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A resume is a word portrait, your professional profile, the profile that you want to show a prospective employer. It is not a complete picture, but it does include the highlights from your background, training, and experience that you wish to emphasize. Remember, you are in control of the words on paper, and how you shape your resume can help an employer focus on the areas that you want to be recognized immediately.
Essentially, then, the resume is your professional introduction, and while it cannot get you a job, it should help you to get an interview-and that is the purpose of the resume.
In order to create a resume that will present those qualifications you wish to stress, you will have to do a great deal of preliminary work before you get the finished product.
What you may have realized that there is no one right way to write a resume; there is no one format that is best for everyone. However, there is a right way and a best format for you, one that will work in helping you to integrate the many aspects of your background as you proceed in your job search as a paralegal.
You need to thoroughly examine your training, education, and experience. The importance of such an intensive self-assessment is to help you recognize what you have to offer an employer. You are required you to summarize what every employer is looking for in a job candidate: skills and accomplishments. Keep those two words in mind. An employer wants to know why you are the best person for the job, based on what you can do (your skills) and the evidence that you have done it
Conveying those skills and accomplishments on paper may be achieved in a number of ways. Keep in mind, however, that you must clearly demonstrate that you are the person to be called in for the interview because you are the best qualified person for the job. As you examine each section of the resume, you will learn how to shape your self-assessment information to be that person.
Before beginning, however, remember that everything on your resume must be verifiable. In a competitive job market, it might be tempting to include a degree you did not earn, a prestigious school you did not attend, a more marketable major you do not have, or a particular job title you do not hold. Who will ever know?
Aside from the ethical considerations of including erroneous or misleading information, it is far too risky to do so. If the fraud is detected, you will be eliminated from the applicant list, or, if you have the job, you will most likely be fired. Your credibility will be lost. Even the unintentional printing error of an employment date has been known to keep an otherwise attractive job candidate from being hired.
The range and reasons for such embellished data on a resume are wide. Many actually convince themselves that they almost have a degree and so they include it; others believe they performed the functions of a particular position and list a job title they felt they earned. The naive assumption is that an employer will not bother to check out the information. In an attempt to appear more qualified, such a person ultimately conveys a lack of honesty and integrity.
On the other hand, it is more likely that you will not give yourself credit for what you have achieved or developed. A closer examination should help you as you prepare your resume, whatever format you choose.
Format of the Resume
The basic formats listed below are almost self-explanatory. Each has advantages and disadvantages. You can decide which is most appropriate for you once you have an opportunity to examine the sample resumes with various formats. The chronological resume lists all education and work experience in reverse chronological order, from the present to the past.
The functional or skills resume emphasizes experiences and how they relate to the job that the candidate is seeking. This format stresses skills and achievements without focusing on the specific dates and places, although they are included.
The combination resume format blends the advantages of the chronological resume with those of the functional resume. It can be the most complete, the most general, and the most specific, all at the same time. But it must be coordinated skillfully to avoid the appearance of a hodgepodge of unrelated experiences.
For the purposes of your resume as paralegal, it should be stressed that while you have some latitude in arranging your material and information, there are some guidelines that should prove very helpful. Let's look at each section as it should be considered.
Keep in mind an important point:
Most employers prefer to receive a one-page resume from entry-level paralegals. Later on we will discuss how you can make the best use of the margins, choice of paper, type styles, headings, and other details. You are still in a preliminary stage at this point, so it is far more essential that you write down everything you wish to include in your resume and then see how you can combine areas or edit your information. It is far easier to edit later than to try to remember what you left out.
Do not include photographs, or give your marital status or other family information. Other personal information that may reveal your age, health, or marital status is not relevant and could possibly keep you from getting to the interview stage. You do not know what personal bias a potential employer might have. You cannot be denied a job legally because of your age or young dependents, particularly if you are a woman, but your resume may be rejected for any number of reasons. For example, one woman stated that she was a single parent of three children. She believed that such information would demonstrate that she could handle multiple responsibilities and could manage her time efficiently. A potential employer looked at that and saw a person who might be absent from work if emergencies arose with her family. Again, legally a person cannot be denied a position because of personal circumstances. However, you want to give yourself the best opportunity to get the interview. On the other hand, do include information that could make you more attractive for a specific job, such as willingness to relocate, if that is appropriate for you.
Do not list a work phone unless you have permission to do so or know for certain that it will not prove awkward for you to receive a phone call. Keep some important points in mind regarding telephone calls:
Make certain that you have left a clear, direct message with a time that you will return your calls.
It does not seem reasonable to ask someone to call after business hours.
Avoid cute messages designed to impress your listener. They usually have the opposite effect. Remember that a potential employer may not wish to leave a message at all ft your message is unprofessional.
Do not expect a potential employer to make an unreasonable effort to contact you. There are many other willing and available job candidates.
Your job is to convince the employer that you are willing to begin at an entry-level position because you do not have skills and experience in this new field as a paralegal, and your graduate study (if you have any) will prove to be an asset to them and should help you to move ahead quickly. Be certain, however, that you believe this yourself before you attempt to convince anyone else.
While the final order of your material will depend on the format you choose and the emphasis you wish to place on certain information, it will be helpful for you to identify major categories that you want to include. Each of these points is discussed in detail in the following pages, before you put together your final resume. Some of them are optional, and others are essential.
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