grant you an interview or refer you to someone else who is responsible. With this "recommendation" of the decision-maker behind you, you'll stand a good chance of getting the interview you want.

Suppose the firm or company has no openings at present? What harm would there be if someone from the firm spent a little time to meet with you? After all, the situation could change at any time. A valued employee may leave; a new case may require the addition of staff. If something does come up, then the firm will be prepared. Makes sense? Try this approach with your prospective employer.

To improve your chances of finding employment, it's best to try to identify firms or companies likely to need new staff. Generally speaking, any firm that is in transition, especially those adding new attorney staff, handling new clients or cases, acquiring space, or installing computer equipment would be your best bet. Look for firms involved in a hot new area of law.

Networking

Networking is a major technique in exploring industries, career possibilities and potential employers. Networking means starting with a personal contact and using that con tact to generate another, or several more contacts.

Each of these contacts may in turn put you in touch with others. To begin the network, start with the people you know who are closest to the field you're interested in. You might start with a relative, your family lawyer, a schoolmate, a friend of a friend, a distant business connection, a member or official of an association, a neighbor or someone you see often on the bus.

Job Finding and Changing Primer

Your approach is always to seek advice. You'd like your contact to share his experience, knowledge and wisdom because you're exploring a field. Most people love to talk about their work and about what they know. Most people feel good when they are able to help others-as long as it doesn't involve a commitment on their part. So, definitely, you are not asking your contact for a job. You just want to be pointed in the right direction. If your contact knows of a job, he'll be likely to mention it. As you conclude your brief, informal conversation, be sure to thank your contact for taking his time and for being helpful. Perhaps he knows of someone else with whom you might speak?

Keep a list of all the people with whom you've spoken, along with a note about what each said and people to whom each contact has referred you. A short note or post card of thanks may be in order after some meetings, especially if you've spoken with someone suggested by an initial contact. A little extra courtesy will go a long way, and if later a job opportunity opens up that could be right for you, your contact will be sure to remember you.

It Pays To Advertise

It's not only employers who place ads in the classified section of the newspaper. Many job seekers have caught onto the idea and themselves advertise for employers. While it's not a technique you should rely upon exclusively, it could be an excellent complement to other job-hunting methods. Most of the specialized legal publications have pages of classified advertisements. People seeking work advertise under such headings as "help available," "situation wanted," "employment wanted" or "lawyer services." Advertising here can work for people seeking permanent employment, as well as for people who have specialized skills, like translating or computer programming, to offer employers on a short-term basis.

Advertising for an employer will most probably land you a job with a smaller law firm. Most large law firms and corporations don't look at classified ads for employees. But it's still a good way to find work, and an attorney who needs extra help on a temporary assignment or a specialized skill is likely to notice you.

A situation-wanted ad is really a trimmed-down version of your resume. You'll want to include your credentials and job objectives, and your availability for work. But because you have so little space to sell your wares, you'll have to be even more concise and effective. Use attention-grabbing headlines in bold print or upper-case type. Accent the positive: your education, experience and accomplishments. Stress that you're available for both permanent and temporary work, since many employers will look here for short-term help. Read the employer wanted ads in a publication like the New York Law Journal to see how other people advertise.

Before you place an advertisement, explore the cost with a few legal publications. Most papers charge by the word or by the line-an added reason to be brief. Try to run your ad for at least three weeks, and be sure to avoid holiday periods like Christmas and July 4th when many attorneys will be on vacation. Remember to always include your telephone number, even if you've listed an address or box number as well. And consider investing in an answering machine or service. Too many jobs have been lost because no one was home to answer the telephone.

Getting the Most Out of Employment Services

Employment or personnel services can be an invaluable resource for job holders and seekers on every level, from be ginners to people with years of experience. Employment ser vices can be a help to you whether or not you're looking for a job. A personnel counselor can, for example, keep you posted on changes within your field, even if you're not on the job hunting trail. But suppose you are looking for a job, or thinking about looking for a job, what can employment services do for you? There are two different types of employment services, permanent agencies and temporary personnel services. Many companies specialize in both areas. No matter what your eventual aims, both types may be a help to you.

