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It is impossible to pick up the newspaper today and not ponder your options for job searching. With every major law firm raising associate salaries beyond six figures, paralegals must evaluate whether they are being adequately compensated for to the value they bring to their organization. Many law firms and corporations do an excellent job retaining legal staff; others fail to see the forest for the trees and continually undervalue their paralegal employees. Whether your motivations are personal, financial, schedule-driven or all of the above, beginning to look for a new job can be daunting. Following a few of these hot tips may help you through the process and land you that great position. DO USE A RECRUITER, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE PRESSED FOR TIME There has never been a better time to use a recruiter given the state of the present job market. When you have decided that now is the time to look for a new position, you may find that time is exactly what you don’t have. Job searching is very time-consuming, even if you are able to do a lot over the Internet. Recruiters have contacts that you may not have — and it is all they do, all day long. Speaking with a recruiter about your job options and submitting a resume is just one thing you should do as part of your overall job search. DO BE SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR INTEREST IN CHANGING JOBS Inquiries come in all the time from potential job seekers about open positions they may see in a recruiter-based advertisement. If something sparks your interest, call. But certainly, if you are planning to submit a resume, you must be serious about considering a job change. Recruiters will work hardest for the most sincere job seekers; if they get the impression you are “window shopping,” their focus may change. Most recruiters are commission-based and very good at what they do. Recruiters’ people skills, combined with sales aptitude, means that they see the forest through the trees. Remember this when you work with a recruiter, and the rewards may be even greater. DO BE OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT YOUR NEEDS If you have decided to work with a recruiter on your job search, you absolutely must be clear about what your needs are and what it will take to make you turn in a resignation (and be ready for the counteroffer). Surprisingly, some paralegal job seekers are less than forthcoming with specific salary and benefits needs, which sometimes can cause trouble all around. Know what you want, and go for it. DO TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME The typical process of working with a recruiter involves a number of steps: submitting a resume, considering positions the recruiter may have open, going to interviews, receiving an offer and, finally, accepting an offer. Each step is independent of the others; all can add up to the perfect job. However, paralegal job seekers who are working with recruiters need to be careful about getting ahead of themselves: going to an interview does not mean you are leaving your firm. Although it may be the eventual result, you need to focus on the steps and be patient. When the time comes to consider an offer, trust your instincts. DO CHECK IN, WHETHER IT IS VOICE MAIL OR E-MAIL If you have submitted your resume to a few recruiting companies for placement, make sure that you are staying on top of your job search by checking in occasionally. Paralegals may sometimes submit a resume, decide that their work is done and wait for the recruiter to call. Just envision a room with resumes stacked high — whether it is a recruiting company or human-resources department at the law firm where you have always dreamed of working. If you have not heard anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean recruiters don’t care. They may just be swamped with other searches. Remember: no matter how you are approaching your job search, a big part of it is keeping on top of it every week. DON’T GET FRUSTRATED IF THINGS AREN’T GOING QUICKLY You must know the phrase “hurry up and wait.” Despite the fact that every recruiter has some war story of the two-day placement, where they found a candidate and placed them in a job in record time, most searches take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Be patient and try not to take delays personally. Even though e-mail has increased response time, most job decisions take time. DO TRY TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND TO OTHER OPPORTUNITIES The most successful job seekers are those who remain open and flexible to positions which may not have been on their radar screen but the recruiter may have open. One of the most frustrating days a recruiter can have is in trying to fill a position, locating the perfect candidate, and hearing the candidate say, “No, don’t submit me. I do not want to go downtown because of the commute,” without considering that maybe the salary could be so high as to make all the difference. And vice-versa, the candidate who says, “I only want to work downtown. I don’t have a car.” Well, if that candidate was speaking with a recruiter about the perfect job in the county, which may carry a great base salary and be accessible via public transportation, the candidate is missing the boat. Job searching is inherently about change, and those job seekers who can more readily adapt to new opportunities may end up feeling more rewarded. DON’T RELY ON SNAIL MAIL We made it through Y2K, and all the computers are working fine. Find a way to use the Internet and e-mail in your job search. Most recruiting companies are online and do a lot of their placements over the Internet. This is almost mandatory if you are using a recruiter to help you find temporary positions, because of the inherent need to mobilize people quickly in some cases, like document reviews. DO LET THE RECRUITER KNOW WHAT FIRMS OR CORPORATIONS YOU HAVE ALREADY CONTACTED ON YOUR OWN The recruiter will appreciate your openness about what firms or corporations you have applied for jobs with and the status of those searches. It narrows their focus on your behalf. You should also keep a list of where you have submitted and what the responses are. This list should include the places where recruiters are submitting you. If you submitted to a blind ad, make sure to keep a copy of the ad. Cut it out and tape it to the cover letter you sent for future reference. Every good recruiter can read a blind ad and determine whether or not it is one of their searches. Hopefully these few tips can assist job seekers as they evaluate their employment situations and endeavor to find better positions for themselves and their families. Now is a good time to review your resume and think about new positions. Rosalyn S. Calistri is president of Oxford Legal Associates Ltd. This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Forum, Issue 2, Vol. 2000.

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