The last thing anyone wants to do in the midst of an economic downturn is move cross-country and look for work. But that is exactly what I did at the end of August. My husband’s employer transferred us from Cincinnati to Austin,Texas.
I had two months advance notice to plan and prepare for the move. Having worked as a litigation paralegal at a large Ohio firm, I enjoyed senior status, worked with great attorneys on interesting cases and earned a nice salary. Now I had to start all over in a brand new town. In short, I was terrified.
The first thing I did was update my resume. I had not updated it in over seven years. I asked co-workers, bloggers (thanks Lynne!), friends and relatives to review my resume. I started researching how to write a winning resume. I probably revised it 50-plus times.
I put feelers out in the Austin area before my move. I joined the Capital Area Paralegal Association and gained access to their job bank. I got an Austin cell phone number ASAP. I researched the job market and salary range for Austin paralegals.
I also learned that most paralegals in Texas are licensed by the state bar. No problem, I thought. However, when I contacted the state bar association, I was dismayed, upset and worried to learn that you must work under the supervision of a Texas attorney for three years before you can sit for the bar's licensure exam for paralegals. Uh-oh. Undeterred, I applied for jobs that required licensure, explaining that I had a bachelor's degree, plus over 10 years solid experience.
I did meet a wonderful contact through the local paralegal association who gave me all kinds of tips, introduced me to people and encouraged me. It took me 53 days, but I found a great job in Austin.
First of all, I treated the job search itself like a full-time job. Here are some of my tips:
- Network; tell everyone you are looking for a job. I even put a notice up on my old employer’s internal message board to see if any partners knew Austin attorneys. I generated some leads.
- Join the local paralegal association and gain access to their job bank.
- Think outside the box. I looked for paralegal work on Craigslist, the State of Texas jobs website, and trolled the website of every law firm in town. I applied at insurance companies, mortgage companies and banks. Paralegal skills translate well into these fields.
- Line up good references. I approached partners and former employers before I left town to make sure they would be willing to say good things about me.
- Apply for jobs that are not in your field IF you think you can do the job. That is, in fact, how I landed my new job. Turns out they loved my resume, I clicked with the hiring manager and they fast-tracked me for hire. Having worked in complex litigation for years, I landed an in-house senior paralegal position with an organization that oversees compliance and enforcement of electric power plants in Texas. I have no experience in electric law.
The most important tip is to not give up. I obsessively looked for work and did my share of complaining to anyone who would listen. I applied for over 50 jobs but I only generated three interviews and actually received two job offers on the same day. I kept telling myself that unemployment was temporary. The power of positive thinking or doing my homework? You decide.
Jennifer Taylor is a senior paralegal with the Texas Regional Entity in Austin, Texas.