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By: Mariana Fradman, MBA
Greetings, TPSers! Last night, I found myself seated in the very crowded, front lobby of a dance studio where my son is taking hip hop classes. It was a bit like being packed into Walmart, amidst strangers, deplete of oxygen, at Midnight, the day after Thanksgiving, kind of a place. Thankfully, there was a silver lining! I unexpectedly received a brilliant article (this one) via my in box from the lovely and talented, Mariana Fradman.
As I read it, I became thrilled to share it with all of you for two reasons: (1) It’s candid, realistic, and spot on advice from a respected, paralegal powerhouse who is well-versed in this area; (2) it’s a very relatable topic. You’ve either seen this occur around you in recent times OR you currently find yourself entrenched in the “seeking a paralegal job trenches” and believe she wrote this article for you…and she did! Either way, we’re giving Mariana a gold star on this one!
**Note to Paralegals: Spot on advice begins here**
Your company (or a client) has an opening. Not just “an opening”, but a position that will open doors for the right candidate to embrace an opportunity to work in a company with a solid background, great benefits and a chance to grow. Your status on LinkedIn says, “If you are interested, send your resume and cover letter to HiringManager@TheCompany.com.” How many resumes will you get? How many times will you see a message that says:”Hi, my name is Jerry and I am interested; contact me at email@example.com“? Sound familiar? How do you feel about this candidate? My first reaction will be “forget about it”. My second will be, “Jerry needs a job and I am here to help.” But how can I help if he doesn’t know how to follow instructions or doesn’t want to follow them?
Here is another real life scenario: NYCPA’s job bank has about 20 open positions at any given time. Every two weeks after the Paralegal Buzz (the association’s bi-weekly e-newsletter) goes out, NYCPA’s Job Bank Coordinator gets at least a half dozen emails with resumes and messages that read like, “Hi! My name is Mary and I am a member. I am applying for jobs Nos. 25, 37, 84 and 95.” In the meantime, job number 25 is for a commercial litigation paralegal with 5+ years of experience, job 37 is for a financial specialist with 7+ years of experience, job 84 is for an entry level real estate paralegal and job 95 is for an experienced IP paralegal with some managerial experience.
So, what is my point? There are so many experienced and not so experienced paralegals out there. The competition is fierce. Everyone knows it. So why don’t you read the description? Why don’t you follow directions? Why do you shoot yourself in the foot? You can’t blame an agent or HR professional who didn’t return your call because YOU didn’t follow instructions. Did the advertisement say, “Tell me if you are interested”? Is it the job of an agent, HR manager or a Job Bank Coordinator to “fit” your resume for the positions for which you are applying?
You are lucky if you have an agent, Mr. Nice Guy, call you and say “Hey, I like your profile on LinkedIn. Smith & Smith is looking for a paralegal with your experience and I think that you are an ideal candidate. Are you interested?” Why did Mr. Nice Guy call you? Because he saw your profile on LinkedIn and your profile shows who you are and all of your credentials. Because you followed instructions: you created your profile. Because he saw that you didn’t misspell the name of your company, your profile doesn’t scream “I NEED A JOB”, because…you capitalized your first name and your last name. Do you know how many times I cringe when I see, “mary smith, Paralegal Professional”? Do you think I believe that mary smith is a “Paralegal Professional”? I am typing now and my dear Microsoft Word is screaming in my face “WRONG!” Are you familiar with that wavy red line under your name? So why didn’t you capitalize the first letter of your name?
Those are small things, but they can kill your image and your chance to get that job. The same way an “ABA Certified Paralegal” or “detailed oriented professional looking for a position in a legal” will. You are not “ABA Certified Paralegal” as the ABA doesn’t certify paralegals. The ABA may approve your program, but it has nothing to do with you as an individual. I am glad that you are “detailed,” but what does that have to do with the position? I am sure that you planned to say “detail oriented,” but your “detailed oriented in a legal” (in a legal what?) approach just showed that you are not detail oriented. And if you are looking for a job, why don’t you show me what you are doing now? Are you volunteering for your local association or have you secured an internship with a local Legal Aid Society? How about a soup kitchen or a shelter or even at your child’s school?
To find a job is a job in and of itself, but as with every job, you should show your dedication and professionalism. Sitting 7-8 hours on the Internet surfing different sites in the hope of getting that dream job is not a job. It is a fantasy. It is counterproductive day-dreaming. And how do I know that you were looking for a job and not playing a game of poker or watching a movie?
Did you proofread your resume? Did you fit it to the position for which you just applied? Check your profile on LinkedIn? Participate in a discussion or two in various professional groups? Now, get up from your chair. Get out of that room. Go and meet other professionals. Networking comes from different and often, unsuspected angels. Today, you may be serving lunch at a school’s cafeteria next to an attorney who came to his child’s school because he wanted to surprise little junior. His brain is fried, as he worked long hours and every weekend of the past month because he couldn’t find a paralegal to delegate that complicated file to. Guess who will be that lucky one? Or while helping clients at the immigration clinic sponsored by a local community center, you started to talk with a supervising attorney who knows an attorney who is looking for a paralegal for her busy practice. Tonight, you will be attending a CLE seminar sponsored by your local association. You will meet another member (or even a non-member) who knows that her firm has an opening in a litigation department you have dreamed about…
Yes, I will respond to your “I am interested. Contact me” with “Please forward your resume to HiringManager@TheCompany.com“. I may even tell you to make sure that your resume is a good “fit for the position” or if I know you personally and recognize your resume, will tell you what to do to fit it better, but IT IS YOUR JOB TO GET A JOB. And the best way to do it is…just follow instructions.
Is it just us…or have you seen this too? Perhaps you recently applied for jobs 2, 28, 25, and 36 using the same cover letter and resume and you now find a light bulb going on upstairs. We certainly hope so! As always, feel free to engage in a discussion by hitting that button and leaving a comment! We’d love to hear from you.
See you on Friday, TPS Nation! Get those high heels and silk neck ties spiffed up and laid out — paralegal holiday in T minus 2 days…and counting by the second!!