If you need to move on to a new paralegal job, you don't want to waste time. With paralegal jobs evolving to include aspects previously considered part of the attorney role or being redefined as blended paralegal/legal secretary positions, it can be hard to know where to start.
Here are four tips that can greatly increase your chances of getting hired as a paralegal while expanding your professional contacts in the process:
1. Network, network, network
Paralegal411’s “Advice for Getting Hired as a Paralegal” lists networking as the best way to land paralegal jobs. You can build your network by joining and volunteering or participating on a committee at your local paralegal association. You can find a list of paralegal associations by state on the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) website. Most local paralegal associations include automatic NFPA membership. Besides the networking benefits, other advantages include discounts on annual conventions and joint conferences, and a subscription to the National Paralegal Reporter.
2. Work your social networks
Most paralegals are strong writers, but these days composition and grammar skills are not enough — you also need to think about keywords. These are critical when you prepare your profile on social media. If your profile doesn’t rank highly enough in hiring managers’ search results, no one will spot your profile on LinkedIn or your resume on a job board. If you have experience in a particular type of law, be sure to emphasize keywords specific to that area. You’ll want to integrate these words throughout your LinkedIn profile — in your summary, job descriptions and skills section. Also, look online for current paralegal job openings and add terms that apply to you. Finally, if you have skills in litigation, be sure to emphasize them. Lawyers responding to a Robert Half Legal survey predicted litigation would be the largest expected source of new job opportunities for the first half of 2015, and there's no reason to expect that trend to subside throughout the rest of the year.
3. Work with a recruiter
Specialized legal staffing firms can connect you with potential employers, training, current job market information and even opportunities for accredited continuing legal education (CLE). Be sure to explore the wide range of free resources some of these legal recruiters offer.
4. Build your experience
Volunteering at nonprofits can help you increase your depth of knowledge and add impact to your paralegal resume. Since nonprofits are notoriously understaffed, you might take on projects you ordinarily wouldn’t handle. What could be better than a chance to effect positive change in your community and in your own career at the same time? The ABA’s National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide lists volunteer opportunities by location. Click your state to view nearby pro bono options and look for organizations listing paralegals.
The less time you spend between jobs the better. By leveraging these best practices, you can reduce the time spent searching for paralegal jobs and get hired sooner rather than later.