Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 7/15/2008 8:04:58 AM ET 2008-07-15T12:04:58

I’ve opened up my mailbag and there seems to be a theme of two extremes among some job seekers in today’s economy — those who want to leave the country, and those who want to get closer to home.

Some of you have written to me about wanting to land a job overseas until the bad economy here blows over. Others want to find a job working from home, or as close to home as possible, because of escalating gas prices.

My advice: Don’t make any rash decisions.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of working abroad, there are lots of opportunities. But pulling up your roots in the U.S. and heading off to a foreign land is anything but easy.

“Since international experience is becoming increasingly more important all around, choosing to work abroad for a few years can not only help executives dodge a shaky U.S. economy, but it can also have a long-term career payoff,” says Lisa Tromba, vice president at Battalia Winston, an executive search firm.

That is, if you do your research.

“Think carefully about whether you are going to move before securing a position or if you will wait to find a role before taking the plunge,” advises Diane Morgan, director of career services at London Business School.

“If you are looking to be a surf instructor in Costa Rica and are comfortable with ambiguity, have some money stashed away. If you are flexible, you could move first and then look for a job,” she adds. “However, this strategy is usually limited to students on gap years who are more interested in experience than pay or rewarding work. The more skilled you are, the more you have to carefully investigate the move to and return from a country other than your own.”

Sound too good to be true?
And beware of international job offer scams. I know you’re all worried about finances and maybe even desperate to find a gig. But don’t let common sense fly out the window.

One reader sent me this e-mail recently:

“I'm from a small town in New Mexico. I recently received a job offer from a company by the name of Caltex in London. They offered me what seems to me a handsome salary of 15,200 pounds (a month). Since this would be a huge change of environment for me and my family I just need to know if you've heard of Caltex Oil and Gas in London.”

Immediately, I thought this sounded too good to be true, so I asked him how he found out about the job.

“I heard about the position via e-mail from a recruiting company. I then submitted my resume, and a few days later they e-mailed a contract. I will attach to this e-mail. I have insisted that I get a phone call from them, but they have not done so. In fact, the last e-mail I was sent had instructions of what to do for me to get a work visa. Part of those instructions said that they needed a $2,400 security deposit for the visa.”

Warning sign! You should never have to pay anything to get a job, folks. And if they don’t call you or ask you for a face-to-face interview, then I’d say run like heck.

I called Caltex, which is a division of Chevron Corp. The spokesman I talked to said he’d heard about scams like this before. He stressed that the company does not solicit job applicants randomly via e-mail and does not ask for money upfront.

So, the rule of thumb is that finding a job overseas is just like finding a job in the good old USA. No one is going to send you an unsolicited e-mail offering you the chance of a lifetime. You have to check out any firm you are considering applying to, and make sure you meet a hiring manager before you pack up your suitcase.

Go to reputable job boards and type in locations you’re interested in relocating to, and make sure to do extensive research on the firm. Also, talk to expatriates who are now working for these companies and find out what their transition was like. A reputable firm will be more than happy to share this information with you once you get to the point when they’ve made a job offer.

Other useful tools, according to Morgan, include “newspapers written in English but published in the area. For example the Bangkok Post can give insights to non-Thais living and working in Thailand.” Also, she says, “discussion groups on the Internet as well as your local librarian can all give you insight.”

Another good source, she adds, “is your college alumni network, which usually has chapters set up in major international cities.  LinkedIn is a good networking tool that can also offer you introductions to professionals working in the area.”

Make big bucks from home!
The other major topic I have been hearing about has to do with readers wanting staying closer to home.

I have written extensively about work-at-home scams both in this column and on my blog, CareerDiva.net, but many of you keep sending me e-mails asking me if certain job offers are legit.

Of all the e-mails you all have sent me in recent months, not one of the jobs offers you’ve received via e-mail sounded real to me.

And readers keep wanting me to recommend companies that offer telecommuting options. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend firms because I don’t want to be seen as endorsing one company over another. You’ll all have to do your research to figure out where these opportunities are. There are lots of sources on the Web, including the major job boards.

Also, don’t rule out applying to a company you know and like and asking if telecommuting is an option. More and more employers are considering this options for workers, especially in light of high prices at the pump.

While I won’t recommend companies, I will try to offer you advice on certain types of jobs or industries you can look into, and I’ll also try to answer any general questions you have on work-at-home offers you come across. So keep the e-mails coming.

Do not pay money up front
Here’s one from a women who lives in Chadwick, Mo.:

“Are there any legitimate work-at-home jobs for health care workers? I am a registered nurse. I have investigated several advertisements. However, most of them want money up front just to tell you where to look for a job. I would be very interested in any information or links that would assist me. I have a background in management, med surge, hospice and acute care. At this time, I drive 80 miles round-trip.”

OK, I can’t say this enough: Do not pay money up front to get a job. This is not how it works in the real world of employment. Requests for any money or personal information in e-mails or over the phone are scams, 99.9 percent of the time.

As for her options, Tim Schoonover with talent management firm OI Partners in Cincinnati offers some examples.

With a health care background, he says, she could get work answering medical questions from home via health help lines. Some insurance companies and nonprofits have these types of call centers, he says, including Aetna's Informed Health Line, the March of Dimes and the Arthritis Foundation.

In addition, Schoonover adds, she could also look into coordinating home health care services, managing recruitment of nurses for medical facilities, writing training materials and protocols or developing safety compliance protocols.

The key is paring your expertise and skills with jobs that can be done from a home base, and then actively going out and finding companies that could be a fit. Please don’t wait for offers to show up in your e-mail box.

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