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.