The Washington State Paralegal Association sent us their new "Unofficial LinkedIn User Guide" they developed for new paralegal LinkedIn users. This simple guide is fantastic. I wish I had it when I started instead of making the bloopers I made!
While you may (or may not) be Linking, Tweating or Facing away, the guide is an indication as to just how far and wide social media has become. I was curious to know what importance social media had for the paralegal career so I asked Brian Haberly, president of the association and one of the writers of the guide, to give me his take. He felt very strongly about the career advantages:
"For paralegals seeking jobs in today's economy," he said, "it is essential to have a strong and ever expanding network of personal contacts utilizing online social media. Certain "well seasoned" paralegals I've met still exhibit the ostrich "head in the sand" view that social networking is only for a younger generation than their own, and is something that they neither understand nor even want to learn more about.
Social networking is not a fad that is going to come and go like Beanie Babies and Pokemon card collecting. Rather, it is clear from the rise in popularity of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter, that social networking is seen as an essential communication tool by a growing percentage of the world's population. In fact, the fastest growing age segment of Facebook users is the segment that is 35 years old and older.
Social networking done correctly gives you a chance to establish a strong personal brand. It used to be said that your reputation can take a lifetime to establish and only one indiscretion to ruin. In the new media, your reputation needs to be determined by you, and not by what others say about you!
Have you set up a LinkedIn page yet? The Washington State Paralegal Association actively uses the free "Groups" feature to reach both current and prospective members with news about association events and information of interest to paralegals both inside and outside of Washington. We recognized that many of our members are still new to social networking, so we recently published an "Unofficial LinkedIn Users Guide" to help overcome fears and to bring people up to speed mor quickly. We welcome new potential WSPA group members to join us!
Social media gives paralegals the chance to build credibility, establish new relationships, and demonstrate subject matter competency. Be quick to praise others you see doing a good job, and utilize the Recommendations feature of LinkedIn to help build the reputations of others.
Some social media "newbies" see the benefits of networking only from a self-centered view of manipulating others, as if they were trying to press business cards into the hands of people that neither asked for them nor wanted them. Properly done, use of social media (social networking sites and especially blogs) gives you the chance to be generous with your knowledge. I would challenge my fellow paralegals to freely give of their time, their talents, and their personal contacts, so that you can make others successful, without always trying to get something back in return.
Call it good karma, being professional, being a friend, or just plain being the best person you can be. When you freely give of yourself to help others, you will get back much more in rewards (emotional AND material) than what you have shared. I have met some of the best and brightest in the paralegal profession, and the most successful ones have freely shared some of their best ideas with me to help me be more successful in my own career and in running a statewide not-for profit professional association.
Think about your image from the view of someone you don't yet know. It will be extremely difficult to overcome the image of a drink holding, partying, swimsuit wearing or Halloween costume bedecked individual on a Facebook page and replace that message with a mental image of a top quality and serious job candidate that you would want working down the hall and potentially meeting with your clients.
Be tough in your self-appraisal. If you are already involved in social media, do you need to "spruce up" your online image to make it more professional and less folksy? Then do it! Get started today!"
Ah, those motivators. Love 'em. I'd like to stay and chat about this now but I'm off to twit and link.