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The leader of the seminar for new graduates began with a startling statement. "Getting over the entry-level hump is probably the most challenging thing a job seeker can do. No matter what field, the entry status is the most difficult to face; from theater to carpentry, from dentistry to the arts, the beginner must bring energy, perseverance, creativity, and hard work together to get through that phase."
A man in the back row raised his hand. "Isn't it just luck and knowing the right person?"
That question stopped the speaker for a moment. Then she continued, "Sometimes people get lucky. Sometimes people have a key connection.
But the way to approach this challenge is to say, I will take advantage of good fortune with hard work. I will take advantage of connections and make my own connections. I will find out what works and then do all those things at once.'"
What is The Synergistic for Search? The word synergism comes from the worlds of chemistry, biology, and physics. When things work synergistically, they work together to create an effect that could not exist if the two or more agents were acting alone and separately. Certain drugs can work synergistically. Certain nutrients and vitamins, when taken in a prescribed way can have a new and synergistic benefit.
Synergism is working together --The action of two or more substances, organs or organisms to achieve an effect of which each is individually incapable. The "sum of the parts is greater than the whole."
The synergistic job search is a way of working so that you get the maximum benefit out of everything you do. Applicants who conduct a synergistic job search get hired more frequently than those who conduct a sporadic job search.
The synergistic job search is nothing more than performing all recommended steps in their order, and mounting an effort that could be said to be "completely occupying." It involves doing all the follow-up in each phase of activity at the appropriate time so that your job search takes on a life of its own. Connections are generated through direct mail. Follow-up letters are sent to "nice rejection letters." Long-lost relatives become professional networking sources. You create a web of activity, a maximum effort that helps you climb the entry-level hump and get around that phase in your career. Once you have entry experience, you are in new territory. You can successfully compete in the professional world to which you aspire.
Here we compare two contrasting efforts: the synergistic job search and the sporadic disconnected job search.
The Synergistic Job Search is a determined, persistent, professional effort waged simultaneously on all fronts, highlighted by direct mail, networking, the pursuit of advertised leads, continuing written follow-up, and high levels of personal contact, in order to benefit from the maximizing of all contacts. The result is a circuitry of contacts that is powered not only by individual effort but by the energy of the network created.
To better understand the synergistic job search, we will contrast it with its opposite: the sporadic disconnected job search, as conducted by Bill Doolittle.
First, let us talk about taking time off after graduation. After completing a difficult paralegal program many paralegal candidates feel that they need to take some time off to recuperate. Bill certainly feels that way: He plans to rest up before going on to make an all-out effort. The sad fact for many is that they rest up for a week or two (or a month), and then begin a sporadic disconnected job search. This is what Bill does. His sporadic job search looks like this on a calendar:
Sunday: Check out the newspaper. Look under "Paralegal" and "Legal Assistant."
Monday: Write up cover letters and send resumes to two advertised openings.
Tuesday: Call local paralegal program and ask for new job leads.
Wednesday: Write cover letter and resume to new school-generated lead.
Thursday: Since Bill's been working all week, he takes off Thursday and Friday.
Bill Doolittle does not join local paralegal associations. He does not read the classified sections thoroughly to discover jobs that may be described in various ways "legal" or "paralegal." He neglects to even respond to advertised leads the next week. Because he has built up so little momentum, he finds it very easy to let inertia slow him down even more. Bill does not network with friends, relatives, and loved ones for potential contacts. He does not use direct mail and so does not generate any new contacts. When he does get an interview, he forgets to send a thank you note.
After a month of this kind of sporadic and furtive activity, Bill Doolittle begins to feel tired and discouraged, and he blames the marketplace for the lack of job offers. He eventually gets another interview, but by this time he has sunk into a quagmire of blame and irritation. The interview does not go well, because the "legal administrator had an attitude." A relative comes up with the names of several attorneys, but letters are never written. Like so many sporadic and disconnected searches, opportunities died on the vine, others are nipped in the bud, and connections do not get watered with the kind of follow-up that causes professional lives to thrive.
After a bout with depression and more inactivity, Bill starts to feel like his "brain is leaking" all the paralegal information he learned in the last few months. He starts to tell himself he was not right for the profession anyway. He never started on the right foot or put enough energy into the search. He did not take advantage of the web of connections, names, and opportunities that would have been generated by an energetic array of written and oral communications, since he never believed in a networking creed and thus never acted on that belief. Bill ends up fulfilling his own prophecies about his inability to fit into the profession.
