By Vicki Voisin, ACP
Has this happened to you? You wake up one day and realize you’re no longer the youngest kid on the block. You’ve worked as a paralegal for a decade or more. You’re feeling a bit stale. You wonder if you’ve made the right career choice. You consider your options and see only limitations. You don’t feel quite at the top of your game.
It’s time to change your game plan! Staying on top of your game requires some work…and I don’t mean the kind of work that keeps you behind your desk from 9:00 to 5:00 (or later) every day. I’m talking about the work you must do to keep you and your mind fresh and energized.
Here are some simple steps you can take to do just that:
1. Never stop learning. Always embrace change. Stay in the know! People who are always learning something new are not only more interesting, but also happier in general. There’s constantly something fresh and exciting going on: new rules, case law, and procedures, as well as new books, courses, technology, and vocabulary. Make a deal with yourself to learn something new every day to keep your motivation in high gear.
2. Credentials do matter. Credentials say a lot about you: your depth of knowledge, credibility, determination, diligence, and more. Don’t kid yourself…if you’re in competition for a job with a person who has the same amount of education and work experience, your credentials will give you the leg up you’ll need.
Be sure to pursue all of the credentialing you can…then be sure to toot your horn. Let people know you have those credentials and how hard you worked for them. Also, put the designation on your business cards and firm letterhead. If you’re curious about authority to do that, see Peel v Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2281 (1990).
3. Join an association…local, state and/or national. My mother always said, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This is certainly the case with professional associations. An association will provide you with continuing education opportunities, as well as connections that will enhance your career. You will make lifelong friends that you can count on for support when you need contacts or information from their neck of the woods. This will happen more often than you might think.
4. If joining is good, being a contributing, hard-working member is even better. Just carrying your membership card isn’t enough. You’ll reap the benefits of belonging to an association when you jump in with both feet, get really involved, and take on responsibilities: write articles, speak at seminars, plan a retreat….be generous with your time, your ideas and your enthusiasm. When you do this, you’ll find your voice, you’ll make a difference in the profession, and you’ll be more ‘professional.’
5. Never say, ‘I can’t.’ There’s absolutely nothing you can’t do once you put your mind to it. When you’re offered a challenge at work, tackle it with gusto. Ask for help and guidance if you need to. Learn everything that will assist you in meeting the challenge. Dig in and work hard. Repeat the mantra of The Little Engine That Could: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Then change that to ‘I KNOW I can!” You WILL reach the top of the mountain…success is waiting on the other side.
6. Make yourself available to those who may be newer to the career field. If you’ve been in the profession for a while, you should welcome, encourage, mentor and praise those who are coming after you. They will look to you for advice and direction. Be there for them. They are the future but guidance from those with history is crucial.
Your challenge: Think about the steps you can take to stay on top of your game. Go new places, nurture your friendships, accept challenges, embrace goals. Never stop until you’re at the top of the mountain…you’re going to like what you find on the other side!
©2010 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 www.paralegalmentor.com