Feel Like Quitting Your Job? Career Change Options for Paralegals

Thinking of leaping to another field?
Do you sometimes feel like you have lost interest in the paralegal profession? Does it happen that you no longer look forward to going to the office? Has the economy affected your employment prospects and/or expected career path?
They are many reasons paralegals sometimes find themselves looking at their career, feeling that they have lost some of the interest that initially drove them into the field. In this context, a change in career can be contemplated as a natural progression of life, especially as the legal job market remains uncertain. But changing careers takes focus and commitment. To be successful, you will need to develop short-term, intermediate and long-term goals, and decide on the steps required to accomplish them.
—— Assessment of likes and dislikes ——
Identifying what you do not like in your current job is the easy part, but you will also need to decide what direction you want to take based on your preferences and talents in order to achieve a successful career change. Hence, a good way to progress in this direction is to make a list of what you really like doing at work and at home.
You can talk to people who know you personally and professionally to get some feedback about your hidden or obvious talents. There are also assessment tests you can take such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory or the Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential(MAPP) Assessment. You can also take a look at your previous and current job descriptions, the different recognitions and thank-you notes you received or your job performance reviews.
—— Research your potential new career ——
You need to know what essential skills likely employers are looking for in that particular field before launching your new career. Additionally, it is essential to make sure that:
  • your new career will offer you a satisfactory level of compensation,
  • it will offer opportunities for career advancement,
  • it will fit your lifestyle and family situation,
  • you are really engaged and excited about it,
  • you are willing to make the sacrifices that may be required, such as accepting a lower wage at the beginning or going back to school for a while.
Before plunging yourself into a new career, a good curse of action is start by assembling all available and relevant information by using multiple sources (Internet, scholar studies, industry specific news and trade publications). You also need to network with people who already working in the field that you are interested in, for example by attending events organized by associations related to your new field of interest. Another, more unconventional, but usually very promising with regards to opening up future employment opportunities way is to ask members of the new profession or professional field for informational interviews.

—— The new skills you will need to succeed ——
There are many skills that are transferable from one career to another (such as writing skills, communication, planning and leadership). Regarding the non-transferable skills, the objective of the secondary search is how to best and most efficiently acquire them. Perhaps, your education can be upgraded by way of an additional certificate or add-on degree. If this is not feasible due to budgetary constraints, family obligations, location, or other issues, there are always alternative ways to accumulate the required skills and knowledge, even more so nowadays, with the Internet providing limitless access to information from all professional areas and from all around the world. Alternative learning options include self-directed reading and watching of relevant online videos made by professionals (interviews, topical blogs and vlogs, etc.), volunteering in your new career field, temporarily obtaining a part-time job in your new industry, for example.
—— Job hunting ——
Finally, think about how to market oneself is essential for the success of your career change endeavor. This means revamping your resume and highlighting all your relevant skills and experience. A professional career coach can be very useful at this stage or, even better, a mentor(ideally with some stature and credibility in the new field) who can help by providing you with information about current trends or by letting you access his/her professional network in order to optimize your self-presentation. Of course, refreshing your familiarity and skills regarding cover letters, interview techniques and … salary negotiations are essential to find the job and deal that you are looking for.
And finally a marketing strategy needs to be articulated in order to efficiently convey clearly your reasons for your career change and your competitive edge over other candidates in this new field. Your prior, maybe unrelated experience can come in handy here and set your apart with respect to other candidates, if presented in the right way.

Check out this article for alternative ideas for jobs paralegals can do! 

Alternative Things Paralegals are Doing for Work

Working as a Paralegal Specialist in the Army: a New Career Path

The following article is written by Elena Manley who shares the story of her life as military paralegal.

paralegals in the military

“Next month marks my nineteenth year in the service. For fourteen of those years I have served as a military paralegal. I have spent more time as a military paralegal than as a civilian paralegal.
At this point in my career, I can perform my military paralegal duties and responsibilities with confidence, ease, and comfort. I am able to draft wills and powers of attorney with speed and accuracy. I have given numerous briefings to military personnel regarding their rights and responsibilities. This is the career I have chosen and although it has been a part-time career for quite some time, it has remained a pivotal part of my life. Sometimes that has come at the expense of my civilian employment. I have been grateful for employers who kindly let me attend to my military duties when called to do so at times which were perhaps inconvenient to both of us.
Last week was an example of an inconvenient time. I stood before my fellow service members and began to give my usual briefing on wills, powers of attorney, veteran’s employment rights, etc., When it dawned on me. These particular service members were most definitely headed into harm’s way. They had already said goodbye to their loved ones. They had their bags packed and ready. They had sat patiently while speaker after speaker, most with accompanying power point presentations, informed them of the numerous details they must consider before deployment, during deployment, and after they return from deployment. Now it was time for my three minute legal briefing during which I would advise them to consider their estate should they lose their lives, their legal rights should an employer make them feel they might not have a job when they returned, and their right to legal representation should they find themselves accused of a crime.I speak about these somber topics with barely any time for real emphasis. The service members are later provided an opportunity to speak to me privately if they have legal questions. The service members need my assistance to give them direction or at least ease their minds regarding legal matters. Most often, I only needed to assess whether they need legal representation.
After nineteen years in the service, on that day I was more aware of my purpose than I ever had been. 
Sure, in my civilian job I had plenty of e-mails to respond to, reports to work on, and legal research to conduct. Any civilian paralegal can relate to those everyday tasks. However, on that particular day, my focus was on those who needed someone to listen, someone who had legal training, someone who understood.
One day I will fulfill my commitment to the service, hang up my uniform and retire.
I will no longer have to ask my employer for time off to assist a handful of deploying service members with their legal needs. And like most service retirees, I will not be able to accurately describe exactly why I served. Maybe that is for the best. Maybe explaining it too precisely would detract from that we keep locked away to ourselves. We don’t speak of it, but we know we share this same trait with others who have worn the uniform.
I look forward to seeing these who have deployed return home safely. I look forward to assisting them with their post-deployment legal issues. I look forward to performing my duty. This is what a military paralegal brings to the workforce. Civilian employers should expect nothing less. “

