It’s common for professionals to confuse having a job with having a career. In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, host Vicki Voisin defines what it means to have a successful paralegal career and gives 30 tips on how to live out your calling. Some of her tips include setting goals, keeping your resume updated, and improving public speaking skills. She concludes the episode with a couple of bonus suggestions, including how to handle unforeseen challenges within your calling and what to consider when changing your career.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Boston University, NALA, and ServeNow.
The Paralegal Voice
30 Tips to Enhance Your Paralegal Career
Intro: Welcome to The Paralegal Voice, where you hear the latest issues and trends in the world of paralegals and legal assistants by one of the best-known paralegals in the industry, Vicki Voisin. A paralegal for more than 20 years, Vicki is dedicated to helping legal professionals reach their goals. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Vicki Voisin: Hello everyone. Welcome to The Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I am Vicki Voisin, the paralegal mentor and host of The Paralegal Voice. I am a NALA Advanced Certified paralegal. I publish a newsletter titled Paralegal Strategies, and I am also the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. You will find more information at HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalmentor.com/”paralegalmentor.com.
Before we begin today’s program, I want to thank our sponsors.
NALA, a professional association for paralegals providing continuing education and professional certification programs for paralegals at HYPERLINK “http://www.nala.org/”nala.org.
NALA is a force in the promotion and advancement of the paralegal profession.
Our next sponsor is Boston University, offering an online certificate in paralegal studies. If you are seeking a professional credential or just want to further develop your skills, Boston University provides an affordable, high quality 14-week program. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalonline.bu.edu/”paralegalonline.bu.edu for information.
And our last sponsor is ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted prescreened process servers. When you go with ServeNow, you work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high volume serves, embrace technology and understand the litigation process. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.serve-now.com” serve-now.com to learn more.
The goal of The Paralegal Voice is to discuss a wide range of topics important to the paralegal industry and share with you leading trends and developments and resources that you are going to find helpful in your career. We usually have a guest but today my producers have challenged me to give you 30 important career tips in 30 minutes. So I’m going solo today and we’ll see if I can meet that challenge.
The first thing that you need to do and this is tip number 1; everybody wants a successful career, but your successful career won’t just happen. Moving your career forward takes consistent planning and action. A thriving career isn’t like pizza, no one’s going to knock on your door and deliver it. The key is to slowly and systematically focus on your career and you will get results.
So let’s start on those tips. The first one is to do some career planning, ask yourself what you really want to do in your life. You’ll have to create a vision for your career that really pulls you forward.
Tip number 2; on a scale of one to 10, how happy are you with your job right now? What would make it a 10? How can you get there?
Tip number 3; list three things you enjoy about your job. How can you make those things even better? And also list the three things that annoy you about your job. How can you reduce the annoyance, the stress that they put you under?
Tip number 4; what can you do to future-proof your career? What skills will you need to do your job in the future? If you eventually want to make a change, prepare a list of the skills you need to get there.
Tip number 5; set up three short term goals per month and plan how you will reach those in 30 days. Set up three long-term goals what you want to be doing in six months to a year and give yourself an annual review. How are you doing with your career goals? You need to be continually checking in with yourself to see if you really are where you want to be.
Tip number 6 is focus. A strong focus now creates a different future later, take positive action instead of wasting your time worrying. You’re responsible for your career success.
Tip number 7; to find your ideal career. Be very, very specific.
Tip number 8; believe in yourself, write down why you really do good work and determine what separates you from other paralegals. Assess your unique skills and strengths, create a list of your credibility factors because I know you have many and stop comparing yourself to others.
Tip number 9; create a concise one-page resume and do this even if you’re hunting for work right now or not. That resume may change, you may update it often but what you should do is set aside a regularly scheduled time to work on your resume and also update it whenever you do something like give a presentation, teach a class, go to a convention, always be thinking about your resume.
And tip number 10; don’t allow your career to define your life. Ask for what you want, don’t expect anyone else to read your mind.
