Scam alert: Falling for a false offer

Over the last month and a half, the job hunt has been a little slow. I’ve finally learned to engage in the practice of applying to as many openings as I’m able. As expected, some of the responses have included “the job posting has closed.” Some applications have yielded no response at all. Until last week, I had yet to fall for a scam offer.

I received an invitation to apply to a freelance job on Upwork.com. I did, and almost immediately received a response. We took our conversation to Google Hangouts, where I received more information on the company: Alembic Pharmaceuticals. After IMing back and forth for a couple hours, my interviewer showed my responses to the head of the department. He returned with positive news! I got the job!

false website, scam, alembic pharmaceuticals
It’s sad that I didn’t notice the “a 100 years” until uploading this picture.

But there were enough things to make me think this was a scam. For one thing, the company was apparently based in India. And as happy as I was to immediately get a job that paid enough to cover my bills, it was unusual to get the offer so quickly. I held off on a grand social media announcement that I was employed again, but I told a few friends and family members.

Those friends and family members had serious doubts. To them, it was an obvious scam. It was just too good to be true. Since I’m staring down student loans, doctor bills, and all the other usual money-sucking obligations, I was willing to overlook a few oddities. Like how they were going to send me a check that I was to spend on purchasing equipment and software for a home office before I could start working.

However, caution started to win out. I forwarded the official job offer to my dad and asked his thoughts. At first, he seemed just as convinced as I was. We chatted on the phone, and he suggested I call the number on their website to verify the offer. I was hesitant to call an international number, so he suggested I call the number for the office in New Jersey.

That threw me off. Nowhere on the website I was looking at was there a mention of an office in New Jersey. Everything I saw said India or Mumbai. We discovered we were looking at two different websites. The site the interviewer had directed me to: alembicpharmaceuticals.com. The site my dad found: alembicusa.com. When comparing the two, the first thing I noticed was the company logo. It was a near copy, but not exact.

graphic design, logo scam
The scammer site is on top; the real Alembic is below. If not for my graphic design background, I might not have noticed the difference.

So I called the New Jersey office and got ahold of the hiring manager. She confirmed in under a minute that the offer was fraudulent. Sad to say that means I’m still unemployed.

I tried to email the real Alembic company with the details of their imposters, but their only listed email account has a full inbox. In hindsight, it was 100% obvious this was a scam. But staring down the barrel of all those bills made me want to believe otherwise. Thankfully, I caught wise before I could give up any crucial information. I wanted to share this story so I could ask everyone else on the job hunt to please be smarter than me and not fall for these kinds of tricks.

Having an Opinion in the Workplace (And Not Being a Jerk)

You’ve made it through the application and the interview, and now you’ve got the job — congratulations! People have recognized you’re qualified and will have an informed opinion on things relevant to your job. But how long do you have to have the job before you can express your honest opinion? And how do you express it without coming across as a stubborn know-it-all?

As a blunt and occasionally abrasive member of the workforce, allow me to share what’s worked for me.

“Putting a bird on your head doesn’t make you a trendsetter, Janet. It makes you look like an idiot.” Source

When can I start being honest?

Right away. Part of why you were hired is the perspective you can offer, not your ability to nod and agree. In your workplace, you’ll have some higher goal your team is working toward or core values all your actions must reflect. If you think there’s a better way to reach that goal or exemplify those values, let your team know. You might have the best idea, or your idea might give someone else on the team a stroke of genius.

Is it possible to be too honest?

Yes. It comes down to tact — how, where and to whom you express your opinion. It’s not appropriate to raise your hand in a meeting and say the project idea is stupid. You might say, “From my perspective as [whatever you have in common with the target audience], I’m not sure I would be interested in this.” Give your reasons and provide alternative ideas. When you’re one-on-one with your supervisor or someone from your department, that’s when you can say, “Yeah, I’m not that thrilled with this idea. I think we need to nudge them more in this direction.”

What if I’m new?

So what? New or old, you’re part of the team. There’s a hazy area between being the humble new hire and the confident figure of authority. But your behavior in the beginning gives your colleagues an expectation of what your behavior will be like when you’re not so new. Assert your idea. Support it. Be willing to support someone else’s idea. Start doing that immediately — it’s what you’ll have to do further down the line.

What if I come on too strong?

If it’s going to be a habit, apologize. Personally, I am in the habit of being aggressive and blunt. The best practice I’ve found to prevent it from being a problem: let your supervisor know you’re aware of your own personality, that you will try to use your best judgement, and you will immediately take it down a few notches if your supervisor thinks you crossed a line. You don’t have to apologize for your opinion, just the delivery of it.

What if no one asks for my opinion?

Offer it anyway. Sometimes people will go out of their way to ask what you think of something. Other times, it’s understood that you will voice your thoughts because you are present for the discussion. No one will know what you’re thinking until you tell them. Not comfortable with the new assignment? Think having a partner on the job will get it done more effectively and efficiently? Have zero clue what direction to take? Tell someone.

What if I have no opinion?

Then you have no opinion. The workplace phrasing of this is, “I don’t have strong feelings for this either way.” But, since the idea is to keep the larger entity you work for effective, this would be a good time to ask questions. I find the things I don’t have an opinion on are the things I don’t know enough about. They want to know if you think the content will appeal to your audience? Ask who the audience is. Is it going to reach our goal? Well, what is the key goal?

