Receiving an invitation via e-mail used to be like getting a movie-theater gift certificate: It's still the thought that counts, but you're just not sure how much. But as competition in the online-invitation field has intensified, e-vites have left the realm of novelty and become a legitimate time-saving tool. The best such site is Invitemetoo.com, which lets users choose among several types of events (kaffeeklatsch, book-club meeting, bachelorette bash), fill in details like address and occasion, and then send out e-mails that contain links to the Web-based invites. It even lets would-be-cyber-socialites keep track of R.S.V.P.'s. Although their graphics have a less homey touch, Yahoo Invitations (invites.yahoo.com) and Evite.com offer similar features and can display your guest list to promote your social cachet.
I.T., Phone Home
On the Internet, there is such a thing as a free lunch -- not to mention free long-distance calls. The Web has long allowed the cyber-savvy set to pay locally and talk globally by calling other computer users over the Net; now Dialpad.com lets anyone in the U.S. whose PC has a microphone and speakers talk directly to anyone with even an old-fashioned phone. The only drawback is that the free meal in question isn't quite a gourmet meal: You may have to shout unless you use a headset.
"We can't call you," admonished the old Apex Tech ads. "You have to take the first step." Not in the new economy, you don't. Now, the theory goes, you post your résumé on one of the growing number of job-hunting Websites, sit back, and wait for the phone to ring. While you're waiting, check out what opportunities are out there and scope out the competition -- many sites let you log on as a "guest" employer and declare open season on other people's résumés.
The 800-pound gorilla of online job listings, Monster.com (inspiring motto: "Work. Life. Possibilities") claims to offer more than a million résumés and receive 300,000 more each month. Besides listing roughly 11,000 jobs in the New York area at solid companies like Emigrant Savings Bank and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the site allows users to ask for advice in question-and-answer "communities" aimed at interns, CEOs, and everyone in between.
Almost as enormous as Monster (inspiring motto: "When you love what you do, you're alive") but less popular locally -- a search for "Broadcast/Publishing" opportunities came up empty -- is Jobs.com. (It's best for technology-related positions.) But it offers e-mail updates of job postings and lists almost 450 prospective employers under the letter A alone.
An even more ambitious site is Freeagent.com (inspiring motto: "For a brave new workforce"), which not only lists freelance gigs in fields from tech to translation -- it's as much a one-stop shop as Staples is. The site can also handle freelancers' invoicing, file their tax returns, and help them create online showcases.
For the inside scoop, don't miss the message boards on Vault.com (inspiring motto: "Career advancement for professionals"), which include postings from employees about what it's really like at various companies. It's the next best thing to taking a job out for a test drive.
If big job sites are the online equivalent of college employment fairs, Jobmonkey is like the notices hanging in the student center, a clearinghouse for occupations like seasonal ski instructor and Alaskan-fishery worker. Great for slackers -- or anyone with some time on his hands between e-commerce start-ups.