It’s time to take a short break for a word from our sponsors, NALA, the Association of Legal Assistants and Paralegals, Boston University and ServNow, a nationwide network of trusted prescreened process servers.
And when we come back, I have even more tips for you so that we get 30 tips in 30 minutes. Don’t go away.
Advertiser: NALA means professional. NALA offers continuing education and professional development for all paralegals. A NALA Certified Paralegal credential has been a gold standard of professionalism for over 30 years. More than 15,000 paralegals have this certification and nearly 2,000 have achieved the demanding Advanced Certified Paralegal. NALA works actively with all those in the legal field to promote the value of paralegals and to advance paralegal professionalism. See more about why NALA means professional at HYPERLINK “http://www.nala.org” nala.org.
Are you looking to advance your career? Do you know someone who wants to enter the paralegal profession? Boston University’s fully online Certificate in Paralegal Studies is a fantastic option. It’s affordable, takes just 14 weeks to complete, and is led by accomplished faculty who teach employer-focused skills like legal research, writing, technology, and more. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalonline.bu.edu/”paralegalonline.bu.edu. For more information and to download a free brochure, that’s HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalonline.bu.edu/”paralegalonline.bu.edu.
Looking for a process server you can trust? ServeNow.com is a nationwide network of local, prescreened process servers. ServeNow works with the most professional process servers in the industry, connecting your firm with process servers who embrace technology, have experience with high volume serves and understand the litigation process and rules of properly effectuating service. Find a prescreened process server today. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.servenow.com/” www.serve-now.com.
Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. We’re going to resume 30 tips in 30 minutes and here we go. Tip 11; sometimes it’s not what you want but who you know, which is why networking is so critical to your career success. Make a list of paralegals you’d like to get to know better and decide how you can make that happen.
And remember that many jobs are found by word-of-mouth. You have to be continually networking to get this information so people will think of you when there is a job opening.
Tip number 12; increase your networking confidence by doing it more often. Take every opportunity you can to network with other people.
Tip 13; to make a favorable first impression, be sure you make eye contact, have a firm handshake and always smile.
Tip 14; attend your local paralegal groups meetings on a regular basis and get involved, serve on a committee. Remember that everyone’s a leader at some level. You can hone your leadership skills by watching others lead in your association.
Number 15; get on boards, get involved to be visible. Don’t forget the advisory boards for paralegal studies programs at colleges and universities and also teach a paralegal class. You’re never going to regret it and you’ll be surprised how much you’re going to learn.
Tip 16; run for office. If you lose, it won’t be the end of the world, run again.
Tip 17; set up a LinkedIn profile, so you have a personal resume online and you can make connections that way. Go to linkedin.com to do that. You might also participate in other social media such as Twitter and Facebook, that’s a good way to get to know other people, although you haven’t met them in person, but you do make friends that way.
Tip 18; surround yourself with supporters. Don’t spend time with anyone who does not support your goals or believe in you.
Tip 19; stay current, ask members of your current local association what other associations they belong to, and if it’s appropriate join them. Ask members of your association what professional journals they read and what blogs that they subscribe to, that’s all really important in your goal to keep current with what’s going on in the profession.
Tip number 20; hard work and diligence are the key components of a great career. If you’re looking for a new challenge, change your specialty areas and grab any opportunities that come your way. If they are really important, you will find the time to take advantage of them. Take initiative to do your best and leave a favorable impression on everyone.
Tip 21; always be truthful. Honesty is the foundation of our society and the legal profession. If you make a mistake, admit that you made the mistake and also learn from it.
Tip 22; always project a professional image and remember that casual Friday does have its limitations.
Tip 23; certification is important to career development and to your self-image. Don’t hesitate to take a certification examination. Always keep that in the back of your mind and make that one of your goals when you’re setting your monthly or your long-term goals or whatever. Sitting for a certification exam may not result in increased income but it will make you feel really good about yourself and it also raises your ability to show people that you are an expert in your profession.
