WorkWise Q&A: How do I know Internet opportunities are legit?

05/20/2013 8:59 AM

05/20/2013 9:03 AM

Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I’m on the Internet constantly. I get invited to apply for opportunities related to my work. Because I have a good job, I haven’t followed up on any of them. Some have been pretty tempting, though. How can I tell if they’re legitimate? Recipient

A: Dear Recipient, Spam enters in-boxes so frequently that you’d think we’d learn to recognize it. However, the minute we do, the sender comes up with another clever trick to make himself appear legitimate. Tread carefully, watching for warning signs.

Probe for extravagant claims. An unbelievable opportunity likely is.

Could the links be fraudulent? Is the writing poor? Lousy grammar is a red flag. If the approach to you is slipshod, back away.

Stare at the person’s name and email address. Do they seem legitimate in light of other information you’re gathering? Look for other contact information. No telephone? No company name? No city? No country? Less is less.

Search Google for other information. None? The sender is hiding there, too.

If you’re satisfied that the opportunity is at least a bit promising, ask for additional information about the missing specifics. Then make a decision. A go? Get references. Not sure? Drop out. mlc

Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I’m something of a maverick because of my progressive approach to work. Sometimes I’m rewarded with accolades, but other times I’m penalized by being kept off committees or simply laughed at. (“Oh, that’s just Bill again.”)

I don’t want to be a fish out of water 50 percent of the time. I want a job where I don’t risk being put down for my ideas. At a time when jobs aren’t plenty, how can I find one that fits? Maverick

A: Dear Maverick, You need a much different culture. The current one is too staid and unprogressive. Employees of all ages are probably emitting that tone. Don’t immediately assume that going to unestablished companies and businesses and those with young employees will solve your problem. Innovation isn’t age-specific.

Look for a culture where people aren’t afraid of being penalized for failing but instead encouraged to pick themselves up when they do. Ask people during the interview process (meet more than one person!) what unconventional, forward-thinking ideas have been proposed that ultimately worked. Did employees pull together to make them happen, even if there were bumps in the road? Find an innovator whose idea flopped to tell you what transpired. mlc

Dr. Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at

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