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Synergistic Job Search of Paralegals

published February 07, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
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( 4 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
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The job search is challenging all by itself, but if you must overcome inertia all the time it can be agony. One way to stay in motion is to be active all the time and to be careful not to fall into the trap of indolence. The sure way of getting out of the apathy is to initiate a sincere search and follow up; conduct continuous record-keeping. That energetic search will make you to be systematic in your approach to anything and your punctiliousness leads you to a synergistic job search week. A synergistic job search week looks something like this:

Sunday: Read entire newspaper. Check business section out for articles concerning lawsuits, regulatory situations, mergers, bankruptcies, hiring, firings, profits, and losses. Go through the classified ads and read columns that pertain to legal and paralegal, but also areas such as insurance, administrative, and managerial.

Clip out all related and relevant articles and ads and place them in your Journal of Professional Contacts (your job hunting notebook with a new name).

After you are employed, keep this notebook and add writing samples from your work, letters that commend your efforts, professional association memberships, certificates from seminars and workshops, and any other written material that will substantiate, validate, and perpetuate your professional viability.

Begin to prepare cover letters for mailing on Monday. Plan your week. You have made a direct mail campaign of sending out 25 letters a week with follow-up phone calls. This week you are going to call on the 25 from last week. This week you are sending out 25 new letters.

Monday: Make mailing of 25 new letters to targeted list.

Make mailings to advertised leads. Call on any ads that have given a phone number and that have indicated that you can call first thing Monday morning. Note: Unless you have been given a phone number in an ad, do not make phone calls on Monday morning. This is the least pleasant part of the week and you will meet with the strongest resistance at this time. Follow-up phone calls, networking phone calls, and cold calls will get the best reception between the hours of 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Tuesday through Thursday. For Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, the job searcher should plan other fruitful activities. Monday after noon and Friday mornings are border line. Remember, you want to reach your target when they are most likely to receive your call positively.

Tuesday: Write letter of application to local paralegal association or become an associate member of the local bar association. Call one of your fellow graduates to meet for a cup of coffee to help each other out in the job search. Make three follow-up phone calls on Tuesday morning concerning the 25 previously sent letters. You have one good connection from a mailing you made two weeks before. The attorney said you could come by and talk about some potential part-time work. You schedule this appoint ment with an eye toward getting five names from this attorney who could constitute a group for a networked mailing. You also might want to do some part-time work. Tuesday afternoon you make three more follow-up phone calls to the previous week's mailing.

Wednesday: You have the interview with the attorney who had some part-time work. She wants some short-term help with a trial coming in a month. You agree to help her. She gives five names and allows you to use her name in the cover letter. You go home and make that mailing of five, using her name in the first paragraph of your letter. You make six follow-up phone calls on Wednesday afternoon. No one wants to talk to you today. You are tired and excited. You go out with a recently employed paralegal friend who boosts you up and cheers you on.

You get some exercise to relieve stress.

Thursday: In the morning you make your follow-up phone calls for last week's mailing. One person tells you to call in a month. Another person wants to speak with you about a secretary-paralegal position. Al though you are not sure it sounds appealing, you schedule an interview for the experience. You get a call from one of the letters you sent on Monday from Sunday's paper, and schedule the interview for next week on your calendar. At your Thursday night bar meeting you volunteer to answer the phone and help out attorneys in their pro bono program. You log each attorney's name for future reference.

Friday: You sit down with your calendar and Journal of Professional Contacts and fill in the necessary information concerning your week's activities. You collect all the phone numbers you will be calling next week. You fill out your interview analysis sheets, lead sheets, and networking log concerning this week's activities. A youth group friend from church calls you and tells you that he has just met an attorney who may need some help. You thank him and quickly write a networking letter that will be on their desk on Monday so you can call them on Tuesday. You write a thank you note to the two people you have seen this week. You get a job rejection phone call late Friday afternoon. You quickly sit down and craft a letter of thanks and reconsideration and ask them to call you "if things do not work out with the one you have chosen."

You are very disappointed, but at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, one of the firms who you wrote to four weeks ago calls you out of the blue and asks if you are still available. You try to sound calm and composed and agree to meet them next week. It seems one of their paralegals has suddenly given notice and will be gone in two weeks. Your letter just happened to be the most recent arrival on the legal administrator's desk.

Saturday: You sit yourself down on Saturday morning and tell yourself that you are not going to suspend all job search activity just because you are excited. You will continue your 25 letter direct mail campaign.

You will keep your appointments and your record keeping and all of your synergistic job hunting until you accept an offer and not before.

