Featured: Writing Paralegal Resumes

New: How To Discover Business Assets

New: Criminal Motion Practice (with forms)

New: Trends in paralegal training &  programs.

New: Getting Started as a Paralegal

Featured topic: Billable Hours

Recently Posted:  Avoiding Technology Traps


Playing to Win
Mastering the Online Job Search Game
By: Andrea Cannavina

July/August 2009 Table of Contents

The Internet has revolutionized the modern job hunt. Gone are the days when a cover letter and resume were all you needed to get your foot in the door. Today, tech-savvy paralegals are using the Internet to post digital resumes, network with colleagues, search online jobsites, research employers and more. Employers are using the Internet for a variety of purposes as well, from locating talent to screening job candidates. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder.com survey of more than 31,000 employers found that one in five recruiters use social networks in their hiring process.

New rules apply when job searching in the digital world. Read on to learn how to master the new job search game.

Put on Your Game Face
Law firms, corporations, the government and other legal employers are using the Internet to research your background and credentials. The CareerBuilder.com survey also found that, of employers who use social networks to screen potential employees, 34 percent rejected candidates based on what they found. Common online faux pas include poor writing skills, negative comments regarding employees or former employers, inappropriate photographs, unprofessional screen names, references to alcohol or drug use, and confidential information about past employers.

Before embarking on any job search, it is important to take steps to protect your online identity, privacy and reputation as well as polish your online presence. To discover what others can learn about you online, type your name into Google or another search engine. Try numerous variations of your name, with and without your middle name and middle initial. If you have a common name, you might also add various qualifying terms such as “paralegal” or “legal assistant” to narrow the search results. From college photographs and religious affiliations to PTA notes and traffic tickets, you’d be surprised at what a simple Google search can reveal.

Next, review your profiles on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Make sure a search will yield only information that you would be willing to disclose to an employer. Check for typographical errors, misspellings and proper language usage in your online profiles. Adding links to your online listing in a professional or trade organization is a great way to increase your digital credibility. Keep in mind that anything you publish to the Web may, at some point, become searchable, including photographs, music downloads, Facebook quiz results, listserv comments and Web links.

Because the online world does not grant the same opportunities as face-to-face interactions – there is no way to firmly shake someone’s hand or look them in the eye when you speak – it is essential to make sure that anything published by or about you is polished and professional. Each profile should contain a professional headshot and, if possible, a link to your Web site or other Web page that has more information about you. If you cannot invest in a professional headshot, take a digital one yourself (see the sidebar for photo- taking tips).

There are several ways to control what Web users find about you on the Internet. According to Leora Maccabee, a law school graduate and social networking consultant, editing your privacy settings on Facebook is a simple way to protect your self from cyber sleuths. Also, if you wish to delete your Facebook account, be certain to follow specific instructions or the account will only be deactivated. Navigate to http://www.facebook.com/ help/contact.php?show_form=delete_ account, hit “submit” and follow the directions. It takes about 2 weeks for an account to be deleted.

Another way to control what people see when they search for you is by creating a Google profile. A Google profile is a free and easy way to land on the first page of search results whenever your name is searched through Google. Your profile will not display any private information unless you have added it. To create a profile, go to www.google.com/profiles, click on the Create My Profile button, fill in the appropriate information and hit publish. You can also create a Google alert for your name so that you receive automatic e-mail notifications every time your name is mentioned on the Internet.

Playing With Others
Social networking sites that serve the needs of paralegals and other legal professionals are cropping up in cyberspace. These sites allow you to participate in online forums, share knowledge and practice tips, post and distribute job listings, search for jobs, meet other paralegals and more. Legal Assistant Today’s listserv (http://www.legalassistanttoday.com/lat- forum/default.htm) is one example of a free email discussion group that allows paralegals to network and share their ideas, experiences and opinions.

Networking is key to a successful job search. The more people who learn of your job search efforts, the more likely you are to find a suitable position. One effective way to network is to use your social networks on Facebook and other sites to broadcast your accomplishments and job search efforts. By highlighting your professional accomplishments or even just day-to-day details such as “serving a motion on 128 defendants” or “helping a client file the paperwork for a restraining order,” you can let the world know what you do without being solicitous.

Twitter is another new way to network on the Web. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform used by people across the globe to connect with others. Posts, known as “tweets,” are limited to 140 characters and allow users to instantaneously communicate with their audience, called “followers.” Job-hunters can tweet about their efforts, connect with potential employers and learn about open positions. You can also connect with other legal “peeps” by searching relevant legal terms, such as “paralegal,” using Twitter’s search feature.

Another networking strategy is to dispense information that others will find useful. There’s nothing better than a great resource. Over the years, I have connected with thousands of people by communicating information about digital security and the tech options available when working remotely or in tandem with another over the Internet. By making yourself a resource, you significantly increase the likelihood that you will get noticed and, in the case of jobseekers, the information you provide may grab the attention of a potential employer.

In addition to dispensing useful information, giving out joy and laughter is also effective networking tool. If you can make someone smile, chances are they will recall you fondly. Moreover, give of yourself. Everyone wants to connect, but that cannot happen unless you’re willing to share. Let people know you knit, or have played softball for the past 20 years or are a mother of five. Again, you want to maintain your professionalism, but you also want to give a peek into your world so people can connect.

