When should you start thinking about professionalism? In fact, what IS professionalism?
Merriam-Webster defines it as marks of a professional.
So it appears the most logical thing to do would be for you to think about the most professional person you know. What makes them professional in your opinion? Here are a few things that might have popped in to your mind:
- Work ethic
- Manner of dress
Of course, you may have other things that popped inside your mind. I am just going to stick with these four core ideals for this post.
When should you start thinking about professionalism? You should start thinking about professionalism while you are studying to be a paralegal. Why? Because, frankly, old habits die hard. When you start thinking of yourself as a professional, you start learning as one and you start behaving as one. I understand that you don’t feel like you are a professional because you are still attending class. So? You are more professional than those that didn’t choose to get an education or a professional career path. You have also chosen a profession that requires certain things of you as an individual.
What does this mean for you while you are completing your education?
- Come to class on time
- Be prepared for the lecture
- Turn in your assignments on time
- If you have questions about an assignment, ask
- Be cordial to your instructor, administration, and your peers
Manner of Dress
It is said that we only look as good as we feel. To a point, that’s true. I feel just as much self-worth in a pair of jeans and t-shirt as I do in the attire you all see me in on campus. However, when I am dressed in my work clothes it is almost as if a switch is flipped in my mind. I have a huge closet. Huge. It could almost double as a small office. I have lots and lots of shoes. I even have to keep clothes at my boyfriend’s apartment because I have so many.
Guess what? I don’t spend a lot of money on my clothes. I shop at thrift stores and I devour the clearance racks. I have clothing purchase rules. I will not spend more than $10 on a skirt or shirt. I will not spend more than $40 on a pair of shoes.
So, when should you worry about how you dress? Now. You will notice a change. Does it take a little more time to get ready? Maybe. I wake up at six. I am ready go by 6:30 most mornings. That is getting dressed, doing my hair, and doing light make up.
You don’t need high dollar clothing. You just need clothing that makes you FEEL like the professional you are going to be in a few short months. There are also places that can help you get business attire.
You have an image to sell. You ARE a product whether you realize it or not. That’s just part of life.
When should you start worrying about your time management? Now. You need to learn good time management as a student. That will project on to you in a positive manner. Your supervising attorney and the court won’t allow you to be late just because you felt like sleeping in or didn’t feel like writing a brief. In fact, that would make you incompetent. Ethics state we need to be both diligent and competent. Use common sense. Don’t you want people to be on time or do things for you when it is supposed to be completed?
Don’t get out into the professional legal world and be fed to the wolves. Learn to manage your time now. If you need help, I am more than willing to assist you. There are many good (free) calendar options that we can choose from to get you set for success.
Most paralegals bill their time. You need to know how to manage your time. You will have more than one deadline. How will you manage those if you can’t manage what you have now? Don’t let procrastination hurt you. You are paying for your education whether you are here or not. Get the most from it.
When should you worry about your attitude? Again, the answer is now. You are taking on a career that requires you to be many things to many people. You will be the right hand person for an attorney. You will coddle the clients that are emotionally distraught. You will calm those that are angry. One thing you shouldn’t neglect is YOUR attitude.
Every day is not good, but you can find something good in every day. Start trying to find the silver lining in ALL circumstances (no matter how absurd it may seem at the time).
On occasion, it IS okay to feel a little proud or egotistical. You worked hard to get where you are and not everyone can do what you do. However, it is NOT okay to treat people as if you are better than they are…ever. My grandmother taught me that no matter how smart or talented I am, someone will come along that is smarter or more talented. That’s just life.
Your attitude can make or break a situation.