Myth: Once you have your paralegal education and your job as a paralegal, you don’t have to do anything else to have a successful, fulfilling paralegal career.
Truth: Your paralegal job and education are just the foundation for your career. That foundation simply serves as a facilitator for the rest of your career, much the same way a blank canvas serves as the facilitator for a beautiful portrait.
While your job may be interesting, time-consuming and challenging, it is not the sum total of your career. Consider my situation for a moment:
My entire working life has been spent in a small law office in a very small town. This has been a job I’ve enjoyed immensely. The attorneys would come and go…and name of the firm would change…but I remained like a favorite old shoe: reliable, durable…and also knowledgeable.
Had I remained in that comfortable cocoon, where would I be today? Probably preparing to retire with a cheese and cracker reception attended by people I’ve known all my life…wonderful people, I might add.
Instead of choosing that cocoon, I chose to make my world large and if I were to retire today (and I’m NOT!) I could at least expect good wishes from paralegals from every state in the U.S.
How do you make your world large? Here are some tips for you:
Never stop learning. If you follow the Thirteen Questions column in Paralegal Strategies, you’ll notice that everyone says that to make your career interesting, you must never stop learning. This includes new technology, new systems, and new areas of the law.
Accept challenges. If you think you can’t speak before a large group of people or that you could never write an article for a professional journal, you’re dead wrong. But how will you know what you can do if you don’t try? When you’re asked to do this, always jump at the chance. What if you’re not asked? Volunteer! You’ll always be glad you did.
Join groups and participate. Joining groups (professional associations in particular) is like throwing a pebble into a pool of water and watching the ripples widen. You will widen your circle of acquaintances (who will probably become best friends!) as well as your professional network.
You will be surprised at your capacity for growth. The ripples spread even wider when you take an active part, run for office, serve on a committee, and attend annual meetings. Wide ripples are good for your career.
Write and speak. Considering your capacity for growth, you will be shocked by the words that will come from your mouth and flow from your pen as you expand your horizons.
Get out of your comfort zone. When I traveled just from tiny Charlevoix to Detroit to join a professional association, I might as well have been traveling to Mars! Today, I can maneuver most any travel and enjoy it immensely. You can do this, too, but you have to take chances and leave your cocoon.
Your career is always a work in process. It doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, it takes a lifetime. As you take the steps above (and there are many others, you will be painting on the canvas where the brush strokes illustrate the bright colors you’ve chosen for yourself.
Your challenge? Consider the steps above and choose at least one challenge. This will be your first step in painting the gorgeous picture that will, in the end, be your outstanding career.
©2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc. Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can so long as you include this entire blurb with it:
Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at http://www.paralegalmentor.com.