The whole point of this process is to carry every connection out to its last potential. If you speak with someone, have you written to them? If you speak with anyone in a position of influence, get some names from them. Many people get names from unsuccessful job interviewing situations. The dialogue might go like this:

Interviewer: "We are truly sorry you were not chosen, but we think you have excellent qualifications."

You: "Well, thank you, can you think of anyone else who might be interested in someone with my capabilities?"

The nice rejection Letter

If you get a rejection letter that says they might be busy in a few months or indicates that at sometime in the future they could be interested in you, you are looking a potential job in the eye, but not if your eyes are closed. Rejection letters tend to be pleasant, but they also tend to have very standard language that sounds formal. If the letter goes out of its way to offer some hope, or mentions a date in the future at which time they might be hiring, do not ignore it. The Sporadic Job Searcher just throws the letter away. But be creative. As many have been in the past, you can turn that "Nice Rejection Letter" into a positive! First, you log a re-contact on your calendar. Then you act on a response when the date comes up:

Dear Mr. Attorney:

When I wrote to you in May, you indicated that your firm might be looking for a paralegal around the middle of August. I am still interested in your firm and would enjoy meeting with you to discuss your firm's workload as we approach the end of the year. . . .

In attempting to create a picture of success you may opt for different avenues that successful paralegals use to travel the path to employment. Compared with the Sporadic Disconnected Job Search, the picture is more difficult to draw because of avenues not traveled at all, not traveled well, or not traveled at the right time. Suffice it to say that lack of success can be described in these ways:

1) Omissions --The outright omission of certain avenues of activity, such as solely utilizing newspaper ads, not calling the school's placement departments, not using direct mail as a tool, not joining professional associations.

2) Not traveling the avenues well -- Some people are simply lax and slipshod in preparing their professional package. They do it, but the quality is off. They make too many basic errors. Note: These people can be helped if they will get job search assistance counseling from their Placement Department.

3) Avenues not traveled at the right time--In so many aspects of life, timing is everything. It is especially true of the job search. Those who are sporadic tend to time it all poorly. They are a "day late and a dollar short." Many fail at being there early in the quest for advertised openings. Some jobs are filled in 48 to 72 hours. Timing is also essential in follow-up. If you wait too long, you are forgotten. If you harass the next day, you are an annoyance. If you try a direct mail campaign and then do not do follow-up until weeks later, you have lost the value of the direct mail.

Warning: Haste does make waste. A Chinese philosopher said, "Hasten slowly." When you are in the job search, be on time, but do not lose control of the process, such as by making mistakes on cover letters or being overanxious in interviews. Tripping over yourself as you hurry to be correct, on time, just right, can make you err in many ways. Don't hurry quickly; instead, hasten slowly.

The synergistic job search--The hiring zone

The synergistic job searcher is always in the hiring zone. The sporadic disconnected job searcher weaves in and out of the hiring zone, with job search efforts that are poorly timed, intermittent, or flawed.

Professional associations

Participating in local paralegal organizations helps you develop professionally with special seminars and expertise garnered from others and lets you access jobs through job banks and personal networking. It also enhances your resume by demonstrating that you care about the progress and development of your profession. In addition, you can develop leadership characteristics, practice public speaking, and sharpen your interpersonal skills. A side benefit is the "camaraderie," that is, the sense that you can share your gripes and your exaltations with people who are going through similar circumstances.

Direct mail

Using direct mail can help you discover unknown openings and get interviews in which you have little or no competition. People complain that direct mail is expensive and just a game of numbers, but they forget that if they "strike gold" by getting an interview for an unadvertised opening, they are going through the back door. Direct mail also has the feature of landing on advertised leads too. It gives you a forward momentum and the opportunity to gain a job without having to run through the formal advertised lead process competing with numerous candidates.

Direct mail is the most panned, least appreciated, most magical of all synergistic job search tools. The cost must be considered, but the chief reason it is not utilized is because paralegals do not understand the theory of what they are doing. Most think that direct mail is like a Publisher's Clearing House approach, and your letter begins with "Hello, I am writing to every lawyer in the Western World." Instead, use the following steps to start an effective direct mail campaign:
  • Mail in small increments of 25 or less at a time to a select group.
  • Select a group (plaintiff personal injury firms in little town).
  • Craft a letter designed specifically for the select group, so that it does not sound like direct mail.
  • Do callbacks on your mailings.
  • Do follow-up mailings on positive responses. Go to interviews.
  • Repeat this process, group by group, in an organized, well- conceived program. Cover key towns and/or practice areas in a systematic fashion.

