After years of success in your paralegal career, you find yourself in a slump. You're burnt out. You’ve been working hard for so many years that you didn’t realize your career was suffering from your hard work. It’s easy to get into the rut of coming into the office, putting out fires, making things happen and feeling confident in what you do. Then suddenly you find yourself feeling confused and frustrated but you don’t understand why. You have a great job, your attorneys are happy with your work, and your clients always appreciate the extra effort you put into their cases. What’s wrong?
You’re in a career slump. This can happen from time to time during your paralegal career. It could be that you’re working so hard that you simply don’t realize you’re in a rut, it could be that you’re bored because your job is no longer as exciting as it was when you first graduated from paralegal school, or it could be that a lack of advancement has caused you to question whether you chose the right career. Regardless of the reason, there are things you can do to turn that slump into a positive turning point in your paralegal career.
Ways to Recharge Your Paralegal Career
One of the reasons why many paralegals find themselves in a slump is because they always say “one day” I will do this or that. Unfortunately, “one day” will never come unless you make it happen. While not all of these tips apply to every career, the idea is to find something that will give you the burst of motivation, energy, and inspiration to turn “one day” into today.
Take a Paralegal Course
While taking continuing education courses (CLEs) is an excellent way to stay up-to-date on changes in the legal field, these one-day courses don’t provide you with enough material to push your paralegal career to the next level. CLEs only give a general overview of topics due to time constraints. I never dreamed I would be back in paralegal school once I graduated, however, after 20 years that is exactly what I did.
After reviewing the curriculum, I realized there are so many courses offered today that cover areas and topics that were not offered 20 years ago. My choice was legal research because I hadn’t kept up with the changes and advances in this area. By taking a paralegal course, I jump-started my career by adding an entirely new set of skills that opened more doors to better opportunities for advancement. You can read more about some interesting new programs reshaping the legal field here.
Join a Paralegal Association
If you’re not a member of your local paralegal association, you’re missing an excellent opportunity for networking and growing your paralegal career. Your local paralegal association is a great source of information, support, and guidance from people who truly understand what you do each day.
Joining a national paralegal association is also vital for improving your career. National paralegal associations provide networking throughout the country giving you access to people you wouldn't necessarily meet otherwise. You can learn about advancements in the legal field that may be happening on the other side of the country. You also receive much needed support that will help you when you encounter slumps in your paralegal career. These advantages of association membership can give you the boost you need to get out of a slump.
Obtain a National Certification
Paralegal certifications are not required but they can benefit your career in several ways. If you’ve always thought about sitting for a certification exam, make it happen. Several paralegal organizations offer a variety of certification and specialty exams. Adding a certification to your resume and your title gives you the added boost you need to open doors to new paralegal opportunities.
Attorneys value certifications because it shows that you’ve taken additional steps to rise to the top of your profession. If you’ve been searching for a new job but you’re having difficulty opening doors to better opportunities, obtaining your paralegal certification can give your career that boost you need to move past a slump. Prior to making an investment, make sure you understand the nuances on being certified vs. earning a certificate.
Attend a National Paralegal Convention
National paralegal conventions provide the opportunity to network but they also provide the opportunity to learn new skills and connect with other paralegals on a personal level. When you’re in a career slump, you feel as if no one understands and that you’re alone. Attending a convention may provide the motivation you need to re-evaluate your goals and options and to begin to move your career in a new direction.
When your career is stagnant, you need new ideas to help push you past your slump. A convention is the perfect opportunity to hear about and investigate new ideas that will challenge you so you feel that burst of excitement that you did when you first began your career.
Set New Goals
Whether it’s managing your finances, getting into shape, or changing your career, having short and long-term goals are essential for ensuring your success. Of course, each person’s goals will be different and specific to that person and their career. Begin with five short-term goals that you can accomplish within the next six months to a year. Make sure you develop a plan and strategy for reaching your goals by determining the steps you need to take in order to achieve each goal.
Based on those goals, develop five long-term goals that take you into the next two to five years. Don’t limit yourself with your long-term goals - think big and dream. This is your life and your career – make it whatever you desire. If you’re having trouble deciding where to take your career, you may want to meet with a career coach. Career coaches can help you figure out what you want from your career, set goals, develop a plan to reach those goals, and hold you accountable as you work towards them.
In some cases, it takes a career slump to get us out of our routine and make us take stock of where we are and where we want to take our paralegal career. If your paralegal career is in a slump, look at it as a positive force to motivate you to make the changes that will propel your paralegal career in the direction you desire.
Tonya Pierce is a paralegal with over 24 years experience in several areas of the legal field (17 years as a bankruptcy paralegal and trustee paralegal).