Having a network of professional contacts and colleagues is a huge advantage in today’s working world. It gives you a support system full of people who do the same type of work you do. It provides a group of knowledgeable people to contact if you have any questions, concerns, or need to refer someone or obtain a reference. And we all know it’s easier to find employment or grow in the position you have when you “know people.”
But how does one build their professional network? At Center for Advanced Legal Studies, we want our students and graduates to thrive in their paralegal careers, and that includes growing their professional network and always sharpening their knowledge and skill-set. But that’s not always easy. Maybe you’re like me, and networking doesn’t come quite as easily to you as it does to some of our more extroverted colleagues. But everyone can make the conscious decision to pursue building his or her network. Here are 3 simple steps to help augment your career with a strong network of legal professionals.
1. Take Advantage of Training Time
Whether you’re still in paralegal school or taking CLE workshops to advance your paralegal career, use that time wisely to get to know the people around you. You never know if a fellow paralegal student may continue on to law school and become a paralegal employer years down the road, or if the person sitting next to you at a seminar may work at a law firm where you’ve been wanting to interview. Also, making friends with your fellow students means you have a group of people to commiserate with when you have a tough assignment, and people to encourage and congratulate you along your career path. Engage with the people around you, make friends, and exchange contact information whenever you’re in a time of training for your paralegal career!
2. Join Professional Networks and Attend Events
There are myriads of national and local professional associations you can join, and these associations host networking events, CLE seminars, workshops, conventions, and fun parties. There’s no reason not to join and attend events. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, make small talk, exchange cards, add to your paralegal knowledge, and make friends! I promise you won’t regret it. Here is a short list of paralegal associations to consider:
Here’s a list of some of the associations local to Center for Advanced Legal Studies’ campus in Texas:
Not from Texas? Click here for Paralegal Today's list of paralegal associations and to search for associations specific to your state.
3. Use Social Media
With today’s technology, you don’t have to be a wiz with small talk to be a great networker. Social media has made professional networking even easier. Many people use Facebook and Twitter to network (and for heaven’s sake, keep your accounts professional, paralegals!), but the primary professional networking platform of all the social media sites is LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world. You can find and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals. A professional network of contacts gives you an advantage in your career. When I was a headhunter, I was always on LinkedIn searching for candidates to fill positions. […]
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, then create one as soon as possible. When you join, create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise, skills, and accomplishments. You can then form connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Through your network, you can:
- Be discovered for business opportunities
- Gain new insights from joining discussions with other professionals
- Discover inside connections that can help you land a job
- Join groups related to your desired position (Paralegals, join The Paralegal Network or CALS on LinkedIn!)”
To Wrap It Up
You don’t have to be an expert schmoozer or bang down people’s doors to grow your paralegal network and ultimately advance your paralegal career. You simply have to make a little effort to connect with the fellow professionals around you, whether in school, at professional events, or online. So, paralegals and paralegal students, get out there and build your professional network!
Katie Fridsma is the Administrative and Marketing Assistant at Center for Advanced Legal Studies. If you are interested in learning more about our paralegal programs and our career services, visit www.paralegal.edu or contact us at 1-800-446-6931 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing how we can help you build your career and professional network!