When students finish their education and enter the workforce as freshly minted paralegals, they experience a mixture of excitement and apprehension. They are eager to jump at the first opportunity they see, yet at the same time, are worried about how to measure up against competing applicants. After all, the other paralegals have years of experience, vast networks, and reputations in the field.
One common outcome is that new paralegals end up selling themselves short; they underestimate their own skills and qualifications, which can significantly affect their career. Often, they only realize their mistake years down the line. How do you make sure that you get what you truly deserve?
While every student is different, there are several mistakes that you need to avoid.
- Accepting the first job offer – New paralegals are often so thrilled at their first job offer that they immediately accept, not taking into account whether it is a good fit for them and their career plans. You should always get offers from multiple firms so that you can compare them. Other than the compensation, there are many things you have to look at.
- Is the firm a stable, established player in the industry?
- What career advancement opportunities are there?
- Can you handle the duties, responsibilities, and overall workload?
- What is the company culture like?
Don’t be afraid to say no; it is easier to keep looking for a job than to leave one that you are unhappy with.
- Failing to negotiate – Firms will almost never offer the most they are willing to pay for your services right off the bat, so be confident and don’t be satisfied with a lowball offer. Applicants should never forget that this is the moment when they have the most room to negotiate their salary, as raises and promotions are typically much harder to secure.
Of course, there are right and wrong ways to negotiate. Focus on the firm’s needs, rather than your own gain. The basic idea is that you should get them to realize the real value that you can contribute to the company, and ask them to adjust the compensation to adequately match that.
- Downplaying their qualification – Your skills, education, and accomplishments are what the company uses to evaluate you, yet many new applicants have not yet mastered the art of emphasizing these. Instead, they choose to play it safe by attempting to be as humble as possible. While you need to avoid looking arrogant, dismissing your qualifications in the interview serves no one.
Even if the job market is competitive, you did not pursue a career as a paralegal to settle for a mediocre or worse position. Make sure that you know your worth.