“Frankly, I don’t give a damn if it’s blue or green.” Source

The alternative to all this: misery and resentment, and not just for you. In the end, it’s all about being the kind of team member you choose to be.

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First Day of Class vs. First Day of Work

Hi friends. Today was the first day at my first real, adult, this-is-my-career job — and the whole day was taken up by new hire orientation. As I tried to file the first few hours into my brain, I couldn’t help but compare the first day at work and the first day at school.

Similarities

Paperwork. Remember all those fun handouts with the course syllabus, class goals, professor contact information, etc.? You get way more at work. Tax forms, medical insurance, benefits, “yes I have access to a handbook, but I’m not saying I read it” forms, and many others. It’s some pretty dense reading, but at least you get a few days to sort through it all.

Introducing yourself. Ah, the dreaded 45-second spotlight in which you declare your field of study, hometown, why you are in the class, and something interesting about yourself — or shrug and mumble your way through something like that. Adults do the same sort of thing, but it almost felt like a bit of a competition to me (but I tend to get that vibe from just about everything). Instead of “I’m majoring in sound design because I like to make beats,” you hear things like “Oh, I’ve got a couple degrees in literature, film studies, and communication.”

Everyone else just moved in, too. Before, you’d talk to classmates about which dorm they’re in, or maybe they just got an apartment. In the fall time, most of these people arrived around the same time you did and are also trying to figure out where all their stuff is. In Adult-World, some of your new colleagues (and maybe you) have just relocated for the job. Some just moved in last week while others may have been living in a hotel and just entered their house for the first time that morning. You’ll bond over things you didn’t expect, like not having your furniture.

Differences

You can’t zone out for “the usual stuff.” Even if this isn’t your first job in Adult-World, you need to know about the the policies, the insurance, and the retirement plans available. And if this is your first job in Adult-World, fear not! They actually explain things and you can ask as many questions as you need for clarification. So all the stuff you worried over not understanding because no one taught you? They’ve got you covered.

The gauntlet of guest speakers. Did I mention all the stuff you need to pay attention to? Well, for each one of those things, you’ve got a specialist whose career is to handle those things — and each of them come in to talk to you about all that important stuff. So no struggle to remember the names of everyone in the classroom. Instead, you get a collection of business cards and contact information.

You don’t pick rivals and allies. I know I’m not the only one who has looked around the classroom, eyeing the competition, and figuring out who will help you improve (as you do the same for them), and who you want to crush with the power of your awesomeness. At the new hire orientation, you’ve got a bunch of people working in different departments. There’s going to be some communication between those departments, but ultimately you’ll be separated enough that how you compare doesn’t matter.

Unless you’re like me and you see the M.F.A. everyone else seems to have as a reason to hurry up and get your own.

Tomorrow, I have some more orientation stuff (including getting an employee ID card and parking), a tour, and eventually I actually get to go to work. We’ll find out what sort of desk I have and what weird things might have been left by the previous owner next time!

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I answer Glassdoor’s Top 10 Oddball Interview Questions

Tis the season for job interviews (particularly for my fellow members of the class of 2015)! And if you go to Glassdoor.com, you can find lists of the top 10 unusual job interview questions shared by job candidates for the last few years. Since I’m waiting to hear about getting an interview, I took a stab at answering them.

  1. What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash? (Airbnb)
    1. That really depends on where I’ve crashed; options are far more limiting if you crash at sea than if you crash on land. First priority would be making sure I really am the only survivor and no one is injured, and then I’d check if the communication systems in the cockpit still work. From there, it’s really about getting home.
  2. What’s your favorite 90s jam? (Squarespace)
    1. “Are You Jimmy Ray?” by Jimmy Ray.
  3. If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them how would you choose which ones to answer?” (Dropbox)
    1. Since the question only limits how many I can answer and not read, I’d skim through to find the emails that actually require a response and start replying first to anything flagged as high priority.
  4. Who would win in a fight between Spider-Man and Batman? (Stanford University)
    1. Marvel and DC film studios.
  5. If you had a machine that produced $100 dollars for life what would you be willing to pay for it today?” (Aksia)
    1. If I already have it, why would I pay for it? I’m also confused about this machine; does it print $100 bills every day for the rest of my life, or only provide me with $100?
  6. What did you have for breakfast? (Banana Republic)
    1. Granola bar and yogurt.
  7. Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind. (Redbox)
    1. If yellow were a feeling, it would be warm sunshine on your face and grass poking up between your toes.
  8. If you were asked to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, what would you do?” (Bose)
    1. Assuming we’re talking about a plane here, I’d probably get the crew to assist me. If that’s not an option, I can always open the door. (Are these jelly beans loose or packed?)
  9. How many people flew out of Chicago last year? (Redbox)
    1. People don’t fly; planes do. A trick question as old as “If a plane crashes on the border of Canada and the U.S., where do you bury the survivors?”
  10. What’s your favorite Disney Princess? (Cold Stone Creamery)
    1. I’m going to ignore Disney Studio’s ownership of Marvel and Star Wars and go with Ariel.

Have your own collection of unusual interview questions? I’d love to see them in the comment section below!