How to Find a New Job

Tips for job fairs and using online job resources.

By Cathie Gandel and Hilary Sterne
Additional reporting by Neena Samuel and Kathryn M. Tyranski from Reader's Digest | March 2009

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What Work-at-Home Jobs Are All About

If you’re willing to do your homework and use common sense, you can find real toil-from-your-dining-table jobs, ranging from telemarketing and virtual assistance to software development and graphic design. It will also take you only a few clicks to see scams worthy of a loan-seeking Nigerian prince. “Any kid in his basement can make a decent-looking website,” warns Alison Southwick of the Better Business Bureau. Indeed, one industry observer put the ratio of scams to legitimate jobs at an astonishing 54 to 1. (Check out BBB guidelines.) And no matter what, don’t send anyone money, account numbers, or your Social Security number until you’re well along in the hiring process and know exactly whom you are dealing with.

How to Find a New JobThinkstock Images/Jupiterimages
Arise.com, workingsolutions.com, liveops.com, alpineaccess.com, and westathome.com specialize in outsourced call center jobs that can be done from home and generally pay $7 to $14 an hour. Read the fine print, though, and you’ll find that some pay only per minute you’re on the phone (like LiveOps, which takes calls for infomercial customers), while others guarantee an hourly rate. There can be charges for a background and credit check (not unusual in this industry) as well as training, incorporation, and equipment fees: a headset ($75 or so), high- speed Internet access, a dedicated landline, and current software.

Then there are sites such as virtualassistants.com and tjobs.com, which are in effect job boards that charge a fee for access to listings. The trade-off is that you don’t have to weed through postings to find ones geared toward home workers and there are fewer scam listings. But anyone willing to do the work can generally find the same listings on free job boards, then do the due diligence him- or herself. Momcorps.com is a free job board geared toward stay-at-home mothers as well as a staffing service that lets you post a detailed profile. Pay $9.95 a month and your profile jumps to the top of an employer’s search.

Virtual marketplace sites—like elance.com, odesk.com, and guru.com—link up freelancers who have specialized skills (like video editing, blog writing, or Web developing) with employers by having candidates bid for jobs. Grumblers complain that they’re competing with offshore workers who give lowball figures to win assignments. Sometimes the better listings cost extra-from $9.95 per month to $129.94 per quarter, depending on your field and the site.

Some of the most attractive work-at-home jobs can be found at vipdesk.com, which hires virtual personal assistants for clients. The catch? You need to submit a résumé and writing sample, agree to a background and credit check, interview by phone twice, train for ten days, provide references, and be available to work nights, weekends, and holidays. And you may have to wait. Hourly pay is $14 to $20.

What Happens at a Job Fair

The word fair doesn’t exactly describe the events that bring together recruiters and job seekers, or even your odds of landing a job offer at this venue. Today, fewer companies send fewer recruiters to these meet-and-greet gatherings, which are drawing larger numbers of applicants. Still, if you’re looking for an entry-level position, a mid-level career change, or a job in a specific geographic area, a job fair may come under the “leave no stone unturned strategy,” says John Challenger. Bob Westerkamp, general manager of Targeted Job Fairs, offers these tips:

  • Preregister online to avoid the lines, and research the companies you want to approach.
  • Dress as though you’re going on a job interview. You are.
  • Take multiple copies of your résumé.
  • Arrive early to get the complete list of jobs that recruiters are offering that day.
  • Network with everyone, not just recruiters.

Online Job Resources

Pounding the pavement for work has been trumped by pounding the keyboard. But with 50,000 career-related sites to click on, where’s a wage earner to start?

  • If you’re new to the game, try the clearinghouses of helpful information first.
  • Then go to the big job boards, the aggregators (they search listings on the major job sites), and sites with a broad focus and a similarly broad reach.
  • Next, turn your attention to sites devoted specifically to jobs in your field or your hometown.

But first things first: For privacy and security, set up a separate e-mail account used solely when wearing your job hunter’s hat—with a professional-sounding name and address (not “totalhottie891″). Replace identifying details, such as your name, home address, home phone number, etc., with your new e-mail address. Don’t refer to your current employer by name, either; describe it in general terms. And to further ensure that your current boss or HR manager won’t stumble onto your résumé, use the blocking feature many sites have to restrict access.

Give thought to keywords, those searchable terms that will determine whether your résumé is plucked from the ether. Put these in either your job description or a series at the bottom of your résumé preceded by the word keywords. The better your list, the higher the chances that you’ll trigger a search engine match. Describe yourself as precisely as possible, using job titles, specialties, skills, award names, acronyms, and trademarked products if applicable (not “software engineer,” but “principal IT software system engineer, developer, skilled in Java with strategic knowledge of J2EE and senior management experience”). Browse postings and borrow words from ones you’d want to pursue.