I decided to do a review of Europe Remotely for one simple reason: I live in Europe.
Germany, to be more specific.
During my job search, I found plenty of telecommute positions located in far-flung places. The United States, Canada, Australia… Even New Zealand (not that there’s anything wrong with that…).
I have no problem working for a company in a different time zone. I’m quite happy to compromise occasionally and work a few odd hours during the week. However, certain remote companies do seem to have an issue with me being in Europe.
How do I know?
’Remote – US & Canada Only’ frequently appears on job advertisements.
Not all of them, mind you – but this notice appears enough for it to get tedious. So I dedicated part of my job search to finding jobs specifically located in a European time zone.
When it came to platforms focusing on Europe… It was slim pickings. Then, I found EuropeRemotely.com.
Is Europe Remotely any good then?
I guess it depends on your definition of “good”. As a job board, it’s laid out in a pretty standard manner. This is the first thing you see when you log on:
I mean, it’s pretty much what you want. A list of remote jobs based in Europe… No fancy frills, nothing. As a job seeker, I didn’t really give a hoot. I scanned the list and looked for positions in my field (namely, marketing/copywriting).
And damn… There are a lot of tech and software jobs.
Which is good news for software developers, web developers and IT people. Seriously. If this is your industry, and you either live in Europe or don’t mind working for a European company then keep this platform in your bookmarks.
Scrolling down a little further though, Europe Remotely showed me this:
Ah, so they do divide it into categories. That’s handy.
After that… There’s not much else. Well, a blog with three posts. Thankfully, the jobs are regularly updated. Even for techies though, they are rather minimal. This platform’s definitely worth a look now and then but don’t rely on it!
Remote.co stands out for me because it’s more than just a remote job board. They actually style themselves as a resource for digital nomads and remote workers.
It’s not just for employees, either. Their blog contains a lot of information about managing remote teams.
After applying through jobs on this platform, I found it useful to skim through a few of their articles. Which was a nice break, especially since applying for jobs can really take it out of you.
So, how is Remote.co useful to work at home job seekers?
Beyond providing general advice, there’s a section on Remote.co dedicated to remote workers. In fact, there’s a list of remote workers who’ve shared their insights on various questions people ask. Which I think is really important: sometimes, you can get really bogged down in your search and forget about other perspectives.
Some of the insights include…
All about going remote (the how, why, different motivations people had, etc.)
What it’s actually like to work remotely (Do they keep a regular schedule? What are the pain points and how do you address them?). These insights are especially useful for those starting out in their remote careers.
The best way to find a remote job, what industries these remote workers’ companies are in, etc.
Remote life: how their job has impacted their lives outside work, how work/life balance in general compares to being in an office.
As stated before, Remote.co puts an emphasize on providing advice for employers who have remote teams/individuals working for them. It’s not only focused on those looking for a telecommute position. So even beyond a job board, it’s a pretty holistic resource.
What remote jobs are on offer?
I was quite impressed with the selection of jobs and industries available here. As well as how regularly it was updated. As usual, the most frequent remote positions were those in the area of tech, IT and software.
There was a substantial number of ads in the following industries as well:
Customer service (which is a pretty big telecommute industry anyway…)
Design (in some cases, can also be considered “tech”)
Marketing (mostly digital marketing, though)
Recruitment & HR
Online Teaching (not as many…)
…and a “miscellaneous” section.
Evidently, Remote.co’s job categories are very, very detailed. Which is good – although if you have a number of different transferrable skills, you may want to search in several categories. Restricting yourself to one will seriously limit the job suggestions.
I’m keeping Remote.co on my list of top remote job sites. They were invaluable to me during my search – and I managed to get into two interview processes through this platform. Although I haven’t joined it yet, they even have a community you can join. Definitely useful!
Remote working seems like a dream come true for many. Yet I’ve met a considerable number of employees who, although they’d like the freedom, don’t feel comfortable with the set-up. That’s understandable. I will say that right now at my job, I very much feel like the remote environment is a bit of a hinderance.
Aside from the flexibility and the ability to work in an environment that suits you, remote working can give you the feeling of… Well, not doing much.
Remote working is an AWFUL and FANTASTIC setup.
It’s pretty awful if you like being around people. It’s also awful if there are quiet times at your company and you literally have nothing to do. Sitting at your kitchen table, still drawing a salary and having nothing to do (so, you go clean the bathroom or whatever) – it can be pretty discouraging.
On the flipside, you can end up getting a lot of housework done. Those who commute two hours a day often don’t have the luxury of simply having that much time.
Why remote working really is terrible
If you’re used to a traditional office environment, a remote setup can be a huge adjustment. Offices have a specific flow to them: you show up, you turn on your computer, you get coffee… A lot of those jobs allow you to ease into the workday. Simply arriving at work, saying hello to colleagues and spending that first hour “settling” in is often counted as work. Even if you haven’t really produced anything.
