Monday, February 2, 2009

Do Your Home Work

There is an old saying: if it looks (or sounds) too good to be true, it probably is. This could not be more true when it comes to the internet. There are no real rules about posting things on the internet. The more you browse job posting sites and click on ads for jobs, the more you will realize that there may be some promises being made that just cannot be kept.

If you have spent any time looking for a job, you have probably already realized that there is a lot of weird stuff going on. In the old days, when job seekers bought a newspaper and read the help wanted ads, they could be pretty sure that what they read was what they were going to get. At least that was true in my experience.

These days, navigating the internet job postings is like wandering through the jungle, trying to avoid the quicksand pits. One big area of deception is the work-at-home job. Anyone who has ever commuted more than a few miles to work only to spend eight hours in an office filled with noisy, dramatic people, has most likely thought about working at home, especially if they have a good home computer and a high-speed internet connection.

As a contract technical writer, I have worked at home and I loved it. First of all, there is no commute, which can save 30 minutes or an hour of your day in drive time. You also save the gasoline it would take to drive to and from work. So the fuel and wear on your automobile can be considered when you think about salary. There is also the occasional traffic ticket or accident that can cost you some money for the fine or the insurance deductible. Your wardrobe allowance should be reduced. You can work in your bathrobe if you'd like, but I prefer a t-shirt, blue jean shorts, and maybe flip flop shoes in case someone comes over to fix something (no more missing work to meet the plumber). If you have children that would otherwise be in day care, there is more money you can add to the equation. Plus, you have the extra commute time to deal with them.

Yes, there are lots of advantages to working at home. You might even want to mention that when you interview: "can I work at home one or more days a week?" Even working a couple of days a week from home can save you some time and money. It will save your employer some money, too. You will not be using company electricity, parking, etc., a couple of days a week. You might even get away with coming in once a week. I worked at a company once and I thought they only had a dozen or so employees. The first Friday after I started work there, I found out that just about everyone worked from home (help desk type jobs) and only showed up at the office on Fridays. For many jobs, if you have a phone and a computer, you can work from just about anywhere.

There is no doubt that working from home has its advantages, if you can stand it. I just read a post by someone and they mentioned that introverts, as opposed to extroverts, are more suited to working at home. I suppose that is true considering all those noisy, dramatic people at the office. If you do not do well all by yourself, or you have trouble staying on task, you might want to avoid working from home.

When I worked from home, I woke up early, showered, and dressed (in my t-shirt and shorts) as if I was going to work. I had a work area set up in a guest bedroom, which was a card table and a laptop computer that belonged to my boss. I took a lunch hour and then got back to work. In those days, everyone got home from school late in the afternoon, and understood that I was "at work" for another hour or so. The point being, you need to structure your day just as you would at an office. But that is just me. You might do your best work at midnight, which is no problem as long as no one else depends on your availability.

This is all well and good if legitimate work-at-home jobs grew on trees, but they don't. At least, that is what I have heard. I think I have seen statements being made that about 98 percent of the jobs and opportunities posted on the internet are scams. I may be mixing apples and oranges here because I think that includes the "get rich quick" schemes you see on the internet. You know, those ads you see that tell you they will share their secrets of success and here's where you send some cash. I suspect that is how they got rich ... by getting people to send them cash. That is another subject, I suppose.

I am leery of all the work-at-home ads. This is probably obvious, but, when I see an ad for a work-at-home job, I jump over to Google or Yahoo and scan for information about the ad and the person(s) who posted it. Their website will usually come up and I can read the poster's story. It seems like all too often the search list will contain postings with the word SCAM in the titles. I read a few of these, which are usually reviews or an account of someone's experience with the given job (or get-rich-quick scheme). The internet can be used to promote scams and bogus job opportunities, and it can also be used to uncover information about those so-called opportunities.

I can only hope there are legitimate jobs that can be done from home. I know that some companies allow their employees to work from home, so I guess that is really a hybrid of work at an office and work at home. Your best bet for finding a good work-at-home job (or any job) might be a referral by someone you know. Let your job search network know that you are looking for a work-at-home opportunity. One of them might be able to recommend something. Of course, one of them might also try to sell you on Amway. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

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