Sunday Inspiration: MCAD Library on Flickr

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The MCAD Library on Flickr has some incredible pictures. First, I checked out Art of the Poster 1880 – 1918, but I ended up staring at the flint knife for so long my screensaver kicked on, and the modern amate bark paper is beautiful.

Adventures in Job Hunting: When You Want to Work from Home

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I’ve been at this for about a month now, and despite the existential crisis, I have learned some things. I’ve been sharing them with a friend, but as I did I realized that what I know might be helpful to other people in our position. So here’s a roundup of some of the most important stuff so far.

AS A CSR

When Indeed and CareerBuilder only turned up responses from work-from-home jobs that required I pay for my own training, I got creative. The way the world is now, I knew there just had to be better options for at-home customer service positions.

Before I go on, though, I’d like to take a moment to talk about paying for your own training. It’s not as scammy as it looks at first glance. Paying for your own training is a good way for companies to keep costs down while reducing the impact of high turnover on their bottom line. Before you commit to anything, do your research. At the very least, read reviews from current and former employees on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of places are not hiring employees, they’re hiring contractors. You’ll be responsible for your own taxes. If you’re not familiar with paying your own local, state, and federal taxes, you’re going to have to hire someone, or invest the time to learn.

But there are other options for at-home CSR work! I actually found some really great ones in a negative review for Arise, and when I explored them, I was much happier and much less skeptical of what I found.

Things to Know:

  • You have to meet their basic requirements. I had to bump up our Internet speed tier with our ISP to get the required upload speed for Sitel. It was an extra $15/month ($10 for the next speed tier + $5 for the wireless router modem with the extra ethernet port), and the job Sitel hired me for is full-time at $9/hr, so it’s cost-effective for me.
  • My equipment met the requirements for Convergys before the bump, but my ISP did not. That sort of compatibility requirement may eliminate a lot of people in areas with only one ISP option (like for us, here; when we first moved to Lawton, Fidelity was our only option, and they’re a local-to-several-states ISP), so that’s something to be aware of.
  • Some positions/companies require hardwired landlines, either Plain Old Telephone Service or VoIP lines, without any added features. I’m going to be honest, I have no idea who to even contact about getting a POTS line, but had I not gotten a response from Sitel I probably would have at least gotten a VoIP line just to qualify for other positions. If you already have a POTS, you’re probably ahead of the curve.
  • You’re probably going to need a wired headset. I bought this one from Amazon and I love it. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can use it on your phone (awesome for while I’ve been job-hunting and needed my hands free to write down info) and a USB plug so you can use it on your computer. The USB attachment has volume and mic control right on it, so you can adjust volume and mute/unmute the mic. The noise-canceling is fantastic and the mic only picks up your voice, not background noise. (For an added bonus, I paid for it with a couple of gift cards I earned taking surveys through the QuickThoughts app.)
  • If you need or want a new computer, but you’re looking at new computer prices and your face looks like you’re having a stroke: refurbished work computers. If you’ve ever held an office job you know what workhorses those can be, and refurbished usually means upgraded, and it’s possible to get a whole system (monitor included) for $200 or less. Sitel requires I supply a monitor for their equipment, so I ended up getting another one from the same guys I bought my computer from, and a nice big flat-panel monitor was $65.
  • Apply to all of them! The absolute worst that can happen is you get job offers from all of them and have to decide who to go with, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a bad problem to have.
  • Get on their notification lists. If you don’t see the job you want currently listed, let them email you when they might have something.

 

OTHER WORK

My favorite resource: The Penny Hoarder Work-From-Home section. I’ve gotten two extra gigs so far from here, plus an invitation to go further in the application process for another.

Outsourced, in-depth research and analysis. I just started this and my first job wasn’t accepted, but there are so many tips and guidelines, and I got great feedback, so I’m pretty comfortable with my ability to learn and succeed here. The group chat is really nice, because you immediately get to see what other researchers are doing and how they feel about the work. You can also get immediate help and support, so you’re working at home, but it has the useful social component of office work.