Most employment services earn their profits only if they have successfully placed job seekers in permanent or temporary positions: and, in most cases, the charges for those services are paid by the company needing permanent or temporary help, not by the job seeker.

So there are many things employment services will do for you, free of charge. You'll be interviewed by experts, your skills may be tested, and your qualifications sent to employers. And, you may receive advice about the best types of positions for you or the best ways to package your skills. You might say to yourself, "So what, 1 already know my skills and I can market myself." You might be right, but you might be missing out on additional opportunities. As experts, employment services use this information to best de scribe your qualifications to potential employers. And unless it's your business to talk with employers and job seekers everyday, you won't be able to duplicate what an employment service can do for you.

Does this mean that the first employment service you con tact will find you a job right away? Or that you need not bother conducting your own marketing search? The answer is, of course, "No!" No one employment service places all the applicants in a field. Similarly, not all job seekers find their jobs through employment services. You'll be wisest if you register with two or three employment services while continuing your own efforts. This way you'll multiply your opportunities.

Employment Agencies

Employment agencies are licensed companies which find permanent positions for people looking for jobs and of course, people to fill permanent positions for companies seeking employees. The word "agency" applies only to this type of employment service. Agencies perform this referral service for a fee which is based on a percentage of the employee's projected first year's compensation. This fee is usually paid by the employer.

To select an employment agency, look in the yellow pages, the Sunday classified ad section of the newspaper, and in any specialized trade publications. Select several which seem to have attractive ads in your field of interest and which have the widest selection of jobs of all types.

Especially valuable are employment services offering both permanent and temporary employment in your field, since they'll have the greatest number of contacts and employment opportunities. Talk with friends or acquaintances in the field you want and see where they've gotten their jobs. Finally, register with a few and judge for yourself. You'll want the best service from counselors who have your interests at heart. So, all things being equal, an agency which does not pay its counselors on commission but on salary may be better.

Be honest with the agency, even if you have something you think might be negative in your background. The best agency will help you find something positive in it. Also, feel free to discuss the kinds of interviews you've been on, what you've liked and not liked about companies at which you've inter viewed. This will help the agency avoid duplication of effort and help target the best jobs for you. It pays to be flexible, too. Go on interviews even if you're unsure whether you think that a job is right for you. After all, you always have the option of turning down an offer. If the job is not right for you, don't bluntly tell the client so during the interview. Rather, use the interview as a learning process. Learn about the company, the position, future opportunities. Use the interview to improve your interviewing skills, do your best to sell yourself to the employer-who knows when or where that person may be interviewing you again. If after all this, you don't think the job is right for you, wait until after the interview is over and tell your counselor.

Agency Fees

There's a lot of confusion about who pays agency fees. Years ago, it was common for applicants to pay fees. But no more. At most employment services the employer pays the fee. You can easily find out whether an agency is "fee paid" by looking at their help-wanted advertising in the classified section of the newspaper or in the yellow pages, or by simply telephoning before you stop in to register.

Temporary Personnel Services

Temporary personnel services earn their profits by "renting out" the services of temporary employees to clients who have work which can't be handled by the client's full-time staff. If you work as a temporary, each job you work on is called an "assignment." Although you may be on the same assignment for anywhere from a few hours to over a year, you are actually the employee of the temporary service and are paid an hourly wage by the service.

In addition to your salary, the temporary service is also responsible for your social security payments, unemployment compensation insurance and claims. Worker's Compensation and disability insurance plus, the temporary service must cover the cost of marketing, interviewing and actually placing you on the payroll.

Why Temporary Work?

Surprising as it may seem, working temporary can be a stepping stone to permanent employment. If you're working temporary for a law firm, your temporary position might turn into a permanent job-the case you're working on might go on for years, you might impress an employer with your skills, personality and hard work. Also the contacts you make while working temporary can be an invaluable asset. You can use temporary work to finance your job search so you can afford to wait for the right offer. You can use temporary work to explore different fields or companies and see what they're really like, from the inside. If, for example, you're thinking about going to law school in a year or so, you might consider working temporary on several assignments at different firms rather than taking one permanent job.

