Dana Fischel, Advanced Certified Paralegal, Advanced Specialist, and treasurer for Inland County Association of Paralegals (ICAP) offers a few tips on how to avoid blowing it during that critical period between the time you wrap up your paralegal program and work toward transitioning to the career you always wanted.
Avoiding self-sabotage is something we think should come pretty natural to anybody more serious about their career than their social media persona, but we’re always amazed at the stories we hear from hiring managers at law firms and corporate legal departments.
Our best advice: Don’t be another millennial idiot anecdote hiring managers talk about...
You just graduated and now it’s time to get loose… You down another Moscow Mule as your mind swirls with thoughts of the future while the bartender yells “last call” and you text Uber for a ride. You’re a fresh-pressed paralegal now, pumped enough to get drunk about it. Off you go skipping to the curb confident that tomorrow’s job interview is the beginning of all things shiny and new.
In the morning you drag yourself to the shower then sift through skinny jeans and game icon tees trying to find something a little more grown up to wear. But, first coffee. And Facebook… your friends posted photos of last night’s party and there you are sprawled on the table surrounded by empty shot classes, ducking-it-up for the camera…. Time to go.
“Damn. Where’s my car? Oh right. It’s at the bar.” No worries. You just text Uber and deal with that later.
You arrive at the law firm. The law firm. It sounds so business-like in your head. So promising. You push through the glass doors, and pop in a fresh piece of gum. You always wanted to be a paralegal ever since your sister was arrested that time when you were kids. The guy that helped her at the lawyer’s office made it sound like the best job ever.
As the doors open on the twenty-fifth floor, you’re greeted by the assistant to the attorney who will interview you. He mentions that you’re late. You give your excuses. He will have to see if the attorney can still see you. After a moment he comes back and tells you she’s too busy. Please leave your resume and they will get back to you.
Hopeless, Hapless Party Girls Need Not Apply
Dana’s advice: “Make sure you clean up your Facebook. Make sure you clean up your posts. There are companies who will know more about you days before you ever set foot in the office for the interview. Because they will do their due diligence and know absolutely everything they can about the applicant before they ever read the resume. So I would say be cautious. Not everything you want to say to your friends about yourself or about your day would be something that necessarily something you want a potential employer to find. That's what I tell people too. And not only about your posts, but what you tag yourself to. What you like. And what other people tag you to. Because there are software...it will automatically search for those posts, those tags, Likes, sites that you visited.”
According to CareerBuilder, as of last year, sixty percent of employers will look at your social media before you ever walk in their door. Another twenty-five percent have found things on employees’ social media sites that have caused them to reprimand or fire current employees. Yes you’re being checked out.
Your gifs, emojis, opinions, and photos may be funny to your friends, but to future employers, it could mean death for future job prospects.
In the real world first impressions rule. If you really want the job, you need to show up like you mean it.
Be Yourself, Unless You’re a Loser, in Which Case Be Someone Else
Dana’s advice: “Have more than one available. Have the one tailored to a government job...you will say something else there than If you're applying for the sole practitioner office job. You have to elevate information in your resume that applies to that part of the job. When you're applying for the work in a large firm, you may want to stress that you're able to work with others right? But, if you're working at a sole practitioners, is it really necessary to stress that part of your personality? If you're applying for a sole practitioner, maybe he's looking for more than a paralegal. Maybe he's looking for somebody who will do the bookkeeping. Therefore, your knowledge of computer skills and billing programs will probably go higher on your resume.”
And let’s think about the details of your resume. It was great that you were a barista in college, but what does that have to do with the position you’re applying for now? And different prospective employers may have a different set of requirements, which means you need more than one resume.
Also your references. Your jobless best friend may be a lot of fun at a party, but they aren’t necessarily the right choice for your future boss to call and ask about you. Choose your references wisely.
And when you do, make sure they know you did. Dana talks about incidents where students at a college lecture used her as a reference, “...we noticed some of the applicants were putting my name on the resume as a reference. And it was only because I spoke to their class...just because I visited your classroom doesn't make me a point of reference. I don't know you.”