Thursday, May 5, 2011

What About All Those "Work From Home" Opportunities?

We’ve all seen the ads – “Stuff envelopes in the comfort of your own home and earn hundreds of dollars!!!” There’s a small fee for your moneymaking kit, typically $47 - $97 nowadays, depending on how much money you want to make.

So How Does it Work?

A friend of mine, years ago, signed up for one of these programs, so I learned from his experience. He was to get $1 for every envelope he stuffed and sent out. I looked it over and it seemed to me that he could probably stuff 50 in an hour.

There was a big catch, though: Danny assumed that he’d stuff the envelopes and ship them back to the company, and they’d pay him $1 for each stuffed envelope. When he got his moneymaking kit, though, he learned that he had to stuff the envelopes and then mail them directly to consumers, after they sent him $1 requesting the free sample. He was the one responsible for finding those consumers, though – people who’d send him $1 apiece for the samples.

They made it all sound very easy. They recommended he go to different stores, community centers and the like – wherever there was a “public” bulletin board – and post ads for the free samples with his address for people to send him $1 for shipping and handling. “Thousands of people see those bulletin boards every day – imagine how much you can make if only 10% respond!!!”

Today, of course, they recommend using the Internet. Hundreds of millions of people use the Internet daily, but it’s doubtful that this “free sample for $1 (or $2, or $5, or whatever)” offer will generate enough interest to provide hundreds of dollars weekly to the hundreds or thousands of people who sign up for this particular scheme.

Are there any legitimate work-from-home opportunities?

Yes, and they’re growing. Last week, I discussed online employment, which is primarily oriented toward computer skills like software engineering and website design, as well as other business skills like HR management or accounting. Some companies are successfully outsourcing communication-oriented tasks, like customer service and other call center operations, to people working form their homes. Some of the more well-known companies offering at-home employment are West at Home, Alpine Access, Working Solutions, Arise and Team Double-Click. These jobs are generally oriented toward service and communication (like customer service), not production (like stuffing envelopes).

Anything Else?

All the usual caveats apply, such as “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” and “don’t pay to get a job.” One special thing to keep in mind when looking for a work-from-home job is that most are paid on an hourly basis, and usually have excellent ways of making sure their at-home workers are actually doing the work they’re being paid for. In addition, there’s a chance you’ll be classified as an independent contractor. This means that you won’t have any taxes withheld from your pay; however, you’re still required to pay income tax, social security tax and Medicare tax.

- Dale

After a long career in Human Resources, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dress For Success: How Your Work Wardrobe Can Help You Land and Keep the Job

Workplace dress code is a line that is too often crossed. While the handbook rules are usually followed, employees often schlep into work looking sloppy. You wouldn’t turn in a resume written in pencil so don’t walk around dressed in one big “I don’t care.” A little thoughtfulness can go a long way to help clean up your interview or workplace look. The way you dress often reveals how you work. Do you cut corners? Walk the line? Lag behind? Completely ignore how you’re dressing because you’re here to work not to be in a fashion show? I’ve heard that one before. If you have any intention of keeping that good impression and moving ahead in your field, keep reading.

In any workplace and on any interview, the key is to feel comfortable and dress professional from head to toe. Clothes should be fresh, not wrinkled, and should fit you instead of being too big or too small. Accessories should work with you not against you. I once almost turned a woman down who was interviewing for a job because she had about seven rings on and a collection of earrings. She seemed excellent on paper and in person but I wondered why she didn’t rethink wearing her entire collection of sterling silver on her hands. Pare down. Less is more.

A woman on a popular job forum asked if wearing skirts and dresses made her look older and perhaps not as interested in advancing her career. Wearing dresses and skirts is perfectly acceptable as long as they are professional. The real danger lies in not keeping your wardrobe up to date. While some items such as button-ups are timeless, out of style clothes can make you look stuck in the past. Show that you take your career just as seriously now as when you first interviewed by dressing with the times. That doesn’t mean you have to dress like everyone else or go out and buy new clothes every six months. Just make sure you don’t wear anything that screams “I’ve been rocking this for twenty years!” Take some time one Saturday afternoon to purge your closet from clothes that don’t work anymore.

One of the most important parts of your outfit is your choice of shoes. Shoes tell a lot about a person. They can reveal if you’re trying too hard or too little. While the office is not the place for stripper heels, it’s also not the place for scuffed up shoes, ratty sandals or muddy boots (that is, unless you work in a yard of some sort). Complete your work attire with shoes that will support you all day and that look polished and snappy.

If wearing jeans is appropriate in your office, any old jeans will not do. Oh no, no. Pants should always fit you well and should not be frayed or torn or obviously worn out. It’s awesome that your workplace is so casual, but you still want to look put together and professional. Choose jeans that add to your resume, not detract from it. Try looking for jeans that are cut like slacks or are nicely tailored and will look good with dress shoes. Your attire should say, “I’m serious about making this company look good.”

The bottom line is to be intentional. Let the whole world know that you still care. Show up to the office working your A-game from head to toe and call me when you get that promotion.