If some of you could be interested in serving their country as Paralegal Specialist, we have compiled an overview of the duties related to working as a paralegal for the U.S. Army.
—— Duties ——
  • Paralegal support to unit commanders and the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate,
  • Provide legal documents in courts-martial, non-judicial punishments and other military justice matters,
  • Prepare line of duty determinations, separation board proceedings and other administrative law matters,
  • Assistance in the family law arena such as powers of attorney, wills and separation decrees.
—— Requirements ——
If you want to serve as a Paralegal Specialist, you must first take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (a series of tests that helps you better understand your strengths and identify which Army jobs are best for you).
—— Training ——
Job training requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, and 10 weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instruction, to learn:
  • legal terminology and research techniques,
  • preparation of legal documents,
  • Army judicial process,
  • and how to interview witnesses.
—— Helpful Skills ——
  • Ability to supervise those in a command,
  • Provide technical guidance to subordinates,
  • Maintain law/administrative library,
  • Monitor and review actions for accuracy.
—— Award ——
The best Paralegal Specialists are eligible to receive the Sergeant Eric L. Coggins Award for Excellence.
Those in the ranks of specialist through staff sergeant who "demonstrate both exceptional Soldier and paralegal skills" are eligible for the award, according to guidelines.
Army Physical Fitness Test scores and superior character are among the other criteria.
—— Integrity ——
"You're a paralegal, but you're a Soldier first. I always try to set the example for others. I'm really not looking for any recognition. I'd be fine if they just gave me a pat on the back and said, 'Good job.'"
-- Staff Sgt. Raymond Richardson Jr. of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, 2012 Sergeant Eric L. Coggins Award for Excellence recipient.

Paralegals and the Job Search: How to Ace the Toughest Paralegal Interview Questions

During an interview you need to be able to quickly and efficiently sell to the potential employer what you can do for him or her that the other candidates may not be able to do.

To get your strengths and skills across efficiently takes practice. Paralegals have to make sure that they do not talk neither too much nor too little, that all of their explanations are clear and precise, and that their vocal delivery is enthusiastic, focused, and shows a high degree of confidence and professionalism.
The goal of this article  is to help paralegals practice their responses to the crucial, tough interview questions, so they can create an outstanding lasting impression with the interviewer.
—— Know your resume ——
A frequent complaint among recruiters is that many candidates show up with wonderful resumes but cannot back up the claims that they make on their resumes. Thus, before heading to your interview, remember the following principles:
  • Everything on your resume is fair game and you need to be able to speak about anything on your resume in depth.
  • You must not exaggerate, if the interviewer feels you have inflated your credentials, you could jeopardize your candidacy.
  • You need to be able to relate the information on your resume to the job you are applying for.
—— How to take control of the interview with open-ended questions ——
One of the key best practices in paralegal interviews is the ability to take control of the interview or at least to shape its direction.
You usually receive wonderful opportunities to do so when you are asked open-ended questions such as “Tell me about yourself”.
You can use that kind of question to paint a picture of your winning three or four qualities and move straight to the strengths that distinguish you.
—— Turning around questions about your failures and weaknesses ——
In many cases, during an interview, you are asked at least once to talk about a failure or one of your negative personal qualities.
Greatest weakness/failure question: What to avoid
  1. A failure that is very recent.
  2. An example that cost your employer a client or hurt his/her reputation or that was financially costly.
  3. A failure that puts in question some of the skills or qualities required for your current job.
  4. An example where you cannot elaborate on what your learned.
  5. A failure that reflects a weakness regarding the skills needed to succeed in the job that the interview is for.
How to skillfully turn around and elaborate on one of your most valuable paralegal qualities and experiences
  1. Spend only a small amount of time addressing your failure.
  2. Talk about the lessons you learned.
  3. Spend the reminder of your time mentioning an example of when you succeeded by applying the lessons you learned from the failure or weakness you have mentioned.
—— Other tough paralegal interview questions ——
Can you explain these poor grade(s)?
Try not to be defensive and acknowledge or explain the poor grades without trying to make an excuse for them. Then shift the conversation to focus on your most recent record of achievement to assure your interviewer of your current focus, dedication, and abilities.
Aren't you overqualified for this position?
You can focus on explaining how you see room for growth in this new position and point to attractive factors of the company (culture, environment) that make the position attractive and, again, take the chance to steer the conversation directly to your winning skills.
Describe a situation in which you faced an ethical challenge and how you resolved it?
Avoid conveying information that could create the impression that you engaged in unethical behavior. Probably the best way to handle this question is to highlight a situation where you chose to address an ethical issue openly and initiated a dialogue that led to steps towards resolving or managing the ethical challenge.
Why do you want to leave your job?
Remember never to disparage your current or any past employer. The best answer is probably to say that you determined that you had grown as much as you could in your current job and that you are now ready for new challenges.
—— Some final thoughts ——
Paralegals, during your job search and interview process, think about each question as an opportunity to showcase at least one accomplishment or strength, with every answer building momentum toward convincing the interviewer that you deserve the job and would help your interview succeed and/or shine a good light on him/her for selecting you.
And don't forget the importance of enthusiasm! Many recruiters report that, all things equal, they will choose the candidate that is truly excited about the new job and has is most fired up about the position.
Good luck to all of you!
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