In a remote setup? It’s pretty different.
You’re mostly going to be judged by what you produced. Have those files been organized? Have you emailed those ten people? Written these eight articles? Solved these three problems?
But wait, there’s more: If you do actually need to speak to someone, you can’t just walk across the room and talk to them. They won’t be sitting next to you. No, you’ll actually have to write to them. Or phone them or organize a call.
Which often means you really need to think about what it is you want to ask. You need to take initiative. That’s quite difficult for some people.
Some good news… why remote working is fantastic
If you’re someone who doesn’t like being in the same place every day, remote working’s got a few good points. You don’t have to sit at your desk: you can move to the kitchen. If you’re sick of being in the house, you can take your laptop and go sit in a café (just keep an eye out for wifi, or use your own network).
If you hate getting up early… Well, your commute is pretty quick. You more or less have to walk a couple of steps to the computer. Some people don’t even bother getting out of bed – they just open the computer and start working.
Since you’re being judged on your communication skills and results, remote working does have the odd side effect of actually making you a productive worker.
There were tonnes of remote jobs advertised. Literally thousands. From all over the world. It also didn’t appear to be a scam: since this platform’s been around for a REALLY long time. So I decided to give FlexJobs a good, old-fashioned review from a jobseeker’s perspective.
When I put this site through the Wayback Machine, it told me they’ve been around since 2007. I remember them from when I started freelancing in 2011 (along with something called “All Stay At Home”… which doesn’t seem to exist anymore).
It’s a good sign FlexJobs has lasted this long.
So let’s get down it, asking the most important questions first.
Is FlexJobs legit?
Lots of people are asking this. It’s understandable why you’d think they’re a scam. Especially since there are so many work from home scams at the moment. Of course, the telecommute job industry is a little savvier nowadays (though you still ought to be careful). But after reviewing them, I’ll say this: FlexJobs is definitely legit.
They’re no different to Indeed.com or Monster. In fact, if you do a quick search you’ll find many of the jobs posted elsewhere. That does take a bit of work, though.
So then, what’s on offer for remote job seekers?
Quite simply: job leads. However, applying for a work at home position through FlexJobs comes at a cost. Literally. The price is usually USD$15.00 per month. Jobs are divided into a rich range of different categories. Here you’ll likely find a remote position for almost every kind of job that you can do from home.
This is the stickler, though.
It’s often the cost that keeps people from using the platform. Which is totally understandable. There are a lot of pros to paying for and using their service, though. First and foremost, you have one, single place from which can apply to all relevant positions.
Seriously, it cuts out a lot of time from your job search. Secondly…
They filter out the work from home scammers.
In fairness, job boards like Remotive and Working Nomads do the same thing (for no subscription fee). But with this particular platform, you know you’re safe.
If you’re still humming and hawing about the cost, here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of FlexJobs:
Work at home scams are screened out!
The categories and number of telecommute positions here is… Amazing. Really, up until this point I haven’t seen a wider selection on any remote job board.
Links are posted to the original job advertisement: though, to be fair, a lot of job boards do that.
Accredited by the US Better Business Bureau (if that means anything to you… I’m not American so I have no experience of what it’s worth).
The cost! They’re not expensive, really. A lot of people don’t like having to pay for a job board, though. Myself included.
Most positions advertised are published elsewhere. Which means you just have to spare a little more time to find them yourself.
Should I use FlexJobs?
Truth be told… That’s completely up to you. If you’re willing to shell out around US$15.00 a month, then go for it. You could consider it an investment. However, more people are willing to pay with time rather than money. Since its free to search for open positions on Flex Jobs, all you have to do is go through their listing. Then, search online to see if there’s another platform you can apply through.
Alright, there is an element of fun behind it. Personally, I quite like going through job listings. For me, it’s a lot like flat-hunting: it can be fun to see what different but similar roles entail, how you might respond to those challenges and learning what new skills you might pick up.
However, job searches become a royal pain in the neck when we are forced to look for them. The added pressure of needing a job right now, this Goddamn minute! also serves to suck any kind of joy out of the process. Then, of course, we have those wonderful “recruitment” tactics that plague the digital job search landscape. In many ways, it really feels like job seekers are a barrel of laughs for a woefully inept industry.
In the end, there are many of us forced to take jobs we know we will hate just to cover our basic expenses.
That being said, some of us are lucky to hold the wolf from the door for at least a few months. Maybe you’ve got substantial savings or you’re blessed with living in a country that provides decent social security (thanks, Germany). That can definitely take the pressure off – especially if you have dependents.
However, even with our basic expenses covered, looking for a job still often ends up being a painfully tedious, degrading and dehumanizing experience. It’s enough to make you want to run away and live in the woods.