Some people like to build their resume and keep their skills honed by doing a free, postgraduate internship. Ten hours per week can fit into a tightly organized job search campaign. Internships push you to stay efficient on your job search campaign and make you feel you are a member of the profession. Getting dressed up in a suit and going to work has a strong, positive psychological impact on you. You don't feel unemployed (with all of its attendant negative ramifications). You also interview with greater confidence when you are asked about what you are doing now. Instead of saying, "I am unemployed and looking for a job," you can say, "I am currently working at Firm XY&Z on an internship to keep my skills sharp." The internship is also a place from which real jobs emerge. People are more likely to take a longer look at individuals. At some paralegal schools, up to half of the internships lead to some kind of temporary, part-time, or full-time permanent work. The internship is a way of getting inside the special world you are endeavoring to enter.

Placement and temporary agencies

Many temporary placement agencies do permanent placements, and some permanent agencies have temporary departments. Note the difference, but be aware of the overlapping areas. Many agencies require experience before they will deal with you. In certain major cities though, entry paralegal candidates have been placed by placement agencies. It does not hurt to contact each placement agency in town to see if they will deal with you as a paralegal candidate. Many agencies are now developing "legal departments" to take advantage of the growth of the profession.

Temporary paralegal work, which is often litigation-support work, is an excellent way to get you over the entry-level hump. It enhances your resume, makes you money, and gets you into the legal world. An additional benefit is that it forces you to continue your hunt for a full-time paralegal job in an even more conscious and deliberate way; because you are working eight hours a day, your full-time job hunt must be super- efficient.

Temporary assignments can lead to full-time permanent work with litigation support and document management companies-a corporate, nontraditional growth area for paralegals. Litigation support duties, which include document review and coding and data entry, are often open to entry candidates.

Contact all the temporary services in your town and present yourself in the most professional manner you can. Keep your relationship with all agencies at a very high level: Burnt bridges to agencies are very difficult to rebuild. Do not fail to recognize the importance of these services to your career.

Placement department leads

Your school undoubtedly has a job board and a career department of some kind. Stay in touch weekly with them and let them know of your interest and enthusiasm for legal placement assistance. Many graduates develop an "Fm-on-my-own-now" attitude. They let themselves feel cut off from the school after graduation and then do not take advantage of the services available to them.

Graduates, friends, relatives

Once you have logged your names and contacted people, stay in touch with them. A friendly reminder every week or so keeps you in mind and lets them remember again that you need help. Log all of the activity you generate in your Journal of Professional Contacts so that you can keep track of the connections that you discover and the 1letters that you write.

Newspaper ads: The synergistic job search is based upon the concept of connectedness. Read the entire newspaper and all of its ads. Business articles often foretell legal activity. Newly created legal job descriptions often emerge without the word "legal" in the title. Do not miss a week (or a day, for that matter) while you are in "search mode." When paralegals ask, "What should I look for? The answer is, "Look for paralegal in other guises." The following list of job titles was garnered from a 1994 survey of paralegal graduates by the Denver Paralegal Institute. When you search through the Classified Ads, keep your eyes open to all kinds of possibilities.
  • Account Service Representative
  • Adjuster
  • Assistant Division Clerk
  • Associate Consultant
  • Bankruptcy Clerk
  • Case Manager
  • Closer
  • Closing Assistant
  • Compliance Administrator
  • Compliance Investigator
  • Contract Administrator
  • Contract Negotiator
  • Contract Legislative
  • Analyst
  • Contract Paralegal
  • Corporate Practice
  • Specialist
  • Data Entry Clerk
  • Enforcement Specialist
  • Executive Trial Assistant
  • Franchise Compliance
  • Manager
  • Law Clerk
  • Legal Research Specialist
  • Legal Resource Analyst
  • Legal Technician
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Manager of Administrative Services
  • Mediator
  • Medical Paralegal
  • Office Manager
  • Patent Administrator
  • Policy Audit Technician
  • Project Officer
  • Residential Closing
  • Assistant
  • Restitution Officer
  • Risk Manager
  • Senior Loan Closer
  • Title Assistant
  • Trust Officer
  • Unit Manager
You put yourself in The Hiring Zone by doing everything at once. Of course you will find the lucky examples of people who did little and got work easily, often because they had the right connections. And of course you will see examples of people who work incredibly hard and seem to get nowhere. Neither of these extremes are reasons to not fully engage yourself in an all-out campaign to get a job.

The truth about the job search process is that it takes a little while before you see results. Many job searchers complain that they see little fruit in the first part of the process, then turn around after several weeks and start talking about how three or four things came in on the same day.

There is a lag time in this process. Contacts take time to mature. Openings take time to develop. The most successful and quick job results often consume weeks. Think of the simple analogy of bringing in a crop. There is plowing and digging and fertilizing and sowing and more fertilizer and rain and growth and maturity and hopefully more "rain in due season" and then-the harvest. None of these processes can be hurried. Farmers know that much of the job is doing and waiting and waiting and doing. You can't coax a crop out of the ground.