To boost your online presence, business coach Sharon Williams of www.The24HourSecretary.com recommends joining a variety of online paralegal groups, listservs and forums. The point is to become known in the legal online world. Also, don’t overlook local legal organizations, such as your local paralegal association or local chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators.

Another great resource for paralegals is LinkedIn. Many companies use LinkedIn to recruit passive job candidates. LinkedIn’s unique “Ask A Question” feature allows you to respond to other LinkedIn member questions. “You can search for questions you believe you are qualified to answer or post questions of your own to connect with legal administrators and job recruiters,” Williams explained. The more local legal employers are aware of your job search, the better chance you have of finding your dream job.

Article writing is another way to boost your online presence and establish yourself as an expert in certain areas. Writing articles for industry trade associations, article writing distribution services such as www.ezinarticles.com, and trade journals such as Legal Assistant Today, is a great way to gain exposure for yourself and your writing. Consider each article an online writing sample, so take care with what you post.

The Numbers Game
Now that you have polished your online image and used the Web to network, how can you leverage the Internet to land your dream job? There are many ways a paralegal can use the Internet to find a brick-and-mortar job. First, you can post your resume on one of the many popular search engines such as www.monster.com and www.careerbuilder.com and on legal-specific job boards such as www.FindLaw.com and www.IHireLegal.com. The legal/paralegal job listings on Craigslist.org are another great way to find local paralegal jobs. However, Williams warns that once you publish something online you can’t take it back. “This means if you are presently employed and post your resume, your current employer may become aware of it,” she stated.

Searching for a job online is a numbers game. The more targeted job positions you apply to, the more likely you will find a suitable position. In searching for a job, choose key words that will produce a broad range of positions that are relevant to your skills and desired duties. Remember to use synonyms (e.g., paralegal and legal assistant) to ensure that you don’t miss positions that may be of interest.

Megan Power, a corporate paralegal with Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, New Jersey, applied to listings on job sites such as Monster, HotJobs and CareerBuilder, and went directly to the employment listings on local companies and law firms. “What landed me my current job was posting my resume on Monster.com. A legal recruiter viewed it and contacted me regarding a corporate paralegal position at a well-known law firm in my area,” she said.

Kristina Duncan, a full-time paralegal and owner of Paralegal Associates in San Diego, Calif., was successful in finding two law firm jobs on Craigslist. However, she suggests verifying the legitimacy of the ad before applying. “You have to be careful. A lot of the listings have links to the firm’s website or have a fax number that you can search on the state bar website to check and see if it is legitimate and whether the association lists any disciplinary or administrative action, such as license suspensions or court sanctions, against the firm,” she said.

The Key to the Game
Resumes and cover letters have also changed in response to new technology tools. As a general rule, Internet resumes should be only one page; you can always provide links to published writing samples, your personal webpage and other information if necessary.

To narrow the volumes of resumes received, legal recruiters and human resources professionals often use electronic tools to scan these documents for key words and phrases. Therefore, in drafting resumes and cover letters to be posted on the Web, you might want to optimize them for web search by sprinkling in relevant key words. Examples of key phrases include the type of law you specialize in, the position you seek, your desired geographic location and relevant software proficiencies. For example, if you are a paralegal in New York City specializing in worker’s compensation, you might incorporate the phrases “New York City,” “paralegal” and “worker’s compensation” in your online resume and cover letters. This strategy is helpful because many recruiters will search by location, profession and specialty. Keep in mind that your key phrases should be integrated well but not overly used within your documents. Overuse of a word or phrase may lower the document’s ranking in the search engines and, in the online world, a higher ranking will make you more visible to employers.

In brainstorming key words, think of words that employers would use in searching for the right candidate. The keyword suggestion tool from Wordtracker (http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/) is a free online tool that helps you identify frequently used words. Enter the word or phrase you want to use, and it will generate up to 100 related key words and an estimate of their daily search volume. In his article, “Resume Search Optimization,” David Seidl also recommends using a widely accepted typeface like Times New Roman or Arial and omitting personal pronouns and articles such as “I,” “me,” “my,” “a,” “an” and “the.”

As most online communications occur through e-mail, e-mail etiquette is essential in the online world. Therefore, it is important to read through each e-mail message from start to finish before hitting “send.” This last reading is crucial in catching any missing information or attachments and allows you to fully gauge the tone of your message. Sometimes a trip away from your PC will give you fresh eyes for the final review and help you to catch errors even spell checkers miss.

Formatting in professional correspondence also is important, and every e-mail message should contain proper punctuation and grammar. Structure each message with a greeting/opening, middle and closing and add a digital signature. Every message should contain enough information for the recipient to understand what you need or what they need to do in response to your communication. As a courtesy, your e-mail should also include copies of any documents or previous communications referenced, if not too large.

Winning the Game
The evolution of the Internet has dramatically changed the job-searching game. By polishing your online image, leveraging your online social networks, using Internet job-hunting sites and tools and optimizing your resume for web search, you can master this new game and increase your chances of finding your dream job. [LAT]

Andrea Cannavina is an EthicsChecked™ Master Virtual Assistant who helps attorneys and other service professionals understand their technology options when working on or through the web. To learn more about Andrea, visit her main site at www.legaltypist.com or connect with Andrea at http://twitter.com/legaltypist.



home  |  advertising  |  press center  |  about us  |  contact us  |  conexion international

© Legal Assistant Today Magazine