I’m actually in the middle of a job search myself right now. I am also very much at my wit’s end. I applied, last month, to over a hundred companies.
Over a hundred companies.
Let that sink in for a minute. That is quite a lot for the space of a month. Now, let me tell you how many positive responses I got (i.e., interviews) I got.
Just under ten.
I had rejections left, right and center. Not even polite rejections, most of the time. A lot of them were automated responses. Not only is that intensely discouraging, it’s just plain rude.
“I’m clearly doing something wrong,” I thought. “Maybe my cover letters sounded too braggy. Maybe they weren’t bragging enough! Perhaps I should’ve included my entire job history – not just that relevant to digital marketing. Perhaps employers scoffed at the fact I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree – or maybe (in the case of German companies) my German was just too “foreign”.”
Maybe, I’m just not good enough.
The above musings are nonsense. I did everything right. If you’re applying for jobs in a professional manner, you’re doing everything right as well!
We’re taking all the right steps, yet we get very little in return. It just doesn’t seem very fruitful.
Sadly, this is a totally normal experience for job seekers. It certainly seems bleak while you’re in the thick of it. You’re throwing CVs left, right and centre. Despite that, you’ve also got to remember that it seems worse because you need the Goddamn job right now, this minute!
However, if you’re doing your level best to get out there, you should always try to keep in mind that…
…you’re doing fine!
That’s why I threw the following points together. For anyone who needs a bit of encouragement and perspective, read on!
Hiring Processes Are Painfully Outdated
Application Tracking Software, online application methods and even my beloved job boards all, for the most part, suck. Now, job boards can be a great way of discovering new companies and new positions. However, when you’re applying, I would strongly advise you apply to the company directly. If possible. Don’t go through a middleman. You’ll just get lost in a wave of resumes.
Companies also seem more than happy to throw out a job listing and then spend the next eternityresponding to candidates. They seem to think that automated responses constitute an actual response. Furthermore, many of them are woefully unprepared to deal with the onslaught of applications they receive.
I find it painfully hilarious when I get an interview for a job I applied to three months previously. While it is great to get an interview, it shows just what an utterly sad and pathetic state the HR industry is in. So remember, it’s not you. It’s them.
Getting the Perfect Position (Could) Take Months
Terrible, outdated HR practices have a lot to do with this. At the same time, finding the perfect “match” is a lot like dating – much of it is down to fit. Do you fit in with the company culture? If not, that’s no particular person’s fault. If anything, you’re doing yourself a favour by turning that job down.
Then we have other points: salary is naturally one of the most important. While a good work-life balance is paramount, salary is the main reason you want a job in the first place. If it weren’t, I’m pretty sure many of us would be running our own raccoon kingdoms or setting up a circus or whatever.
Then of course there’s the work-life balance the job itself offers. Are you allowed to work remotely (that point, for me, is non-negotiable at this stage). Will you actually enjoy your day-to-day tasks? What are your colleagues like?
Job interviews are vetting processes. Not just for the company, but for the candidate as well. Remember, when you go to an interview, you are also interviewing them. This whole process of finding a position, applying, seeing if you’re a good fit and maybe doing “trial” days can end up taking a long time.
Many HR Managers Have No Idea What They Want
I’ve been quite lucky in my working life. When I was a freelancer, clients wanted written content from me. When I looked for work as an English teacher, language schools hired me to teach English. Pretty straightforward. Then, I got into digital marketing. In both cases, they were small but successful companies who knew what they wanted. We didn’t even have HR departments.
The sad truth is that most HR “professionals” have no clue what they’re talking about when they write a job ad. It becomes even more apparent when they interview you. I’m not saying all HR people are like this but far too many are painfully unaware of what the job they’re interviewing for actually entails.
Consider Rejections As “Standard”
Occasionally I receive a “you were not successful” email, along with an unnecessarily long list of instructions about how to deal with rejection. I find it incredibly patronizing but I understand where they’re coming from. However, if you’re a grown up who has had several jobs then you should be well-hardened against rejection now.
If not, remember: rejection is more common than acceptance. Apply for jobs and go out there fully expecting to be rejected. Consider each rejection as just one more step towards your goal of getting a job. It’s as simple as that. Even if HR managers knew what they wanted and we had the best recruitment systems in the world, you would still get a healthy dose of rejections.
All in all, I’ll maintain that looking for a job sucks. Companies don’t make it any easier on candidates, which is why these four points are so very important for us to remember. We are not the problem. We need to power through, look for those diamonds in the rough (I REFUSE to use that stupid word “unicorn”) and build relationships that way.
We can shop from our sofas. We can shop while riding the train. We can have businesses meetings with people on the ground whilst zipping through the air (expensive wifi permitting).
