Avoid Remote Only Job Sites

When it comes to job searches, a lot of alt-ac clients want to find a job that allows them to at least in part work remotely. I know how important this is for academics in particular. 

So today I’m tackling one of the most common questions in my inbox: “Where do I find remote jobs?”

Why Academics Want Remote Jobs

Academics WANT control over their work. Autonomy and independence are some of the biggest reasons for pursuing academia and grad/professional degrees in the first place! We wanted to become experts so that we could exercise greater control over the kinds of work we do. The ability to make choices about what kinds of tasks we take on. The ability to schedule our own workday as we please. That is part of the expected deal. That what comes with deep expertise and authority over one’s subject matter is a more professional level of job. 

And these days, most of us are smart enough to realize that there’s often no compelling NEED for us to physically be in the office 5 days a week. (Or at all?!) Between Zoom, Skype, Slack, and I don’t even know what else, can’t we be connected no matter where we are? If dumb #influencers (yeah, I said it!) can work from anywhere, why can’t those of us with highly specialized knowledge and skills be afforded the same courtesy?

Why Academics Need Remote Jobs

And then there’s also very real needs. Many of us alt-acs NEED remote work – for all kinds of reasons. Many academics are members of dual-career households. Many are partners with someone who is faculty and/or otherwise geographically bound. My alt-ac PhD spouse, for instance, specializes in the archaeology of the Colorado Plateau. Even if I find a great job in Minneapolis, that’s not going to work for his career.  So should my career suffer when I’ve maxed out my opportunities locally?

Of course I’m all for finding the style and type of work that you need AND want, but I’m afraid I’m here to warn you that there is no great answer to this question.

Don’t Waste Your Money on Remote Only Job Sites

With a few notable exceptions (which I’ll get to in a moment), I almost always tell clients don’t waste your time or money.

First, the remote-only job sites that do offer high-paying, sustainable, long-term “real” employment usually target only very specific tech / IT roles: software developers, web developers of a specific stripe. If you’re not specialized and experienced in those programming languages and systems, there’s not going to be anything there for you anyway.

Then there are remote-only job sites that do offer other kinds of roles…only they’re not exactly prime pickings for smart, highly-skilled, career-minded academics like you. You’ll find jobs, meaning limited term roles, in all kinds of things that are perfectly fine for when you just need a paycheck. But they won’t turn into long-term career paths, or lead to permanent employment. So if you just desperately need to pay bills, then yes, go forth! Be a virtual assistant, take on a call center job from home, do some data entry or customer research for some strange tech eastern European startup. But know that it’s not going to be the career solution you’re looking for.

Third, there are remote-only job sites that purport to offer better solutions. Quality jobs. In real companies. With real benefits. Except you have to pay to join. And only when you get paid access do you discover:

  • the jobs are in industries requiring previous experience in that role / industry (recruiter roles that require 5-7 years recruiting experience with specific applicant tracking software systems)
  • the jobs are very stale. Listings from 2 days ago, followed by 3 months, 7 months…
  • the jobs are ONLY in specific megalopolitan areas (London, NYC, San Francisco – y’know, the tech hubs).

Save your money!

So what can you do? I do have a couple of clients who have had notable success in this area. I’ve got permission to share their anonymized stories.

Case Study 1: A Client Who Could Command The Remote Work Benefit

When offered a position working in a “behind the scenes” role for a network of hospitals, C negotiated that they would work only from home. First, it’s critical to note that this role is behind the scenes, meaning that C did not pursue a job that required day-to-day or even routine interfacing with clinical staff or patients. Second, C was able to make a compelling case that they had faster internet service *at home* than they would at the office, and thus could do their role not only just as easily, but more efficiently from home. And C already had a wealth of experience doing this line of work – as in 15 years of experience. So C was fine with walking away from the offer if the employer wasn’t willing to meet their work-from-home requirement. And finally, C also made a compromise, too. C agreed that, in exchange for full remote work, C would work a night / weekend shift, rather than the M-F daytime shift.

Case Study 2: A Client Who Travels As Needed

My second example is that I have a client who accepted a job that is not local to them. J lives in Phoenix and works full-time for a company in Dallas. J works from home in Phoenix 3 weeks a month and for the 4th week each month, flies to Dallas and spends the workweek there. J was able to negotiate this only after working for the Dallas-based company for 4 years. When J’s partner was relocated to the Phoenix office for their work, J was able to ask the company if they could work this arrangement out, and J’s company agreed because J already had 4 years of proof of their very high performance and had earned the company’s trust. This is not a solution that works for everyone, either. J has to arrange overnight child care for the week that J is gone each month, because J’s partner’s work also involves heavy travel. So even this solution comes with high costs, too.

Look, I wish there were a catch-all solution, a highly reputable site to recommend, a steady list of employers who routinely offer remote work for highly-educated employees. But it’s not going to be easy. PLEASE TELL ME if you have advice or success stories to share!

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