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Paralegal Resume Killer: Quitting Your Job – With No New Job in Hand

Paralegal Resume Killer:  Quitting Your Job – With No New Job in Hand

Who in the paralegal profession hasn’t had days at work when you’ve fantasized for eight solid hours (or more) about loudly announcing, “I QUIT!” and then going home to a quiet low-key life that doesn’t include non-stop deadlines, brand new problems replacing the ones you just solved 15 minutes ago, and attorneys or clients who are sometimes less than appreciative of your efforts? I bet on a really bad day you’ve even convinced yourself that you’d be better off bagging groceries for a living, but a look at your checkbook nixed that half-baked idea pronto.

Most of us take a deep breath and live to see a better day – to realize the deadlines get met, to feel good about being a gifted problem-solver, and to receive an apology and a “thanks” from the attorney or client – but I’ve heard from quite a few paralegals who didn’t take that deep breath and instead created a bigger problem for themselves: trying to find another paralegal job after quitting suddenly, without a plan for re-employment.

People in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Pens

In case you think I’m speaking from an ivory tower here, early in my career I was sitting in an office with another paralegal when an irate attorney threw a pen at us. I know, I was pretty stunned, too. He was yelling – but not about anything we’d done, which was bad enough – and the next thing we knew, an expensive platinum fountain pen hurtled between our chairs and hit the wall behind us.

My initial reaction was going to sound like Johnny’s unforgettable statement in Dirty Dancing, “NOBODY puts Baby in a corner!” Only mine was going to be, “NOBODY throws pens at Lynne!” I didn’t say that, and I also didn’t follow my initial impulse to quit on the spot, but I walked out of the attorney’s office, despite his apologies, with the unshakeable feeling that it was time to move on. Within several months, I located a better employment situation for me, and left without burning any bridges. (I’m pleased to report that no one’s thrown anything at me since.)

Call Me Before You Quit

In all of the instances where a paralegal has contacted me after quitting a full-time job, with or without the requisite two weeks’ notice, I’ve thought, “I wish you’d contacted me BEFORE you quit. I would have suggested that you reconsider – unless you have another job offer on the table, or don’t need to work.” The only circumstances that I can think of where I’d agree that it’s a good idea to walk off a job without another one lined up is if the paralegal is in immediate danger of physical harm and/or severe emotional damage. Otherwise, especially in this economy, I recommend trying to “tough out” most difficult employment situations, while quietly seeking a more suitable job.

Several very qualified paralegals with wonderful resumes that have walked away from jobs have told me that they were genuinely surprised when they were not quickly hired by another firm. I’ve reviewed their resumes, been duly impressed, and then pointed out the stickler in an employers’ job market: how are you going to explain the reason you left your last job? Economic layoffs and relocation are easy to address in a cover letter or an interview – and are easily understandable – but walking away from a job in hand, even if your boss is difficult or management is clueless, is much harder to explain.

Bottom Line

If finding another job is best for you but your household relies on your income, don’t simply turn in your notice (or worse, pack up your desk and leave with no notice) and trust that another employer will immediately recognize that you have a value greater than rubies and welcome you into its ranks with no hard questions asked. That difficult-to-explain gap in your employment can be a “resume killer”, especially in a large pile of resumes from just as, if not more qualified, and currently employed applicants.

Instead, continue to be the very best professional that you can be, even in challenging circumstances, and direct your energies into networking and actively seeking another job. The old adage, “It’s easier to find a job when you already have one,” may seem like a cliché, but it’s not. There’s even a long line of people these days that want that job bagging groceries.

3 Responses to Paralegal Resume Killer: Quitting Your Job – With No New Job in Hand

  1. First, I have to brag about the fact that I have never had one of "those days" at my current (and to date, only) paralegal job. But I have had those days at former jobs where I just wanted to stick it to the man and walk away. Thank goodness, my parents raised me with the "easier to get a job when you have one" mentality!

    Especially in today's market, it seems very important to be employed when you go looking. It's unfortunate and difficult, but even those individuals who were simply laid off because the company/firm had no choice are less likely to be hired than the person who is currently employed and looking. I think the mentality is that firms/companies kept the best employees, so the currently employed ones are the best. We know this is not necessarily the case, but it is how the market is running right now. Employers are in a place where they either have to be or get to be picky. Great post! Very timely.

  2. Having had to resign my wonderful job to go with hubby to TX for his job, believe me I am terrified about how long it will take me to find another job. In the past, I've been able to find jobs quickly. Not so now. I've applied at many firms in Austin and so far nary an interview.

    Good post Lynne. Everyone has days when they'd love to tell their boss to shove it. My advice, go to Starbux, cool down and then get back to work.

  3. Great post! I know someone who left a job, when the job market was good, and it took him 3 years to find a new position. For me, having too many days when I wanted to walk out was good motivation to get out and do the work to find a new position. When the search got to be frustrating another day like that would come along and help me re-commit to the search.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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