The Tools at Our Disposal
Before describing the process of the synergistic job search, let us look into the box of tools that we will use to become a member of the "hire" order. First, there are the oral presentations:
1) Interviews. All kinds of interviews, styles, and situations will present themselves to you. The key is to be ready with a professional, warm, and upbeat personal presentation.
2) Telemarketing. Follow-up phone calls based upon mailings made.
"Cold calls" for contact names and other needed information such as practice areas and correct addresses and spellings of names.
Telephone interviews conducted in place of a first interview.
3) Social interactions. Parties, meetings, churches, restaurants, bars, cafes, gas stations, etc. You must always keep professionalism and the job search in mind as you flow through your life. The synergistic interconnectedness of the social with the professional is something that many people often overlook. They think of the social world and the work world as two different highways, connecting different houses and towns. Keep in mind, workers socialize and socializers work. They are all the same people. Lunches, breakfasts, and dates at cafes can all be useful ways of presenting yourself, cementing old relationships, having informational interviews, and just chatting with successful paralegals. And when you join organizations and associations, be prepared to speak up and meet people. Do not join a professional association and then become a "wallflower."
4) Public speaking. You may be called upon to lead meetings or to introduce speakers or to be a speaker in an evening meeting or luncheon. Public speaking is not demanded frequently, but if you are effective, you can make a strong impression. The most common situation paralegals confront is simply speaking up in meetings at work.
Then there are the written presentations:
1) Cover letters. The basic cover letter announcing your availability and your skills and qualifications should be prepared in at least an outline form. From this skeleton, you customize elements of your cover letters.
2) Follow-up letters. In a synergistic job search, all your efforts are connected by oral and written follow-up. A chance meeting at a bar on a Friday night in which you get a business card and an invitation to "call me and we can talk about a future paralegal opening" should be officialized with a follow-up letter that next week.
3) Direct mail letters. Based upon the idea that a number of letters can "uncover" an unadvertised opening, these letters should be crafted for:
Any potential paralegal opening (part time, temp, contract, permanent)
Targeted openings (practice specific)
Combination ("I am writing to all personal injury firms in Smithville.")
4) Networking letters. These letters also officialize and confirm professional contacts. It is with the networking letter that you can truly generate and continually renew your network. These are a part of your professional development as you proceed beyond your entry employment. A networking letter opens with the connection. For example: "I enjoyed discussing your practice with you at The Elegant Saloon last Friday and would like to take you up on your offer . . . "; "My Uncle, James Shapiro said that you were a close friend and professional associate . . . "Municipal Judge Smith told me that your busy practice might need some legal support help. ..."
5) Thank you notes. These can be a standard letter. After an interview, it makes a strong impression on the employer to see who will send a thank you note. This is often a hidden qualifier that makes you stand out. After all, you know the next round of interviews will be smaller than the previous round-you want to be a part of the new group.
6) Letter accepting job. This is a great way to confirm and formalize a decision. If you are starting a job in two weeks, you should write a letter that says you have accepted an offer. This is an extremely professional touch that many overlook.
7) Reconsideration letter. If you have had an excellent round of interviews and developed a strong feeling for the firm and then you are not chosen, write a letter and ask them to reconsider, or keep you in mind, if things do not work out.
Your personal network: Get people to think about you even when you aren't thinking about you. When you can steal two hours, sit down with a pen and paper and start writing. Do not stop too soon. Sit there and document all of your friends and relatives. These are the people who really care about you. Then document your acquaintances. These are people who may not care about you as a loved one, but people who can nevertheless help you out because you are known to them. After you have finished your list, meet with these people. Tell them you are in a quest to find employment as a paralegal and want to elicit their help. The human desire to help is very strong; take advantage of it. Get people to think about you and your situation. Tell them you need names. Ask them to be on the lookout for attorneys or situations in law firms or legal settings. Remember, most all companies and corporations have attorneys working for them or in them.
Sit down with your family and ask them to think of everyone they know who would not mind giving you some help. Tap in to the natural interconnectedness of your existing life, and let that work for you.
Employ the tools described above in a continuous flow of productive activity that keeps you in motion. The key to using these tools is to use them at every turn.