If you are not connected to LinkedIn, you are missing one of the most important career tools you can possibly get. KNOW has a group on LinkedIn called, KNOW Paralegals. We have almost 1500 members throughout the U.S.. Canada, Belgium and other countries who share their experiences, thoughts, hopes, wants, dreams and desires.
Several sent me their resumes for review. Other members of the group sent in suggestions – good ones, I might add – and offered to review resumes as well. While the economy has certainly been one contributing negative factor in the ability to land that first position, I found that there were other mitigating factors.
In several resumes I looked at, there were typos, inconsistent grammar and formatting and more. One woman left off all employment dates and got p.o'd when I said she can't do that. Another in New York tried to say that he received a B.A. from a community college in California. Not only do community colleges not give B.A.s, it just happened to be a community college where I had taught. More than one resume spelled Bachelor Degree: Batchelor. The mistakes don't have to be blaring to get bounced but come on, fellas!
Here are 10 tips that might wake some folks up:
1. The resume is poorly written and you either don't know it or think it will pass anyway. After all, Ginny down the street liked it. You've been using it this whole time. Most of the resumes that have been sent to me to review are just not up to par. The problem is, the candidate thinks it's just fine. Bounce your resume off someone who is experienced enough with hiring and can tell you the truth.
2. Your location. Some people are simply located in areas that are traditionally difficult for entry-level paralegals such as Louisiana or still suffering from the mass destruction of the recession. Find out how others got their jobs. It's done. People are working. Someone found the magic key. There's one for everyone. Go find the person with the magic key and make nice. They will be thrilled to share their success with you and possibly help a fellow colleague. That's why they made Starbucks.
3. Not really trying. Oh? You say you are? I'd really scrutinize that if I were you. Some people would have you believe they are really trying to find a job. However, if you review their attempts, they really didn't spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week seeking a job. In fact, they got very discouraged after one or two rejections or not hearing back from a resume submission. Or, they send the same resume over and over and over to the same employer hoping something will change. Resumes do get trashed simply because they've been around way too long.
4. Salary requirements are too high. Most paralegals, believe it or not, never checked to find out how much entry level salaries are for the city or town they live in. They heard a national average or just didn't think about it or thought it would be the same as they are making now. Wrong! You need to take a position at the going market rate.
5. Can't get past the gate-keeper. Many paralegals send a resume and do no follow-up whatsoever via phone call, e-mail, or anything. They just wait to hear. Christmas is coming too. Go meet these employers somewhere else: Bar meetings, association meetings, the golf course, Facebook, LinkedIn, seminars, trade shows, call-in radio shows. Find them on You Tube.
6. Refusal to join the community. If you ask whether some paralegals have joined an association, taken a seminar, webinar, read a paralegal publication, the answer is no. Whether they feel that it won't do any good or they are too shy or it's not worth the effort, is up for discussion. However, let me tell you this: The secret to finding a paralegal job is through other paralegals. Paralegals know where the jobs are. Your best friend on the job is not going to go running down to HR and say, "Gee. I don't like it here. I'm thinking of finding another job." No! But they will tell colleagues on the job. Those are the people in the know.
7. If you join an association, you have to go to the meetings. It's funny how people answer questions. You ask, "Did you join your local paralegal association?" And the person says, "Yes, of course." Aha! You usually have to ask, "Do you attend the face-to-face meetings?" Usually, the answer is no.
8. You are not aware just how badly you do in an interview. You just don't. And who is going to tell you? The person who interviewed you? Nope! No one. It may be just one, teeny, tiny thing that sets employers off that the candidate is not aware of that keeps him/her from finding a position. Do mock interviews with someone who is very familiar with paralegals. Take the critique to heart. It could help, not hinder.
9. If you are temping, are you getting good reviews? Common complaint heard: "I do lots of temp jobs. That's not the way to find a job. No one has offered me anything. " Let's examine that. Are you going down to HR and asking, "Can I leave my resume with you in the event something comes up?" Probably not. Most people just wait to see if someone is going to spot them out of the crowd, like them and automatically offer a job. It just doesn't happen that way.
10. Networking: Are you really annoying? Do people tend to run the other way when they see you coming? No, really! Sometimes, we are so desperate. But sometimes people can't help us. They tend to run the other way when they see you coming because they can't help you and frankly, don't know what to say to you any longer. Your networking begins to backfire. Figure out a way to be part of the circle. Join a committee with your association. Get to know folks.
I wrote a book called, The Successful Paralegal's Job Search Guide. It's been a best seller for 10 years and is still up-to-date. You can get it on amazon.com. It has 250 questions you might be asked in the interview. It also has 250 questions you can ask (Uh, don't ask all 250).
Form a support group and meet via Skype once a week. It's free. You can see each other. Share experiences. Share tips. Support each other. Invite successful headhunters and paralegals to come in and talk with you.
The OLP has a great deal going now to take eDiscovery 101A or Creating Legally Defensible Records Retention online interactive courses. These are gold standard courses taught by expert legal professionals. Take the courses and bring new skills to the table. More than your competitor. Remember: Employers pay for knowledge. Not for years of experience nor whether you can make it to work on time, are a team player, dress well, hunt for assignments or worked at prestigious firms. They pay for knowledge.
Join an association such as your local paralegal association or The Organization of Legal Professionals or the National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals and go get some real contacts who can help you. Get certified in eDiscovery through the OLP and offer employers something brand new that is sweeping the country.
You CAN do this. I know it's hard, it's stressful, it's anxiety provoking. It's also exciting, challenging and positive. I guarantee it.