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By: Chassidy King

Welcome back to the paralegal playground! Wanna know what I love, TPS readers? When one of our guest contributors sends me a fantastic post, and I get to share it with all of you! Today, Chassidy stopped by to tell you why you need to be cognizant of your field of five. Huh? Field of five? Guess you’ll have to keep reading to see what she’s talking about! (While we’re at it, go ahead and lift up that fabulous beverage sitting in front of you in a unified, paralegal salute to sanity!) And keep reading…

(But why are there only 4 people standing on the field above, you ask?
Because they’re waiting on you to find that field of five and join ’em!)

There have been studies done that show that you are the average of the 5 or 6 people you spend the most time with. It stands to reason that the people we surround ourselves with in a work setting will have a tremendous influence on the type of person we will become moving forward in our careers and lives. Pay close attention to the types of people around you. Be cognizant of whether your “field of five” will help to sharpen your career skills, knowledge base, level of motivation and overall ability to become a better you.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the people around are overly negative and judgmental of others? Sometimes in our careers, we find ourselves in these unfortunate situations where the people we work with are bent on putting others down in order to make themselves look better. As much as you might enjoy such a person’s humor and personality, you might find yourself exhibiting those very same negative behaviors. More than once, I have found myself in this predicament. It takes great willpower to remove yourself from a situation like that, especially after you have participated in the same shenanigans. And, if you do find a way to remove yourself, you are left with being perceived as (and often feeling like) a hypocrite.

Recently, I took inventory of the kind of person I would like to be generally and in the work place, specifically. I have found that I want to be positive, inviting, inclusive, and professional. I also want to be fun. I think I am the kind of person that wishes to be all things to all people. I can only hope that I am some things for some people! To further my mission of fulfilling that need be something to someone, consistent with the the title of this post, I need to find a way to surround myself with inviting, inclusive, positive, professional, and fun people. Push that giant, red Staples button: “That Was Easy!”

While preparing to write this article, I did a little Google search. I was looking to give proper credit to the quote “You are the average of the people you surround yourself with” which, by the way, was Jim Rohn – an author and motivational speaker on personal development topics. While perusing the Google waves, I ran across this article at Personal Excellence (a blog designed for “people passionate about achieving excellence in life.”) Here is the link: You are the Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With

I think it gives an interesting perspective on the topic: that we are still in control of who we become. The author did make a distinction from Jim Rohn, in that he or she believes that you are the average of the four or five people you spend the most time with, including yourself. Regardless of the distinction, the author provided an exercise to identify your core circle. If you have the time, it’s worth the investment to do this. And, if you are interested, you can follow along with me as I do the exercise.

The author listed the following five steps (though he elaborated a great deal more):

1. What is the kind of person you want to be?

Well, I determined above that I want to be positive, inviting, inclusive, professional, and fun.

2. Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with in your life currently?

I have done this step, but will not be sharing names or any other identification of those people, besides my husband and children. That’s four. {That’s probably cheating, huh?}

3. Do they match who you want to become in the future?

Some do and some do not. Sometimes in our lives, we have to make difficult choices, especially in the work place. I want to make the correct choices. I want to be the kind of person that considers the ramifications of and reflection on me of my behavior. So, the ones that do not match those profiles are the ones that I need to avoid. I do not mean you should avoid those people like the plague, but you must make a distinction between being cordial and professional and inviting them to be in your core.

4. Who are the top 5 people who embody the qualities you desire?

This is tough and will require some serious analysis. However, off the top of my head, when I think of people I would like to emulate, I have the following list of three very tremendous women in the legal industry. I am not ashamed to give the ladies a plug.

Deanna Finney is a litigation support wiz and co-owner of Modern Information Solutions (www.miscindiana.com). She is always smiling and she has this fabulous can-do attitude! When I spend time with Deanna, I know that I am soaking in not only her technical legal knowledge, but her overall drive and determination. She has been a mentor and huge encouragement to me to follow my dream of working in the litigation support arena.

If you are reading this blog, you likely know that Jamie Collins is the founder. She is quite the go-getter herself! Most of us work in the legal industry, so we all know she is busy. On top of her paralegal responsibilities, she somehow manages to squeeze in time to write and moderate this awesome resource for me and all of you fine folks! Talk about someone that inspires people to be their personal best! Making a connection with Jamie was a huge checkmark in the “finding people that embody the qualities I want to possess” column.

Recently, I made a job transition. I left paralegaling to become a Practice Support Specialist. In other words, I’m doing technology-related things within litigation. Changing positions is scary enough, but changing firms is beyond frightening. In the new position, I work very closely with one individual. We’ll call her Jane (even though that’s not really her name). She’s incredibly talented in her work. She also has tremendous people skills. Her relationship with the esquires is nothing short of inspirational. Without any effort of my part (other than finding the advertised position and applying), I have placed myself with someone more than eight hours a day that, if Jim Rohn’s statement is true, will definitely put me in a position to absorb all of the qualities I wish to possess.

5. How can you increase contact with them?

This is the really tough part of the process. As busy professionals, it is beyond difficult to coordinate schedules. Though direct personal contact is ideal, email and social media are fabulous tools to connect and share ideas with those people with whom you may not be able to carve out an hour to socialize. In fact, because life is so busy, I find this is often how I am able to collaborate with those I want in my core circle.

Being active in professional associations is another great way to spend more time with individuals that share the same goals as you. Most reading this blog are paralegals. What paralegal associations are you involved with? Are you active or a silent member? Do you participate in activities offered? Do you write for the newsletters? Do you mingle at meetings or stick with your usual core? Are you an active listener or do you go for the food? Often these organizations do not have enough active members. If you want to surround yourself with people who are career-minded, find a way to get involved.

If you know of someone whom you have never met that you would like to learn more about, ask for an introduction or be forward enough to strike up a conversation. Most people (especially those that are as interested in career growth as you are) will be open to making new connections.

So, today, I ask you to ask yourself: Have you taken inventory of your personal attributes? Do they align with those you wish to have? Who is in your core circle? Do they inspire and encourage you or do they hold you back? Are they positive and creative or do they drown you in negative energy? I challenge you to find someone new that will help you be more the person you truly wish to be and work to find or create avenues to connect with your “field of five.”

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Pretty cool concept, right? You bet it is! Now think about the individuals standing on your current field of five. Decide if you need to add some new folks to that core circle. And in the words of one of my former (hilariously brilliant) bosses, “If you are the smartest person in your inner circle of friends/colleagues, you’re the one who is an idiot!” Ha. If you don’t feel you currently have the field of five of your living, breathing, paralegal dreams – find ’em! 

We’ll see you later in the week. Until then, cling to the sanity!