By Linda S. Jevahirian, President, Legal Search & Management, Inc.
This article was printed in The Michigan Paralegal summer 2021 issue.
A career is not a static event. It is a journey through goals that evolve over time. Like any other time-impacted event it can become static if not properly nourished. Finishing a goal can leave you feeling empty, less ambitious and out of inspiration. It can also invigorate you to start anew. Whatever the case, if you are at a fork in the road, it is time to revise your career portfolio.
Organizing your career portfolio is a chance to ponder your accomplishments, purge unnecessary and outdated materials, and create space for new experiences. I suggest creating separate digital and hard copy files for each aspect of the portfolio.
Your resume should be updated every time a career event takes place. Most people wait until they are applying for a job. It is wise to keep it out of the moth balls because with each passing year you will forget what you did, where you did it and might omit important material. College events, outdated memberships, unrelated jobs and expired skills can be deleted. Use this space to add the new items that will advance your career.
Writing samples should demonstrate excellent grammar, sentence structure, organization and analysis. If you do not have one, write one. Consider researching and drafting a memo of law or writing an article for a professional journal. In any case, old college essays become outdated and are not always your best writing. If your goals are changing, write one that aligns with your plans.
Keep a file with your degrees, transcripts, certifications and evidence of continuing legal education. While you are establishing new goals seek out opportunities to gain formal education. It could be a refresher course, an online webinar, a new certification, a new degree, or training in new technology.
A table that summarizes your specific accomplishments is a handy tool when you are asked to recall the work you did, where you did it, who supervised you and what skills you used. As you accumulate experiences you can pick and choose which entries are the most valuable and the most recent and archive the rest. You can read more about this tool in my blog at legalsearchonline.net.
If you have given any presentations keep a file with any marketing and advertising, an outline of your presentation, and if a video is available a link to it or copy of it. If you have not had an opportunity to do something in this category create one! Professional organizations are always looking for specialists to education others about different aspects of the legal field. If the organization you work for does seminars or presentations hook up with one of the presenters and offer to join the team.
Volunteering is an excellent way to gain new experiences and increase your network. If the company you work for does community outreach make time to participate – even it if it not a legal endeavor. Explore opportunities in your own community and how they might help you transition into a new career or advance the one you are in. If you are a member of a professional organization, inspire a new project and offer to lead it.
Employment references are getting more difficult to cultivate. Employers are reticent to release any personal information that will help a new employer. Make sure you get letters from your employers before you leave your job. Letters from old references who have left the field or expired should be purged. Cultivating references is a good way to establish a new network and new mentors, whether they are at your job or elsewhere.
Creating new goals, finding new interests, changing jobs, advancing in your career – these are all part of the journey you sign up for when you embark on a profession. Growth can be fun and interesting, and it can be laborious and painstaking. Whatever the case, realize that once a goal has been accomplished it makes room for a new one. Use a review and organization of your career portfolio to take stock of what you have accomplished and explore how you can use those tools to embark on new places and ideas.