How to Get an Online Job
"I know an online job would be perfect for me, but I don't know how to get one," says Laura.
Laura has been looking for work online for over a year. She knows these jobs exist because she keeps hearing about friends of friends who have them.
But she hasn't been able to find one herself. Even though MOAA's Military Spouse Employment Report indicates that telecommuting was the benefit spouses wanted most from their employers, those jobs are a little trickier to find.
As a Marine Corps Reserve wife, Laura has had to face a life more similar to the active duty than many of her peers, making the stress of holding down a job harder than she anticipated.
"You would think because he's in the Reserves I would have a job and it would all be easy," she says.
Laura's husband has been activated with such frequency that she's had a hard time holding down full-time work -- which her family budget requires -- while also navigating the many moves, absences and deployments her husband has faced.
"When I didn't work, we had the freedom to go with him to Virginia when he had to go there for 10 weeks. It was over summer vacation and the kids loved it. Now he's training across the country for the next few months and deploying right after, and between trying to see him and keep the kids sane, getting to a job and getting home from one is just getting hard. A job I could telecommute to would be better."
Laura knows she has skill sets that she could offer an employer remotely, too. "I would be a perfect virtual assistant and I know people who are. It just seems like you get these jobs by stumbling into them. I want to stumble into one!"
Stumbling into online work
If you are like Laura, an online job can seem like the answer to your prayers. Even with all the strains of military life, you could rock a job you could do from anywhere, in your PJs, and through a PCS.You would ace a job you could take with you wherever you are, one that you could even do with the kids doing their homework next to you. An online job would be perfect ... if only you could get one.
It turns out getting an online job isn't as mysterious as it seems. According to military spouses who have gotten them, getting a remote job is just as easy (and just as hard) as getting one you have to show up in person for every day.
1. What skills do you offer an employer you'll never see?
"I started by thinking of skills I have that I could offer someone remotely," says Katie, an Army wife in Washington, D.C.
"Before we were stationed here, we were in Georgia, where there was no work. I joked that it was unemployment or a strip club, but it wasn't much better than that."
Katie started small. With a pen and paper, she sat down and categorized her skill sets: organized, efficient, detail oriented, reliable, strong communication skills, works well without supervision. Then she thought about what kind of jobs would need those kind of skills.
"My list was project manager, communications anything, administrative help, customer support," Katie says.
It was the last job type that actually got her employment. List in hand, she started Googling: Remote job, Online job.
She soon found that she could work for a phone company from her own kitchen in customer support.
"I applied for a customer service opening and was hired right away. They taught me everything I needed to know. All I needed a strong internet connection, computer, and a good phone, and that was it. They taught me everything else, and I was able to start almost immediately."
If you're looking for a telecommuting job, take Katie's advice and map out your job skills. What have you done already? How do those experiences translate into jobs you can do online?
2. Be prepared to wow them with your online skills and work readiness.
Before you apply for a job that will require you to work mostly or entirely online, be sure to have your online profile up to snuff.
"Nobody is going to hire someone to do work online who doesn't know how to function online, not even a small phone company," Katie says.
Make sure you have your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram profiles relevant, G-rated, clean and professional. For more information on how to do that, check out our full guide on getting your online self ready for the job hunt.
Air Force wife Brigette spent two weeks cleaning up her online profiles between shuttling the kids to school, making dinner and cleaning her husband's uniforms. "I knew I should be looking for work during that time, like using it to actually job search, but I knew I needed to delete some of the party photos first," she admits. Brigette decided to look for online work when her family situation changed and she welcomed two stepchildren into the family fold.
With only administrative experience under her belt and enough PCSs to have a choppy resume, Brigette was surprised to find work as an insurance adjuster.
3. Comb the Online Want Ads.
"I didn't really know what I was looking for or what I would be good at, so I kept my search pretty broad. I just focused entirely on what I could do from home, and I was able to narrow down pretty easily what counted as administrative work," Brigette says. "There's a lot of tech stuff out there, and I couldn't do that. If you can, finding an online job will be easy. But I had to cast a wide net."
Once she narrowed down the job options to those requiring administrative experience, she focused more intently on the job descriptions of each specific opportunity.
Using online tools like those at Monster.com, she found that her job experience matched the qualifications listed for a surprising job.
"I never thought I would be in insurance," Brigette laughs. "We didn't even have insurance for a long time! But I completed the application process and they called me, so they must not have cared. I'm just glad it didn't ask if our own home was insured in the process!"
Now her day-to-day is largely spent assisting families assess the damage on their homes after storms or accidents so that they can work through their claim with the insurance company.
"It's mostly administrative, which surprises me. I thought there would be more to it when I just looked at the title. When you're looking for an online job, you really have to look at the job description. That's where the details are."
Brigette and Katie both work for companies where remote employees are an industry standard. Among industries in which telecommuting is highest, information technology, healthcare, insurance, banking, data entry and customer service top the charts.
According to Flex Jobs, many of these companies even have ties to the military that might help military spouses get their foot in the door with their demographic know-how. These companies include Humana, which officiates Tricare in the Southern region; USAA; and JPMorgan Chase, which even has an initiative in place to hire veterans.
4. Ace the Application.
"It's really important you bring your "A" Game in your application," Brigette says. "If you are going to sell yourself on how great you are as an employee who won't have over-your-shoulder supervision or a stamp clock, then you need to be very timely, organized and efficient in your application process. And your references need to be able to speak to those credentials, too."
When you get to the interview stage, it's also important that you be able to prove you can physically separate yourself from your home life and dedicate yourself to your work life.
"I was asked where I would work if I got the job. I had to have an office set-up idea so that they knew I was serious. It was actually really helpful to think through," she says. "They were also fine with my answer: The kitchen table."
The only caveat to finding online jobs is that just like you, everyone wants one. But with these four steps, you can keep yourself ahead of the pack and, with some luck and hard work, you'll be able to land an online job you can do from home.
"It really is the ultimate portable job," Laura says. "In terms of compatibility with military life, it's the best there is."
Have you gotten a job online? What tips do you have for fellow hopeful telecommuters?