Heather Jones, a Student Member, shares her success after completing the Legal Secretaries Diploma course.
We are all aware that the credit crunch is biting big time, and the perception is that there are no jobs out there, so just sit tight and wait for the ‘gloom and doom’ to pass. However, my recent experience proves that even in the current climate, having a positive attitude can help you achieve what you desire. I would like to share it with other students and advise you all to strive and ‘believe in yourself’.
Last summer I completed the Legal Secretaries Diploma Course offered by The Institute of Legal Secretaries & PAs, and it gave me a real boost in terms of confidence and self-esteem. I was surprised how much I looked forward to the weekly class. It was so beneficial meeting like-minded students, and not only did we encourage each other to complete the achievement tests and reinforce what we had learnt through background reading, we were soon chatting about our experiences and aspirations, passing on tips about websites and recruitment agencies, and generally exploring our options. I remember a fellow student kindly took the time to email the whole class when a legal secretarial position at the council where she worked became vacant.
Once I had completed the course I realised that although I was quite satisfied with my job in a legal department at a Borough Council, it wouldn’t do me any harm to ‘test’ the job market.
First of all I did some preparatory work. I took advantage of my year’s free Membership of the Institute (given to all students) and downloaded the documents in the Institute’s journal archive which focus on useful hints and tips. Members can apply for a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificate through the Institute. All they need to do is advise the Institute that they have undertaken CPD in the past year for a minimum period of 12 hours. This can include internal training courses, attending seminars or reading relevant material. I knew that having a CPD certificate would prove to potential employers that I was serious about my personal development. I also updated my CV to include my new skills.
Once I had received my CPD certificate, I checked the websites of the recruitment partners that were recommended by the Institute. My favourite was the ‘Totallylegal.com’ website, and I visited it on a regular basis. I was surprised by the number of legal secretarial jobs that were advertised.
Just before Christmas, I saw a Legal Administrator’s job advertised at a social housing organisation in London. I read the job specification and realised that my knowledge of the civil justice system, court forms and legal procedures which had been covered in the course would help me enormously in completing my application form, which I did online. Although the document was quite lengthy, I was able to cut and paste quite a bit of the content direct from my CV. I didn’t try to complete the application form immediately – I kept going back to it and doing a bit at a time. It kept me focused and was actually a very good practical exercise.
Once I was shortlisted and invited for an interview, I did feel quite nervous, but I also realised how fortunate I was to be selected and I saw it as another positive exercise.
I researched the organisation on the website and thought up questions to ask the interviewers. I reminded myself that not only were they interviewing me, I was also interviewing them. This was my opportunity to assess whether I would like to work for these people – were they approachable, friendly, what sort of questions would they ask me? This made me feel more in control of the situation. I took along a folder with the background information I had found on the system, my list of questions, a notebook and a pen. I also thought about typical questions that they might ask me, such as: Why do you want this job? What are your strengths? Tell us about a situation that has made you proud. It helped me in the interview, having these things in front of me. The interviewers could see that I was a serious candidate. They were also pleased that I had written down some questions to ask. I was able to bring in to the conversation the legal course I had just completed and how it had given me the confidence to strive for better things.
I am pleased to say that I was offered the job the day after my interview – and I immediately accepted!
As I embark on my new career I would say ‘Look, learn, listen to your instincts and you will succeed’. This positive thinking helped me in my desire to achieve a better job, and I wish each and every of the Institute’s students similar success.
Heather Jones, Student Member