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Finding the Right "Opportunity" for You (Part I)

op-por-tu-ni-ty: 1) a favorable juncture of circumstances; 2) a chance for advancement or progress**

©1997, by Lisa M. Roberts

Are you a parent looking for a business "opportunity" you can manage at home? Something that pulls in some extra income without pulling too much on your personal savings account? A work-at-home venture that allows you to be available to your young children on a daily basis?

Welcome to the world of work-at-home parenthood. You are not alone. According to IDC/Link, in 1997 there were over 16 million parents of young families working at home in the U.S. alone. Fast Company Magazine (January 1998) reports over 25 million "Free Agents," including telecommuters, home business owners, freelancers, consultants and independent contract workers. And with the advent of the Internet, the numbers are growing exponentially. By the year 2000, it's estimated that 60% of the workforce will be contract workers.

So where does that leave you? Still searching for the right work-at-home opportunity, of course!

It's time to put your search in gear -- and in perspective. First, some perspective. Unlike traditional jobs, the most promising work-at-home "opportunities" do not come from someone, somewhere outside the home. They come from someone inside the home--you! What does that mean? It means that there's no such thing as a quick-fix, work-at-home business. Somebody doesn't just give you a job like when you become an employee in a traditional office setting.

It also means that impulse buying of somebody else's business isn't the answer either. While the possibility of selling manufactured products from home (aka MLM ventures) exist, they are not "opportunities" just because you buy into them. It takes a cautious analysis of each venture before determining whether it's truly "a favorable juncture" for you, or if there's "a good chance it will lead to advancement or progress" for you.

The truth is, there's no way around it. As with any worthwhile job search, it all begins with some serious self-analysis and reflection. Your business "opportunity" will only come after a careful look at your own special skills, interests, talents and resources. Sound too complicated? Take heart. Putting together a professional profile for self-employment is a lot like putting together a resume for an employee position.

A resume is first a self-assessment tool, an exercise in gathering your most marketable skills, experience and education all together in one, straightforward document. Second, it is a job search tool, a connection between you and paid employment. The process puts you first, and the job second. Likewise, when you start looking for the right work-at-home opportunity, you need to put yourself first, and the business second.

What do you bring to the entrepreneurial table that makes you unique? What do you have to offer that others will pay money for? You may be surprised to find out that many of the skills that you have been paid for in the past are just as marketable in a home-based position as in a traditional office setting. It just takes some time and thought to identify them.

Now, to get yourself in gear! Here's a creative exercise designed to shift your mindset from employee to self-employer. You'll notice that it starts off on very familiar job search terrain -- the Sunday Want Ads. But before you know it you're in "Free Agent" land! Have fun and enjoy the brainstorming session!

How to Identify Your Most Marketable Skills

1. Open up your Sunday newspaper to the Help Wanted Ads and pretend you're looking for a full-time job in the traditional workplace.

2. Circle all the ads that you believe you're qualified to apply for. Remember to look not only under "A" for "Accountants" or "G" for "Graphic Designers," but under "F" for Financial Institutions and "P" for "Publishing Companies."

3. With scissors, cut out the specific skills (words, phrases, sentences) that you have that these employers are looking for.

4. Collect all these scraps of newspaper and put them in a container.

5. Hold the container. You are holding your most marketable skills. These are skills employers pay money for their staff to carry out. They are also skills clients pay business owners and independent contract workers to carry out!

6. Shake the container. Pour out all the scraps of paper on the kitchen table, turn them "face-up" so you can read your highly marketable skills, and start brainstorming!

(Excuse me? What am I supposed to do with this "container of marketable skills"?)

1. Memorize them! Type them up, print the list out, and study each one until you know them by heart.

2. Make a collage! Glue the newspaper scraps haphazardly onto a piece of cardboard and tack it on the wall behind your computer, or on your refrigerator, or wherever your thoughts usually start collecting.

3. Play a game with your kids! Glue the scraps onto a large piece of oak tag, leaving enough space in between each one to cut out equal squares. Then pair each skill up with a similar one and color code them (two red, two blue, two orange-yellow, etc.). Lay out the squares "face-down," scramble them a bit, and play a game of "Concentration." Make sure each player reads each square they pick, whether it's a match or not. Before you know it, your whole family will have memorized your most marketable skills too, and you'll have a few more brains working on your home career search with you!

Do you feel your work-at-home opportunity starting to emerge yet? No? Don't give up. Turn to Finding the Right Work-at-Home Opportunity--Part II!

**Definition of the word "opportunity" provided by the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Copyright 1981

© 1997 Lisa M. Roberts, all rights reserved. The above article is an excerpt from How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business, a title highly recommended by La Leche League, Home Office Computing and the Family Christian Bookclub. Order your own copy today!

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