December 11, 2017

Are You Happy? Finding the Right Fit in Your Paralegal Career

By:  Andrea Yannuzzi, The Legal Intelligencer

This year has been one of many changes for me. I have come to the realization that if you are not happy with a situation then the only thing you can do is change it. There are not many things in life that we can control but our happiness is definitely something we need to care for and nurture.

Trying to find the right fit for yourself in your paralegal career can be a challenge, especially in the beginning. When you are first starting out, you may not even know what area of law is best suited for you. Thinking you know what you want to do based on a class is completely different from ­practicing in that area every day. It might take you a while to find the area of law that you are really passionate about. But even when you find it, you might find yourself looking for the right fit with the right employer. Not every employee-employer relationship is ideal. You will find that there are some employers who do not take the time to train new employees and it might feel like you are just being thrown into the fire. Some attorneys do not know how to properly utilize a paralegal and you may have to go the extra mile to show them everything that you are capable of doing. And a more current trend is firms who would like to find paralegals who can also serve as a secretary/legal assistant. I am all for teamwork and I have never been one to shy away from offering help when I see that a co-worker is drowning in work. However, I must admit that filling the secretary/legal assistant role is not something I have had much experience with. I have been a paralegal for over 20 years and it’s only recently that I have been required to add these new skills. However, being adaptable to every situation is important. It’s essential to remember that any new skills you acquire will only make me you a more versatile employee.

Happiness in your job can come not only from the work you are doing but from the interpersonal relationships you have with your co-workers. In some workplaces it is easier to interact with those around you and build up work friendships. However, some environments do not allow this to happen. It could be because the firm or company that you work for is so large that you can feel overwhelmed. Or it could be because your firm or company is so small that you feel like you are coming into an already well established routine and do not want to insert yourself into other people’s business. Either situation can make for a lonely day. It is up to you to decide how to handle the situation but just know that putting yourself out there can only help you in the long run. Learning how to fit in with new co-workers will go a long way in enabling you to find your groove and figure out if you are in the right environment. There are times when it will not take that long for you to feel like the job is not right for you and sometimes it will take a longer time. Either way, you should listen to your gut when it tells you something. Good or bad, only you will know what is right for you. If there is even one area of your life where you are not content, that feeling can seep into the rest of your existence. If you are not happy at work it can make you cranky and frustrated at home. Since you cannot take your frustrations out while in the office it is very easy for those ­feelings to spill out when you are around your family or friends. The same goes for your personal life. If there is something that is making you unhappy it can color the way you handle ­everything else. Soon your unhappiness is affecting everything and everyone around you. Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the big picture to see what needs to change.

When I speak with paralegal students, I try to convey how much I love what I do. I honestly believe that being a paralegal is my passion. But I also try to convey that you should not have to settle. If you are not satisfied with your job than it might be time to start thinking about a change. It is OK to admit when a situation is not the right fit for you. No matter how scary it is to start over, it is better than being unhappy every day. As I said before, being ­unhappy in one aspect of your life seeps into ­everything you do. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Sure, you could end up ­regretting your choice, but you could also end up regretting not going for it. Being unhappy can be very stressful. Who wants to live every day like that? I certainly do not want to get up in the morning and dread the day ahead. I would rather be content and ­excited. Don’t let fear hold you back.

In the end it is up to each of us to decide what work environment works best for us. If you are not happy doing the things that you are doing then it might be time to move on. Having a good network of friends and ­colleagues in your field can help you to reach out and find out what other people are experiencing. Having that sounding board of people who can relate to your experiences is invaluable. Their feedback or advice can be the difference between you looking at your current job with a new appreciation or deciding that it’s time for you to start your job search. Having the right contacts could lead you to your next adventure. But just remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The job that you think is holding you back might just end up being the job that was meant for you. Sometimes it takes leaving something behind for you to realize what you had. It is a hard lesson to learn but it is one I think many people can relate to. I am going to end this year with an ending and a beginning. But I’m OK with that because I know that it is right for me. I am embracing it because with experience comes wisdom and I know that my happiness is the most important thing.