- Sara

Sara Triana Mitchell is a freelance writer who still dresses for work in her home office.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Reinvention is a Process, Not a Switch

As you think about, perhaps visualize, and even plan your reinvention, it’s important – very, very important – to remember that reinvention is a process.
A process, by its very nature, is going to take time to evolve, and it could very well be a bumpy road. Do you remember the last time you learned something new? Perhaps you took up knitting or learned to surf or tried baking bread. These are all skills and they take time and practice before you get it right. New learners make mistakes along the way – you might drop stitches, or fall off the surf board repeatedly, or pull the flattest loaf of bread you’ve ever seen out of the oven a few times before you get it right. Even when you get good at something, you’ll still be learning – the bread will sometimes fail to rise, and that’s just life.
Reinventing yourself and choosing a new career path can cause all kinds of other changes in your life, and that’s what keeps a lot of people stuck. Many times, when we make one big change in our lives, it spawns a lot of other changes – unintended consequences as it may be. These unintended and perhaps unexpected changes may be painful or joyful, but it’s all part of the process too.
  • Sometimes, the changes turn out to be blessings in disguise.
  • Sometimes, the changes show you something you hadn’t seen before.
  • Sometimes, the changes reinforce your belief that what you are doing is right.
If it takes you some time before you are ready to take the next step, sign up for the class, or fill out the application form, just remember that change is scary and it’s OK to be scared. It’s not OK, however, to get completely stuck.
Once you’ve committed to the process of reinvention, remember that it’s a process, a journey, and not a simple switch that has to be flicked on. If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.
- Virginia
Virginia O'Connor, started out of college as a teacher of high school English, moved on to marketing writing, and then on to the then-new career of technical writing where she remained for over 20 years. She recently started her next reinvention as a writer and content manager for a number of highly successful websites.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Web Site Savvy for Job Seekers

Differentiating yourself from other job seekers is the key in today’s employment market. A great marketing letter and resume isn’t enough. Don’t forget about your online presence.

That’s right, build a Web site specifically for marketing yourself to potential employers. Nothing fancy. Include an overview of your skills and don’t forget to let your personality shine through. Provide links to your resume. Include testimonials from former employers and business associates and PDF links to scanned letters of reference. Use samples of your work if applicable.

Worried about privacy? Then create a private or secure site that can be accessed with a password that you can give to prospective employers. In your cover letter to future employers, include a link to your Web site (with the password) and briefly describe what’s included there. In this way, you will be putting all your information at their fingertips.

Building a Web site is not difficult. Do a little research on the Internet. You can find simple templates on blog sites like http://wordpress.com/ that will allow you to post your bio, resume, contact information and start a blog. You can find templates that are easy to update and for a low monthly fee will host your site. Of course, you can get fancy and hire a Web designer. Better yet, create a barter deal with a Web master and trade services if you have talent to trade.

The good news is that when you build a Web site with your name in the URL, you will have an online presence. If the perspective boss does a search on you, you’ll be controlling what he or she sees first, rather than random links to social networks you enjoy.

Be sure to post a weekly blog on your site. Make sure that it illustrates your knowledge of your industry to show employers your particular area of expertise. Actively blogging will also extend your network to assist in your job search.

An online presence can enhance your hard copy resume because it isn’t limited to one or two pages. You can expand with testimonials, links and work samples or product. Your Web site will also demonstrate that you are staying on top of the latest networking trends.

Carol McKibben has 20 years experience as a C-Level Executive in the publishing and technology industries. She addresses human resources from a hiring manager’s perspective.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What about all the online jobs I keep hearing about?

The conventional wisdom is that networking – “who you know” – is more successful than applying for jobs posted in newspaper and internet classifieds. Over the past few years, though, this new conventional wisdom is itself being stood on its head as more and more people are not only finding high-quality jobs online, but performing them there as well, for employers they’ve never met face-to-face, and never will.

Online employment is easier for some than others.  For one thing, many jobs simply cannot be done online – anything which requires a worker to be in a particular place to get the job done, like manufacturing or security or transportation, for instance, just doesn’t translate easily to online employment.  Many kinds of work, though, can be done online, though, and this fact has generated a virtual explosion of opportunities, both legitimate and otherwise. All that’s needed to do an online job, really, is a familiarity with the computer and the software used, and a good work ethic.

What are the Pitfalls?

Just as with other types of employment, there are those who’ll take advantage of those seeking online employment. Some make offers of jobs for which the victims haven’t applied, while others are more elaborate and actually post “jobs” and then attempt to victimize the applicants.  Some provide the victims with bogus checks or money orders with instructions that invariably include sending the majority of the funds back to the employer, while others simply ask for the victims’ banking information to facilitate payment of “salary and bonuses.”

Another potential pitfall is the quality of one’s work ethic.  To put it simply, some people need to be in an environment where everyone else is working, in order to work well themselves.  Being at home, whether alone or with the kids, is too distracting for some.

Where Can I Find a Legitimate Online Job?

Legitimate online employment opportunities abound, but prudence is always required. These agencies, like odesk.com, guru.com and elance.com, vet employers before allowing them to post jobs.  Other opportunities, on bulletin boards like Craigslist, generally aren’t vetted and should be carefully checked before providing any information.

