The Adaptability Factor

There is an interesting chasm that we are noticing in the market right now. It is something that almost every law firm and corporation we work with has noticed as well. That chasm exists between the millennials and the baby boomers. The millennials have amazing technical skills and can complete a project, but often lack the work ethic, ability to be proactive and advanced skills that more seasoned workers possess. We often hear complaints from our clients about how the millenials are unable to take initiative and have a sense of entitlement regarding the work they do. On the flip side, the experienced workers/baby boomers, have tremendous skills and an amazing work ethic, but are unable to adapt to the changes in the market place. It is this fact, “The Adaptability Factor,”that is inhibiting a lot of the more seasoned applicants from being able to get hired and then stay employed once they are hired.

What do I mean by this? I mean that one’s ability to adapt in this market place, directly correlates to how effective or ineffective one is at getting hired and staying employed in this market. I hear a lot of job seekers over the age of 50 who scream “Ageism!” as to why they are not being hired in this market, however, I have found that adaptability has a lot more to do with hire-ability than age does. 

A perfect example of this is that my staffing firm has personally placed numerous people who are over the age of 50, 60 and sometimes even 70, however, many of these more experienced workers who do get hired are then getting fired because they are unable to adapt to the new skills that are required of them due to the changing expectations that employers have.

A few weeks ago, there was an article in the Wall Street journal about how legal secretary jobs are becoming obsolete. I disagree. I believe that legal secretary jobs are just as prevalent as ever, however, the role of the legal secretary has shifted tremendously. Years ago, it used to be one secretary to one attorney, where the secretary was interfacing with clients and acting as more of a personal assistant, in addition to filing documents.

In today’s market, it is not unheard of for a legal secretary to support, five, six or even seven attorneys. This is because the more junior associates are extremely self sufficient and the attorneys who are using legal secretaries rely on them more for technical skills and knowledge. Legal secretaries are now doing the role of word processing, paralegal work, as well as administrative work. Therefore, if you as a legal secretary cannot adapt to these new demands and expectations, your position will be eliminated. Employers everywhere are looking to cut costs and create more “hybrid” type roles where several positions are combined into one.

So how do you become more adaptable in this market if you are a more experienced worker who wants to get hired?

You shift your perspective. It will not do you any good to go around complaining about how old you are and how unfair it is that there are no jobs out there and how hard things have become. Instead, look at how fortunate you are to have 20+ years in a changing market place and how if you can use your experience to your advantage by being willing to adapt to the new climate and marketplace, you WILL be the most desirable applicant. The next time your are in a temporary role or an interview, instead of explaining why you CANNOT do something, discuss what you CAN do and how willing you are to adapt to whatever is required of you. I truly believe that legal secretaries with many years of experience still have an important place in the current market if only they are willing to adapt and figure out HOW to make it work, rather than all the reasons it can’t work.

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