Planning Your Paralegal Career
No one can look into the future and completely plan a paralegal career. The area of the law that originally drew you to paralegalism may not present employment opportunities — so that you will find yourself in another area of the law. As you develop additional skills and experience, you may seek out new challenges in a different area. Career opportunities that you never thought of may present themselves, or your life circumstances may change what you seek from a paralegal career. A paralegal career is no different from any other — it is a work in progress.
Self-assessment and Short-term Goal Setting
The first step in planning a paralegal career is self-assessment. Why do you want to be a paralegal? Is there a specific aspect of the law that attracts you? What are your strengths and weaknesses, and how do they fit with the career you have chosen? Whether you are just beginning your paralegal career or have several years of experience, a self-assessment will give you insight into your current career path and what you need to do to change it.
Because so many lawyers specialize in particular areas of the law, it may be difficult to find the one area of the law that interests you right away. Do not be afraid to change direction if the work you are doing does not satisfy you, even if it means changing jobs. Many paralegals shift focus several times in the course of a career.
Short-term goals are the building blocks of a long-term career plan. If you are just entering the field, a short-term goal might be to complete a quality education that includes an internship in an area of the law that interests you. If you are a recent graduate, you might set a short-term goal of getting a paralegal job in your chosen area of the law. An inexperienced paralegal might have a goal of assisting with a trial. You should identify short-term goals that help you develop experience and skills that move you toward a long-term goal.
Securing Employment as a Paralegal
Before you begin your job search, become familiar with the job market and opportunities in your area. Sometimes job opportunities are not well advertised. Legal employers tend to promote from within, preferring to offer positions to existing employees rather than open them to the general public. In other job markets, legal employers place advertisements for open positions and often sift through a number of candidates before hiring a paralegal. Knowing what to expect in your job market is a big part of landing that first paralegal job.