Feature: The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Homeworking Online
In a perfect world, we could buy insurance to protect us against sudden staff reductions, unexpected layoffs and the elimination of whole categories of jobs from the American workplace. In the real world, however, we are forced to take care of ourselves. How can we do that? One way is to practice all of the steps in my 6-step plan for Career Guardianship. For an overview of this plan, please click here to visit the newsletter archive at WEDDLE’s and read my feature column dated November 1, 2003.
In my last column, I described the concept of conducting a “Company Credit Check.” Odd as that notion may sound at first, it is actually very logical behavior. Most of us are careful to investigate vendors before we buy products from them, so why wouldn’t we exercise the same care when “shopping” for an employer? Think of it this way: since you can’t return a defective employer, the cost of making a mistake can be far greater than even your worst lemon.
When’s the right time to conduct a Company Credit Check? Before you apply for a position with an organization. Yeah, yeah, I know; there’s all this hype about the best jobs being filled at warp speed so you have to send in your resume the nanosecond you see an interesting opening. Well, let me set the record straight. Doing some homework upfront will not destroy your chances and may actually make you a better candidate. First, you’ll know more about the organization so you can shape your cover letter and resume to make them more appealing and on point. Second, and no less important, doing your homework after you apply may cause you to invest a lot of time and effort in an organization that you ultimately decide has absolutely no appeal to you as an employer.
So, how can you conduct an upfront Company Credit Check quickly so that you have at least some degree of confidence that it’s worth your time and effort to apply? That’s where the Internet comes in. There are any number of ways you can peer into an organization online and see what it’s really like to work there. Here are my favorites: I call them The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Homeworking Online.
1. Search Hoover’s Online. The site has a database of 12 million companies, although its detailed information is available on about 40,000 of them. This resource is a good place to start when acquiring general business information, including what products or services an organization offers in what industries, its annual sales and profitability, the names of its key executives, its facility locations, competitors and more. A basic fact sheet is available for free, but you will have to pay for more in-depth information.
2. Visit the organization’s Web-site. Don’t get your hopes up, however. While you would think that such sites would give you a good feel for both an organization’s work and its culture, far too many of them turn out to be as useful as a pothole. In fact, in WEDDLE’s ongoing poll of job seekers (please click here if you would like to participate), company Web-sites have dropped from the #1 most useful resource on the Internet to #4 because all too often they are more interested in selling you tires and TV sets than they are in helping you explore their value proposition as an employer.
3. Conduct a browser search, using such sites as Google or Yahoo!. What kinds of information are you looking for? Anything the organization may have said about itself (in press releases or statements to the investment community) and anything others may have said about the organization (in media reports or reports by business analysts). There are over 500 billion documents on the Internet, so there’s no telling what you might find in your search.
4. Check out the EDGAR database at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to the SEC site, “All companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file registration statements, periodic reports and other forms with EDGAR.” These documents describe who owns the organization and any recent changes in ownership, its financial position, liabilities, pending litigation and a host of other factors that can help you evaluate the direction of the organization and the capability of its leaders.
5. Visit the Electronic Watercooler at Vault.com. What do people do around the watercooler at work? Talk about the company, the boss, the latest policies and problems, right? Well, that’s what Vault’s online watercooler is all about. It’s a place where current and past employees can post their comments about an organization … and, in the process, give you an unvarnished perspective on what it looks like from the inside. Just a word of caution, however: the people who post such comments often have an axe to grind, so take what is said with a grain of salt.
6. Visit the Interview Guides at Wetfeet.com. These Guides provide a lot of additional information about many of the largest and best known employers in the U.S. (e.g., what percentage of the staff are women, what are the downsides or challenges to working there) as well as such interesting tidbits as what questions to expect in an interview and what’s the biggest mistake a candidate can make in an interview with the organization.
By my calculations, you could complete the 6 Habits above for a prospective employer in anywhere from 90 to 112 minutes. And, in my view, it would be some of the best time you ever spent. Why? Because you deserve to work for a company that works for you … and the only way to determine if one will is to do your homework.
Thanks for reading,
Section Two: Site News You Can Use
Career Voyages was recently launched by the U.S. Federal Government to provide free access to information about fast-growing industries and occupations. It will tell you what skills and education are required to enter a field, what kinds of jobs make up a career path in the field, what level of compensation you can expect in those jobs, any licensing they require, and even how many job openings are available in the field in a given state.
CBS Marketwatch checked with a panel of compensation experts to identify the 10-most overpaid jobs in the U.S.. Sadly, newsletter writer didn’t make the list, but there are some interesting entries. Here are the folks who are paid more than they’re worth (in reverse order): wedding photographers, airline pilots, West Coast longshoremen, airport skycaps, real estate agents selling high-end homes, motivational speakers and ex-politicians on the lecture circuit, orthodontists, CEOs of poorly performing companies, athletes in long term contracts and … tah, dah … mutual fund managers.
Monster.com is testing a new service in which job seekers can network to new contacts for a fee. You can search for others by profession, location or school, but to view their contact information you must pay an initial fee of $24.99 and then a monthly fee of $2.99. The Internet is clearly a great networking platform, but I think your best contacts are likely to occur in the chat rooms and discussion forums of your professional association’s site. You’ll probably have to be a member to participate-and that means there’s a fee involved-but the return on that investment is likely to bring you contacts that can actually help your job search.
WEDDLE’s urges you to share its newsletter with your friends and colleagues. It’s a random act of kindness they won’t soon forget. Just pass along the following link and urge them to sign up: www.weddles.com/newsletters.htm.
Yahoo! HotJobs launched a new service that provides “self checks” for job seekers. It is offered through a partnership with ChoicePoint, a credential verification company. The service provides identify authentication and a search of ChoicePoint’s National Criminal File for $24.95. Other checks are available for additional fees. With 8 out of 10 employers now conducting background checks on prospective employees, HotJobs believes the “self check” will make you a more appealing candidate up front.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. If you’re an accomplished scientist searching for a basic research position in the private sector, which of the following sites would probably leave you scratching your head?
2. If you’re a safety manager looking for a new job with a transportation company, which of the following sites would stop you dead in your tracks?
3. If you’re a senior executive with a track record as an innovator in business consulting, where would looking for your next career challenge likely be a bust?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories
A WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award Winner
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time, contract and consulting jobs: Yes – All
Distribution of jobs: National: USA
Number of jobs: 60,000
Salary levels of jobs: $151-200K/year, $201+/year
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: Yes
How long are resumes stored: 180 days
Restrictions on who can post: Those in a certain industry
Other services for job seekers: Career/job search information, Links to other resources, Confidentiality feature in resume database.
Answers to Site Insite
1. ThinkJobs.com, a technical job board for the southeast U.S.
2. Crosswalk.com, the site of a for-profit religious corporation.
3. All of the sites.