If you're a beginner, you can use temporary work to help you gain needed experience. If you've already gained experience as a paralegal, you may use temporary work to gain new skills, hone old ones or to pick up extra money evenings, weekends or holidays. You can also use temporary work to good purpose if you're pursuing another, unrelated career.

Many temporary paralegals are actors, musicians and writers who use their skills as researchers, translators and the like while working hard at getting a big break. Many temporary paralegals are law students or law graduates studying for the bar. In short, no matter who you are, what your job objectives are, or what your previous experience has been, there are probably many good reasons why you should explore working temporary.

About Temporary Companies and law firms use temporary paralegals for three Assignments basic reasons: First, to handle emergencies and work spillovers. Second, to handle specialized tasks, such as translating Russian, or when no one with the expertise in-house is available; and third, to handle large, one-time projects. Some times a one-day position may stretch to three weeks. People who work as temporary paralegals perform the same jobs performed by permanent paralegals. Sometimes the jobs per formed by temporary paralegals are more sophisticated than the work handled by the in-house staff-as when the law firm needs a specialist in a highly complex and technical area. But, in every case, the work that you'll do as a temporary paralegal is vital. So give it your best. Don't be afraid to ask questions, double-check your work and be flexible. You may start an assignment photocopying documents and wind up flying to England on an important research project.

Temporary paralegals generally earn between five and ten dollars per hour, sometimes more. Litigation often involves extensive overtime, in which case you may earn time-and-a- half or double-time, depending on the circumstances.

The Interview

Every step of your self-marketing campaign leads up to the interview. You're confident. You know who you are, what you want and what you have to offer. You know that the employer is already interested in you, otherwise you wouldn't be interviewing.
The purpose of the interview is to get a Job offer, even if you don't want the job. After all, it's better to get an offer for a job you didn't want than to risk not getting one for a job you realize later you really wanted. You can always turn down an offer and there's nothing like being offered a job to boost your confidence. To get the offer, you'll have to sell yourself. Of course, you'll want to use the interview to find our whether you want the job. So you must balance selling yourself with exploring the company and the position. How?

The Interview Process

Most successful candidates go through two or three inter- views: an initial screening interview by a personnel manager; a second interview with a department head, supervisor or other decision-maker; and a final interview where the last details are covered and an offer is extended. Each interview has a different purpose, so you'll need a different strategy for each. In this section we'll discuss each interview and how best to handle it.

Interviewing Techniques

Prepare for every interview before you walk into the office. Have you read your resume recently? Do you have all the information about your skills, education and work experience ready? Have you done some research on the firm or company? Are you familiar with their product or specialty? Can you pronounce the company's name or the names of the law partners correctly? Are you prepared to answer tough questions, especially if you have limited experience or have left a job because of problems? (We'll discuss this more later.) If you can't answer yes to all these questions, do some more homework, before you show up for the interview. Don't embarrass yourself by forgetting a previous job, or by getting caught in a white lie that appears on your resume. You may want to rehearse interviewing with a friend.

Your attitude is critical at every interview. You're not only being judged by what you answer, but also by how you answer, how you carry yourself, and how articulate you are. Be friendly and outgoing. Maintain good eye contact and sit up right but relaxed in your chair.

Many interviews begin with small talk about vacation or the weather. Feel free to banter a little, but don't make the mistake of losing your professional composure. Remember, you're here for an interview, not for a social visit. Don't volunteer personal information about your religion, politics, or family. Above all, don't make negative comments about your self or a previous job or employer.

Let the interviewer ask the first question, and try to answer what he or she asks. It's astounding how few people really do this, especially given that one thing the employer wants to learn is how well you listen. Take a moment to reflect before you answer. Don't ramble or be long-winded. Give concise well-formulated answers. The secret is not in the length of your responses; it's in the content.

You control the interview by answering questions, and by asking them-not by talking on or appearing to take control away from the interviewer. Always allow the interviewer to appear to be in command. Think what's behind the questions the interviewer asks. For example, a question like: "Do you have many outside commitments or family obligations?" might really mean: "Can you work overtime or weekends to meet a case deadline or rush project?" Be prepared to answer honestly, but emphasize your flexibility and dedication. A law firm interviewer might ask if you're comfortable working with numbers. This might mean that they need someone for a case dealing with details of business transactions. Talk about your college math courses or your experience working with statistics. Word your answers to emphasize how your skills can help your prospective employer. After you finish your answer, stop talking. Wait for the interviewer to respond and gauge the response.

