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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.
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.
First Stop: The ClearingHouses
These umbrella sites gather valuable information, statistics, advice, and links to even more resources under one URL. They’re the place to bone up before plunging in.
- job-hunt.org—Don’t let the tiny type turn you off. This free employment portal is vacuum-packed with solid advice (including a great list of tips for self-promotion without self-puffery) and links to 11,000 employers and job search resources.
- careerjournal.com—Even those without “executive vice president” on their business cards will find useful content at this offering from the Wall Street Journal, including articles from the paper itself and more than 125,000 listings, most for senior executives.
- quintcareers.com—A staggering 3,500 pages of content can be viewed at this award-winning site, including “best of” job site compilations and links, tutorials, and advice aimed at everyone from students to career switchers.
Supersite Me: The Big Job Boards
- monster.com—Like Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock: slick, hefty, powerful, and often annoying. The best-known of the supersites, with at least 200 million postings, has a tedious registration process and more pop-ups than a toaster. But the sheer volume of listings (which you can search quickly or by using more specific criteria), plus an easy résumé-upload feature, makes it worth a look.
- careerbuilder.com—Owned jointly by three major newspaper chains, this meat-and-potatoes site posts not only paid listings but also classifieds from 200 papers across the country. Consequently, there are more clerical and blue-collar positions than at other sites.
- hotjobs.yahoo.com—Less spam (though plenty of ads), a pleasant interface, and seemingly fewer bogus listings distinguish this Internet portal’s megaboard, where you can save searches, see the number of times your résumé is viewed, and sign up for e-mail alerts.
- indeed.com—The home page couldn’t be simpler: What/Where/Find Jobs. You can drill down deep at this banner-ad-free search engine, zeroing in on relevant jobs among the one million plus in the index by salary, location within five miles, and more.
- simplyhired.com—It’s easy to use the intuitive interface to search everything that’s out there (the good, the bad, and the Ponzi) at this site—which indexes more than three million jobs—and then tailor the results, filtering by job type, education, work experience, company name, revenue, size, or other characteristics. The site is linked to the networking site LinkedIn.
- jobster.com—Half job board, half search engine, this site makes you register to create a résumé but not to search listings by keyword and location or to sign up for alerts. It’s uncluttered and not clunky, but you won’t find tons of resources or information here.
- jobfox.com—It’s called the eHarmony of job search sites because it uses a five-point method to match up employers and job hunters in over 300 professions and at over 3,000 companies. Genius idea, but what you gain in relevance, you lose in immediate gratification, which can be frustrating. So can the very long registration process.
- craigslist.org—The place where people go to swap their used power tools now draws a fair share of local employers and has become a good source for freelance types. There are no ads on this no-frills site, just a simple search tool and a flagging system that tends to weed out scammers.
- oodle.com—Much smaller but craftier than classifieds king Craigslist, this combination classifieds board and aggregator indexes mostly non- corporate, nontechnical jobs and organizes them by area.
Aggregator Sites: The Major Job Search Engines
The Little Guys