In the “knowledge” economy, your “workplace” has become less an actual place than a state of mind. Or, more specifically, it has become your laptop and your smartphone.
Job interviews can be held while the grocery shopping gets done. Even for jobs which require a physical presence, certain tasks can be carried out remotely.
At home, well, we don’t even have to be at home to switch on the lights or turn on the heating. Your house can be toasty warm before you even get there.
So, let’s all agree we’re pretty mobile. Naturally, this means remote working is incredibly common – nay, expected – for anyone whose job is done entirely on a laptop.
Or so you think. For some reason, even today…
…finding a Remote Job Is a Royal Pain in the Ass
Well, I’ll go further and say finding any job is a pain in the ass. Still, finding a purely telecommute position (or even a job with the option of it) remains something elusive for a lot of people. Despite our remote and mobile world, too many companies still maintain an outdated, unreasonable resistance to telecommuting.
Which is why I wrote this post.
After I vowed never, ever to work full-time in an office again, I knew I needed a game plan for any new job I applied for.
Okay, so this post isn’t really a full-on strategy, but it does elaborate on a few (vital!) points which have actually landed me a remote position.
Remote Work and Breaking the Default
Part of the resistance to telecommuting is what I like to call the “default”. This default is for “white-collar”, “knowledge-based” jobs which are primarily (or entirely) carried out on computers. That even includes traditionally “non-tech” jobs (accounting, HR, admin).
Despite this, it has taken too long for employers to start offering “work at home days”, let alone completely remote positions within these industries.
Essentially, working in-office is the default for most jobs. It’s standard, how things have always been done, etc. Both employers and most employees alike generally don’t question it. Why would they? Most employees aren’t aware that yes, you certainly can negotiate a remote work arrangement. Either with your current employer or with your future employer.
The trick is to sum up the courage to take a step beyond the yellow line and break that default!
Job Interviews and Mentioning You’re “Mobility”
When looking for my current job, I applied for many positions through remote job boards. However, the majority of my interviews came from applications I’d sent out on normal job sites like Indeed.com. Even then, I was careful to read each ad and research each company, trying to determine from afar just how open to remote work they might actually be.
When it came to the interviews, I stated that remote work was the “work environment I’m used to”. Some found it intriguing, others said they preferred me in the office. The latter were often very short interviews.
However, the point is – quite a few companies were open to the idea.
With Many Jobs, Remote Working Can Be a Solution
As stated before, many jobs today are conducive to remote working. However, it may not always be on the forefront of an employer’s mind. Yet, here’s the thing: quite a few employers are willing to implement a remote work arrangement as a solution to the problem of distance/travel. Especially if they find it difficult to get someone with the right skillset and/or experience.
Companies, after all, don’t want to hear problems – they’ve got enough of them. They want to hear solutions. This company is in Braunschweig, a relatively out-of-the-way city. Cologne, on the other hand, is the media capital of Germany. Düsseldorf is also nearby. There are a lot of companies I could potentially work for. So, the wonderful vapers sitting in Braunschweig might be taking their time evaluating candidates and trying to make the location as attractive as possible.
All I could do was offer the solution of being available via Skype, email and phone. In addition, I stated that I had no problems travelling for meetings. I offered them a solution immediately. How effectively I did that, we’ll see. As with much of what I’m currently doing, I’m testing waters. If they like it… Well, something substantial might result. If not, I’ll learn from the mistake and move on!
UPDATE: I didn’t even get an automated response from the company. Rude. I won’t be going anywhere near them again.
TIP: If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, make sure to use the phrase “work environment” before anything else. It sounds more professional and shows that you’re serious. I know it’s dumb, but I’ve had positive conversations with it.
Right Then, When’s the Right Time to Ask?
Questions about your future “work environment” come under the same headers as perks, salary, severance package, working hours etc. In reality, you shouldn’t feel that asking for a remote or partially-remote position is pushing it. It’s all part-and-parcel of the negotiations you make before you sign their little piece of paper.
In my opinion, the best time to ask is during the first interview. I would usually wait until the interviewer starts to talk about the benefits of working there. Don’t go in whole-hog and ask about remote working off the bat. Soften it a little.
For example, if their office is located quite a while away, you could ask if it’s possible to work from home some of the days. You can make the argument that two hours a day is a lot to travel.
Applying to a company that’s a good few hours from your home is also an option. If they offer a relocation package, you could ask if a telecommute arrangement might be more favorable. After all, they will end up saving a LOT of money. Not just on office overheads, but relocation expanses.
If you’ve got experience working remotely, you can also do what I do. Mention that you’re used to working from home and that you’d prefer not to give it up.
The “how” is up to you – but based on experience, I would strongly advise asking in the first interview/phone call. Those are usually the “make or break” situations where both an employer and a candidate suss one another out. Remember, they’re not just interviewing you – you’re also interviewing them!