Ask the Headhunter: Is finding a work-at-home job a fantasy?

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Young woman sitting at desk, using laptop. Related words: computer, typing, millennial, job search, Photo by Cultura RM Exclusive/Stefano Gilera via Getty Images

While more and more people are working from home, they’re not earning a living through one of those work-from-home schemes you see advertised, writes Nick Corcodilos. Photo by Cultura RM Exclusive/Stefano Gilera via Getty Images

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: I recently attended a training class and overheard people discussing how work-at-home jobs have become common. The idea is that if you have a computer, companies will hire you to do work for them without coming into the office. But none of them could tell me how to get such a job. How can I find legitimate employers that hire people to work from home?

Nick Corcodilos: This is a perennial question. It’s worth discussing now and again, although the answer never changes. While more and more people are working from home, they’re not earning a living through one of those work-from-home schemes you see advertised.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Beware of pay-to-play job interview scams

These are the two most common legitimate home-based work scenarios:

  • Your current employer lets you do it.
  • You’re an established independent consultant.

Otherwise, it isn’t the option it’s portrayed to be — but that’s why scammers advertise such “opportunities.” People really, really want them, so they’re willing to suspend their disbelief.

When people think of work-at-home jobs, they have visions of quick and easy money.

When people think of work-at-home jobs, they have visions of quick and easy money, and ads for such jobs play on that fantasy. People who really do work from home successfully will tell you it’s neither quick or easy. It’s often harder than having a regular job, and the hours are usually longer simply because it’s harder to stop working when you’re already at home.

There is no secret about the third kind of real, home-based job, except that it’s not a job. It’s your own small businesses that you run out of your house. No one’s going to hand that to you. You must start from scratch on your own.

Anyone who says you can readily earn a living working at home using your computer is engaging in wishful thinking, or they’re trying to sucker you into a pyramid scheme in which you spend your day emailing similar offers to other potential suckers. These “jobs” are nothing but a racket. Be careful.

You can work from home if you can start a business of your own, or if you can demonstrate to your employer that you can be relied on to do your work outside a conventional office. But beware: Few employers will let people work at home, because they don’t know how to manage remote employees. Some major companies have tried it and pulled these programs back.

Few employers will let people work at home, because they don’t know how to manage remote employees.

The most common work-from-home jobs are legit sales positions that require workers to be out in the field so much that it doesn’t matter where they “go to the office.” But again, these are legit jobs with good companies. If you already work in sales, you’ve probably encountered such virtual-office positions. If you don’t already work in sales, trying to learn sales by yourself at home is a long shot. I wouldn’t advise it. And if you’re being recruited for a home-based sales job and something seems funky, consider the experiences of others before you try the job: “Readers’ Forum: Your favorite scams.”

Dear Readers: Do you know anyone who works from home for an employer? Have you encountered such opportunities — and were they legit? Horror stories welcome!


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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