You don't always have to wait for the interviewer to ask the right questions. You can steer the conversation onto new areas yourself. It's up to you to demonstrate the relevancy of your remarks by tying them to some aspect of the job and by showing how your skills or accomplishments would be beneficial.

If You Quit or Were Fired

If you quit or were fired from a job, you must be prepared to answer an interviewer's questions about this. Of course, you never want to volunteer information about why you left a job but, if pressed, formulate an answer that puts you in the most favorable light. Consider what you'll answer before the interview. Don't respond with an outright lie, but learn to stretch the truth without breaking it.

Maybe you just couldn't get along with your previous boss. You found him to be always angry and overbearing. Don't tell your interviewer: "I really couldn't stand my boss." Say some thing like: "The chemistry wasn't right between my superior and me": or "The job wasn't fulfilling my career goals." Per haps you were unhappy at a prior job and you quit. Or, your negative attitude showed, and you were fired. Don't say: "I hated the job. It was boring me to tears." Respond, instead: "We had a misunderstanding from the start about what the job entailed. Rather than waste the company's time, I decided to leave and devote my energy to finding a position I really want."

If you were fired from a job because of an infraction on your part-continual lateness, for example-you'll probably have to bite the bullet and admit your error. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances: your car kept breaking down, or your train was always late. Own up to your mistakes, if you feel it best, but stress that the situation was corrected: you bought a new car or moved closer to the city.

Dress

Part of a successful marketing campaign is advertising and promotion. The other part is packaging. The way you dress for an interview is your personal packaging, and it makes a big impression-positive or negative-upon an interviewer. The old adage doesn't always hold true: you can judge a book by its cover. And an employer judges you by the way you dress. The basic rule should be obvious: always come to an interview well dressed. If you're applying to a law firm, dress like a lawyer. For men, this means a fairly conservative business suit, or at least a tie and jacket. Women should wear a well-tailored suit. (If you're not sure what's appropriate, check to see what women lawyers wear in your community.) Pants or pant suits should be avoided for women.

Dress well for your job interview, but don't overdress. Leave the evening clothes, flashy jewelry and heavy perfume at home; you're going to a job, not for a night on the town. So don't be too stylish or faddish. Think of yourself as an actor auditioning for a role in a play. To get the part, dress for it.

Smoking

There's not much to say about the question of smoking at interviews, except this: Don't smoke-not even if the interviewer offers you a cigarette.

Negotiating the Salary You Want

Negotiating your salary is likely to be the most delicate, sensitive part of your entire job-hunting process. Naturally, you want as much as you can get. But to the employer you must present this as wanting to be paid what you're worth. And, you should never ask for more than you really believe you're worth. In negotiating salary, you don't want your prospective employer to see you as someone who is self centered, someone who asks not what he can do for his company, but how much his company will pay him. Yet, as sure as the sun shines, if you don't ask for what you're worth, you won't get it. So, how can you get it without seeming piggish?

Choosing Between Jobs

Maybe you're fortunate enough to have received more than one job offer. Congratulations! You've shown that you have the skills and experience that employers want, and that you know how to manage a successful job campaign. But now, you have to choose between job offers. While many people would envy your situation, you will have a tough decision to make.

If the job offers seem similar, get as much detail about them as possible. Try to get a specific daily job description from your prospective employers. How will you actually spend most of your work days? Who will you spend most of your time working with?

Go back to your list of job objectives, and review them. See how each job meets the goals you've set for yourself. If you're really in a quandary, list the pros and cons of each position. Consider each of the salary offers, but keep in mind that it's not always the most important criterion. Even if your main objective is financial, a job with frequent promotions, salary reviews and excellent benefits can outweigh one with a higher starting salary.

Whether or not you accept a job offer, write a thank-you note to the people you've interviewed with. Few people do this, and it's something an employer will remember if you're a semi-finalist it could tip the balance your way. And even if you're not interested in the job, you never know when you'll apply at that company or firm again, or who your interviewer will be speaking to.


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