Show Up at Work … in Your Robe

This year's skyrocketing gas prices are enough to make even the most diehard office suck-ups fantasize about finding a job that lets them telecommute. But is finding a new job that lets you work from home a realistic goal or just a pipe dream?

Thirty-three percent of U.S. companies allow employees to telecommute on a part-time basis, while 21 percent allow it full-time, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

In other words, although work-at-home jobs do exist, they remain few and far between.

Looking for career advice? Click here to send Michelle your questions and they might end up as a topic for her next column.

Of course, not all professions are telecommuting-friendly. If you don't work in information technology, sales, customer service, creative services such as writing and Web design, or support services such as administration and finance, you'll probably be hard-pressed to find a job that lets you work from home on a regular basis.

For the sake of argument, though, let's say your vocation does fall into the telecommuting-friendly category. What tools can you use to find the employers and job openings that will let you work from home one, two, even five days a week?

"100 Best Companies" lists: Magazines such as Working Mother and Fortune publish these lists every year (easily found online), complete with coverage of the Top 100 companies that permit telecommuting. Because smaller organizations usually don't make these lists, consult your regional publications, too. Local business journals, regional magazines and the business section of many local newspapers often publish Top 100 employer lists of their own. In fact, if you're not already scanning your local business section on a daily basis for articles about telecommuting-friendly employers (trust me, they abound), add that to your to-do list.

Job hunting sites, revisited: The job search site SimplyHired offers a mom-friendly job search filter, meaning you can narrow your search to companies that Working Mother has given the family-friendly stamp of approval. And while that won't guarantee that the jobs your search turns up will allow telecommuting, you're at least zeroing in on the companies with better benefits for parents (which can be code for "telecommuting allowed if you convince us you're worth it"). Also, I know this may sound obvious, but using the keywords "telecommuting" and "virtual office" on your SimplyHired searches — or on the searches you perform on any other job hunting site for that matter — can help you cut to the chase.

Six degrees of separation: You've probably heard it said that networking cures all employment ills. You may even consider yourself a master networker. But I'm here to tell you that if you haven't alerted everyone you've ever met in your life about your quest for a telecommuting job (that is, everyone you can tell without jeopardizing your current job), you're not networking hard enough. Same goes for those of you who aren't actively rubbing elbows or trading web forum advice with fellow members of an alumni association, chamber of commerce, professional organization, or even a neighborhood, community, or cultural group.

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