The majority of the online jobs offered through the agencies are computer-oriented, for such skillsets as web and software development, networking and information systems, design and multi-media, and so on.  There are also many other jobs, though, including such areas as data entry, technical and creative writing and a wide range of jobs in administrative support.  Applicants provide the agency with profiles which can be viewed by all employers or restricted only to those to which they’ve actually applied.

The main advantage of working with the agencies is that they vet the employers that post jobs, especially verifying that they have the funds available to pay those who apply. A disadvantage is that the employers are from around the world and some offer rates that many westerners would consider insulting. Patience is an important virtue when seeking online employment, but the odds are good that those who apply only to those jobs for which they’re qualified will ultimately find decent jobs.

- Dale

After a long career in Human Resources that included reviewing thousands of hard-copy and emailed resumes, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Handling Pauses in the Career Reinvention Process

3At times, any reinvention will require a pause – kind of like a moment of silence – amid all the work you are doing. The important thing to understand in career reinventions is this: a reinvention will take just as long as it's going to take.

Reinvention is a process that can take weeks, months, even years to fully evolve. Sure, you'll get excited once you've identified your career passion and begin designing your reinvention game plan, but don't worry if there are pauses in the effort. You may discover you have to take a few classes or do some additional work. Or, let's face it, your personal life may intervene in any number of ways:
  • babies are born
  • elderly parents or grown children need support
  • accidents happen
During those spaces where it feels like your reinvention is stalled, it's important to stay focused even if your plans for progress are on temporary hold. Remember, the situation will change – one way or another – it has to change, that's the nature of life and you can't stop it.

Take these breaks in the reinvention process as gifts, the chance to clean up your surroundings, put your financial house in order, simplify your schedule, whatever background efforts that need to be done to clear your path to reinvention progress. These pauses in the process are not bad. In fact, they can help you rest and recover because reinventions are packed with energy draining changes. Breaks in the process can allow your thoughts to flow more freely, give you the time to review the progress you've made and add or delete steps to be done.

Sometimes you can use a pause like this to tap into the ideas of others by seeking out groups or organizations you didn't have time to connect with before, or by getting involved in an industry-specific association to find out what they have to offer.

Even if you don't feel that real progress is being accomplished, keep the mindset and continue acting as if this change is happening. Acting 'as if' can transform elusive possibilities into real truths simply by keeping it in your mind and in the minds of others.

- Virginia

Virginia O'Connor, started out of college as a teacher of high school English, moved on to marketing writing, and then on to the then-new career of technical writing where she remained for over 20 years. She recently started her next reinvention as a writer and content manager for a number of highly successful websites.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Online Job Applications are so Tedious, and Why it Benefits the Serious Job-hunter

Why is applying for a job online such a tedious chore?  When job-hunting online, you might be able to apply for 3 or 4 jobs per hour in a process that includes finding available jobs, accessing the applications, completing them (which usually includes crafting a cover letter), and submitting them with your resume. This can quickly become frustrating as you answer the same questions over and over again, often providing information that’s already on the resume you’re planning to submit.

Back in the Day . . .

While networking has always been one of the leading ways to fill jobs, the “formal” approach adopted by most employers was to publish their jobs in print media, usually newspapers.  Candidates would mail their resumes and cover letters to those jobs they seemed suited for.  As Internet use became more prevalent, more job ads included email addresses, and employers began to post job vacancies online.

Suddenly, the task of distributing resumes became simplicity itself.  All it took was the click of a mouse to deposit a resume and cover letter in an employer’s emailbox. This ease of distribution was quickly exploited, though, by applicants who took a shotgun approach to job-hunting, sending resumes to every email address they found in job ads. What they didn’t consider was that their resumes had company – hundreds or even thousands of other resumes. Employers who previously had received a hundred or so hard copy resumes in a week were facing that same amount and more daily via email.

Problems . . . and a Solution

The use of email was intended to streamline the recruiting process, but it quickly became a burden.  The shotgunners were indiscriminate, often unqualified for the jobs they applied to. Employers often spent hours transferring information into spreadsheets or databases.  Some candidates provided irrelevant information, others provided too little. And when employers routinely opened email attachments of all sorts, their systems were vulnerable to hacking or destruction by vindictive disappointed applicants.

In response, employers started looking for ways to qualify applicants so they’d only have to review applications from credible candidates, and online programs were developed to meet these needs. Job applications can be customized for each job and candidates must take the time to complete them, a process that casual candidates generally avoid. The benefit to employers is that although there will be fewer applications, most will be from serious candidates, in a uniform format that facilitates comparing and ranking applications.

Serious applicants will recognize this as a blessing as well.  They know that the casual candidates have exempted themselves from the process. They also know that some of those who actually complete the online process will feel frustrated by the time required to complete them, and that frustration will show in the application. Prudent candidates, then, will actually spend more time on these online applications, making certain they’re accurately completed, provide all the information requested, and pass a spellcheck review.

- Dale


After a long career in Human Resources that included reviewing thousands of hard-copy and emailed resumes, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.