I did my first test for them and got a four-star review, and for a first test? That’s not bad. Tests pay about $10 each for about 20 minutes of work and you get paid seven days from approval. It’s not steady work, but I keep checking back and taking screeners, so it’s probably going to be a nice way to just get a little extra. You could also check out this list from The Penny Hoarder.

I just got my invitation this morning to complete the testing for a client here. I’m pretty excited about it because I keep thinking about my parents and grandparents and how they use search engines, and the idea of making the experience easier and better for people who aren’t as serious about research and finding the right information, but still need the right information, is incredibly appealing. There are other search engine evaluators, and for most of them you can only work for one at a time, but it’s like with the CSR job: apply to all of them, the worst that can happen is you have to decide who to work for.

These HITs are a lot like the surveys and videos you do on survey sides like InboxDollars in that they don’t pay much per HIT. The work is way more interesting and engaging, though. You won’t get rich and it probably won’t pay all of the bills, but over time it’ll add up pretty decently, I think. I mean, $5/day isn’t a lot of money, but $5 every day for a month is a phone bill. (And for at least the first ten days, you have to complete HITs every day.)

Things to Know:

  • These side gigs in particular require attention to detail and even some studying.
  • Read instructions.
  • Give yourself time to learn what they expect of you, and use all the resources they offer you.
  • Ask for clarification if you need to, but there are so many opportunities that you’ll find the right one, so if it’s too difficult, move on.

Work is out there, and it pays well enough to make it worth your while, it just depends on your skills and interest and how far you go in your searches.

Places to See on Route 66

1. Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant and Bakery – Chicago, Illinois

Popular with commuters and located near the start of the mother road, apparently this place is the place to stop before you start out. They’ve been feeding hungry travelers since 1923 and if the food is in real life anything like the pictures, I can see why. (The whole How It’s Made page makes me want to put the kids in the car and drive to Chicago for breakfast.)

2. World’s Second Largest Rocking Chair – Cuba, Missouri

Cuba is a pretty cool place; they have the murals. This is a modern roadside attracting in the great tradition of them, and the pictures featured in the Atlas Obscura article capture the fun of roadside attractions. Apparently it actually had to be welded in place once it made the Guiness Book because when it rocked, it was terrifying. You can only sit on it one day a year, but those pictures prove you don’t need to sit on it to enjoy it.

3. Round Barn – Arcadia, Oklahoma

It’s a barn that looks like a fat, short silo and it’s awesome. It was built in the 1890s, made it onto the National Register in the 1970s, and was rebuilt in the 1990s by a group of volunteers (and let me take a moment to say: bless the volunteers, for without them, what would we have left of our cultural resources?). And it’s a museum!

4. The Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas

This is a bunch of Cadillac bodies half-buried in the dirt on a farm. This place was an enduring myth of my childhood, and little under five years ago, I finally got to see it. My sleeping kid tossed over my shoulder, I made the walk beside my mom, who wasn’t quite a teenager when it was first installed. It was a really neat experience.

5. San Miguel Chapel – Santa Fe, New Mexico

The oldest church in the US and on the National Register and absolutely one of the prettiest places to stop. They even still hold Mass, and I’m not Catholic but there’s always something really profound about religious services held in old places. For a dose of even more history, and a bonus entry-within-an-entry, you can also check out the oldest house in the US, the De Vargas Street house, which was built in the remains of an ancient pueblo.

6. The Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona

I could have gone with the Grand Canyon, and you totally shouldn’t miss it if you’re doing this road trip, but I love the Petrified Forest National Park. I love the badlands, I love that this is the only national park to actually preserve a piece of the original Route 66, and I love all the trees that look like rocks (there’s even a thing called the Little Lithodendron Wash, and “lithodendron” literally means “rock tree”). It’s a nice stop on the way to Flagstaff, which is easily my favorite city on the whole road trip.

7. Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, California

The most recently-nominated “end point” of Route 66, the pier is over 100 years old and the website has the niftiest timeline feature. There’s plenty of fun to be had and food to try, and Santa Monica is a pretty cool city in general. Not a bad way to end a trip.

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Sunday Inspiration: Pixabay

Did you guys know about this place?

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Look at these photos.

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They’re free.

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They’re royalty-free.

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Anyone need a book cover? A header image? Some way to grab readers’ attention? This place is amazing.

Things I Love: Buying Refurbished

I am secretly a hippie. I take showers and patchouli gives me a headache, but whenever I need to make a significant purchase, especially of technology, I always search refurbished first. The prices are better, I can usually get something nicer for the price range I’m looking at, and buying refurbished keeps dangerous electronics out of landfills in third-world countries. I also believe in sharing positive customer service experiences. How else do you know who to trust?

With the school year coming up (my oldest does K12) and my new job set to start at the end of the month (I have a contingent offer!), I decided we needed a new desktop until HP repairs our All-In-One and Sitel sends me their equipment. So I checked Amazon, because 5% cash back and two day shipping, and found this seller offering refurbished professional computers. Perfect.

Except, of course, once it got here and I got it out of the box, it didn’t work. I was feeling kind of stressed before I realized that they’re literally an hour and twenty minutes away. We had some flooring to return to Lumber Liquidators, anyway, so when the email support didn’t solve my issue, I packed the computer, the flooring, and the kids into the Jeep and headed up to OKC.

I could not be happier with the customer service. It took ten minutes for Mark to run diagnostics and repair the computer. While I was there, I picked up an extra monitor, too, and now I’m all set for my new job.

If you’re shopping for a sturdy desktop for yourself or your kids, and you’re looking for a deal and Five Star customer service, check out JSM Computers in Oklahoma City and on Amazon.

Adventures in Job Hunting: Am I… Done?

I had a phone interview a couple of days ago, and I submitted my information for a background check and this morning I took a drug test. I’m in the middle of the onboarding process. A legitimate onboarding process, full of so much paperwork, and… a contingent offer. A contingent offer detailing the position and pay and expectations.

Am I… done?

I don’t want to get too excited, because this whole journey has been a real emotional rollercoaster, but everything I’ve researched, everything I’ve done, totally checks out.

So I’m tentatively excited about this.

Adventures in Job Hunting: Saltier than the Dead Sea

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photo by lehollaender on pixabay

That’s the Dead Sea. Isn’t it beautiful? Apparently the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica is saltier, but the Dead Sea is more popularly the salty standard. There’s a whole meme about it. I laughed.

It’s me.

Some of these companies think so highly of themselves and have such strict requirements, and that’s fine! Except, of course, when the job listing is badly-formatted and poorly written. Then I just want to email the hiring manager to ask, “May I apply to help you not look like a joke to the kind of people you’re hoping to attract?”

Then there’s the one place that emailed me after searching for my resume on CareerBuilder or Indeed, and when I responded that I was open to talking more to their hiring manager, I received an email response directing me to a series of awful, boring YouTube videos that I had to watch before I could request an interview appointment. I’d like to state just one more time: they contacted me, but I had to request an interview appointment. After watching their YouTube videos. I barely even like YouTube videos I want to watch, why the hell would I be interested in theirs?

The most frustrating has to be the insurance agent in OKC who has emailed me at least three times, has had his assistant email me, and has had an assistant call me to ask me to come interview for a manager/coordinator position. I have extremely limited management experience. It’s so limited it’s not even on my resume, and in fact I’ve only referenced it once, in an email introduction for a volunteer managing editor position for an indie publisher in Dallas. I’ve politely turned him down every time, stating “I don’t think I’m a good fit for this position.” I just got another email from him. This persistence isn’t flattering and it doesn’t make me interested in working for him.

But the thing that makes me want to start drinking is when the application has a place to upload my properly-formatted .pdf resume, and on the next screen, I have to enter all of my information in text boxes, anyway.

Why did you give me hope if it was just a lie? (See #14)