When My Crop Comes In - The Wait for Results In the synergistic job search, you sow all kinds of seed as fast as you can in as many places as you can. The harvest comes in variously in different cycles. You do your best to do what you should at every turn (create, follow up, confirm, record, follow up, create, follow through). In all of this, however, there is the waiting. Once you have done all that you can, you have to stand back and let it grow. As much as we might like to, we cannot browbeat people into hiring us. You cannot talk an opening into existence and, most of all, you cannot make up a relationship that is not there in the first place. The synergistic job search depends upon understanding that time and effort work together.

The synergistic job hunting success scenario: When you move about in this little world of individuals, keep in mind that a valid informational networking approach is to ask for time or names or information. The people who go around asking simply for a full- time paralegal job will meet fewer people and get less help. If there is a job lying quietly in firm E, unannounced and unadvertised, just waiting to be discovered, and you are at firm A, what scenario will get you to £?

Scenario No.1; ''Always Ask for a Job'' In this scenario, the only way you will get an interview is if you ask A for a job and then go blindly to B and ask for a job, and so on and so on until you stumble into E. No connection gets you to £, because you are always asking for a job. You are relying on luck and sheer persistence.

Scenario No.2: "Ask for Names and Information"

In this scenario, A does not have a job, but A refers you to B (because you ask for names and information). B does not have a job, but refers you to C (for the same reason). C refers you to D (because you ask for a name). D has a friend at E who knows about the unadvertised opening and gets you an interview. In this scenario, there is actually a path that the information flows along: A, B, and C did not know about E, but D knew E and C, and that is where the synergism came in. If you had not done the work of asking for names and information instead of a job, you would not have gotten the information until you hit E itself. Remember, D just knew E, D did not know E had a job opening.

Friendships are important within your profession to lead you to be successful in your job search. People in meetings at paralegal associations are often talking about exactly what you would like to know. In the inner world of paralegal synergistic connectedness, friends often arrange for other friends to be interviewed because people in the know are talking about openings that are about to occur. One woman in Jones, Jones and Smith is ready for a change. She hears that her friend at Doubleday and Brown is leaving. They sit down together and chat early on, the former recommending the latter. Often, the announcement of a willing candidate immediately follows the announcement of a departure. Sometimes management is just happy to hire because they are busy and the new person comes with a strong reputation. And thus one paralegal replaces another. Notice is given all the way around, and two people have quietly arranged the future for another. The more you can get on the inside of your professional world, the better off you will be.

All of the recommendations for a synergistic job search-the direct mail, informational interviewing, networking, joining associations, cultivating your personal group of friends share one very clear goal: You are seeking knowledge about unadvertised openings. All of the methods and techniques of the synergistic job search are designed to reveal unadvertised openings. If you do not see this clear goal, then you are like a runner who forgets that the race could eventually end, or a sailor who has lost a sense of that dry land he is headed for. Getting lost in the process can make you forget the why of all of these activities.

Advertised leads are said to represent about 20 to 25 percent of the total jobs available. That means that unadvertised leads constitute 75 percent to 80 percent of total openings, depending on the field you are discussing. Why is the job market like this? It is so because people want "quality control" over their applicants. They want to do as little interviewing as possible. (An advertised lead means lots of hours spent on resume review, interviewing, and candidate selection.) When people are forced to advertise, they do. There are many reasons why people advertise, but generally if people can hire a "friend" (networked through the back door), they will do it even after they have advertised publicly. This is a powerful mechanism. The sense of security that people have when they use "the back door" (network) is strong, especially when you counterbalance it against the apprehensiveness that accompanies hiring someone "off the street." It may not be fair, but it is human. When you fully engage in a job search campaign and you do it synergistically and with a totality of effort, you are automatically permitting all of these forces to carry you along instead of knock you over.

Your Journal of Professional Contacts-The Job Hunting Notebook The best job hunting efforts that are not properly recorded, logged, calendared, and "tickled" can prove fruitless. The person who does not feel the need to log and record all job search efforts is probably not doing enough of a job search. The first mandate is to record all of your contacts. Document all of the names you come across in your search. Put the names with firms or with other names.

There should be little need to persuade you to create a job hunting notebook: The professional paralegal understands implicitly the importance of documentation and not losing track of important facts. Besides, a synergistic job search demands this kind of attention after only a few days. Any job search that goes beyond a couple of weeks will get totally out of hand without some mechanism like a job contact book, a log, or at least a box or file cabinet in which everything is kept.

published February 07, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 4 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.