Tip number 24; be sure to do some speaking engagements. Take advantage of any invitations that you get. When you are speaking be passionate. You will forget to be nervous once you get started. And if possible join Toastmasters to hone your speaking skills and give you more confidence.
Tip number 25 is to write five articles or more in your area of expertise. Get those published. There are lots of places for that; your professional association’s journal, your local newspaper, there is Lawyers Weekly, and they are always looking for articles from paralegals so make that happen. It’s going to give you a lot of credibility.
Tip number 26; have a professional photograph taken now. You need one to attach to any articles that you write as well as for all of those social media sites that you are going to be participating in. So don’t put that off, don’t have your best friend take your picture, get a professional photograph taken.
Tip number 27; volunteer for pro bono work. Always do the pro bono work under the supervision of an attorney. You will gain valuable experience. It looks good on your resume and you increase your network of professional contacts.
Tip number 28 is to commit to lifelong learning, invest in additional training or coaching that will give you the ability to be even better at what you do. You are going to be able to get some of this learning at your association’s conventions and so forth, and whenever you see that there is a paralegal meeting that they are offering some continuing legal education at, be sure you take advantage of it.
Even though you may not think that it will help you in your current job, it will teach you something that you may use in the future and again, all of this education looks great on your resume. So never stop learning. And if you ask any paralegal what’s the most important step in your career it’s usually never stop learning. So if other paralegals believe that that can be almost your number one career goal.
Tip number 29 is to learn from others. Observe their skills, their talents and their abilities. Ask for assignments or projects that will move you in the direction that you want your career to go. Unless you ask for these special assignments, they are probably not going to happen. You may even have to do some of them on your own time, but when you do you are going to be learning more things that you can always use in the future.
And then I have tip number 30, and I think that I have done this in under 30 minutes so I am going to be able to give you some — maybe some bonus material in the end.
Always remember, this is Tip number 30; that your reputation is of ultimate importance. Never tarnish it with immoral or unethical behavior. Know and abide by your professional association’s code of ethics, and also review the American Bar Association’s guidelines for the utilization of paralegal services. Those are available at americanbar.org.
You should also be aware of the ethical rules that have been set up by the State Bar in the area where you work and also those ethics rules that the ABA has adopted, all very important and all part of keeping your ethics at a really high level. Often people do unethical things because they don’t know the rules. That’s why it’s really important for you to look at those and to keep up to date with what they are.
So that’s 30 tips for you. I did it under 30 minutes, so I won the challenge that my producers have given me. When I come back from this next break, I will have a little more information for you, a couple of more tips, these are bonuses, and we will get to those right after this break. Don’t go away.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. Today has been a solo production. My producers challenged me to give you 30 career tips in 30 minutes, and we’ve done that. Now it’s time to give you some additional information for your career. And the first thing that I want to say is that if the career that you have chosen has some unexpected inconveniences, don’t worry about that. Every career has issues. It’s not always going to be smooth.
Then what you should also do is to consider all parts of your life when you consider changes to your career. You have to think not just that would be a wonderful job but think about your work-life balance, the salary, your career progression, benefits and so forth.
As Marilyn Monroe said, “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”
Toot our own horn, move your career forward, follow these tips that I have given you and I think that you are going to enjoy the best career possible.
That’s all the time we have today for The Paralegal Voice. If you have any questions about today’s show or any of the tips that I have given you, please email them to HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]”[email protected]. And don’t forget to check out my blog, HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalmentorblog.com/”paralegalmentor/blog.com, I offer you a lot of resources and all of them have been designed to help you move your career in the right direction, and that’s always forward.
This is Vicki Voisin, thanking you for listening to The Paralegal Voice, and reminding you to go out and make your paralegal voice heard.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Thanks for listening to The Paralegal Voice produced by the Broadcast Professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Vicki Voisin for her next podcast on Issues and Trends Affecting Paralegals and Legal Assistance. Subscribe to the RSS feed on legaltalknetwork.com or in iTunes.