Investing in and developing yourself
The obvious answer to the question of what to do once you have qualified as a legal secretary is to get a job and practice your trade. But is this all? What if you have been a legal secretary or PA for many years or you have obtained a legal secretarial position before you finish the Diploma course? The Diploma should be seen as a first step on an exciting and varied career ladder, not necessarily the final rung. Obtaining your qualification is a great achievement but, like everything else in life there is always more that can be learnt. So what might be the next step for you?
Going from a job to a career
For two different people, the same role could be seen as either a job or a stepping-stone to their career. There is nothing wrong with viewing the role you perform as a job, but if you look at it as a first step you will be better able to direct what type of work you will be doing in the future.
As a PA or legal secretary your career is driven in part by the role that you perform but also to a large degree by your own personality. You may decide that the top of your career ladder is working as a senior secretary or PA in a particular department. Alternatively you may aspire to doing some fee-earning work. Office management may be the area of practice that interests you most. Whatever you ultimately aspire to, unless you take a structured approach, it is unlikely that luck alone will produce the desired result.
How to invest in yourself
The first and hardest step is to decide what you want. By making this decision you will have a sense of direction and purpose in your career. The second step is deciding when to make this decision. It may be that before you started your first job as a legal secretary you knew exactly where you wanted to be in five years time and you are already working towards that goal. If, on the other hand, you are still trying to work things out then the good news is at least once a year there is a time for you to consider your long-term goals. This is when you have your annual review or appraisal.
Some people dread their appraisal because they believe the system is designed to identify mistakes but this is not the case. A well-structured appraisal should:
- Clarify what is expected of you
- Help you understand the objectives & priorities of your department
- Confirm your personal objectives & priorities
- Provide constructive help to improve your performance
- Help you construct your own personal development plan
By taking a positive approach to developing a career rather than just doing a job you can open the door to many other opportunities. A willingness to set long term goals and then seek the training, and invest the time and money needed to fulfil these goals will pay dividends for many years to come.