Unemployment. These days, it's an unfortunately common term. Many women have lost their jobs - single, married with children, or otherwise. But even more men have been laid off, which brings rise to another problem: a major shift in family roles.

Today thousands of women who have been stay-at-home mothers, or who work part time to supplement their family's income, are having to look for jobs in the worst economy many of us have ever known.

Many of these women are educated, motivated and hard working, but they are facing the same obstacles as everyone else. They have the intelligence and the drive, but competition for the dwindling opportunities is intense.

So, we can look at this as an obstacle ... or as an opportunity.

What is the one thing can we do to create an income that is dependent only on our own strengths and desires, and not on whether or not our resume ever makes it to the top of a pile? In this country, we have the ever-present ability to start our own business.

Regardless of how small or large our aspirations may be, making money is a choice - not a privilege - when we take it into our own hands.

There is one business that I would recommend to any dedicated, hard-working woman or man with integrity and people skills: insurance. (This should not come as a major surprise.) I have helped many women get started in this field, and I know how flexible and profitable the industry can be.

A business is built on providing a product or service. One of my favorite parts of the insurance business is the many different kinds of insurance that exist. They are so different, which is great in an ever-changing world. Why?

Here is one example: There is a lot of uncertainty in health insurance right now. If health insurance were the only tool in my belt, I might be a tad worried about the future. But that's not the case.

While I think the health insurance industry will recover, I can rest assured knowing that my other products - life insurance, disability, annuities, long-term care, etc. - can sustain me if it doesn't.

So the diversity of products is a proverbial safety net ... but the way each unique product can complement the one before it is even better. Enter the cross-sell. As an insurance broker, your clients will look to you as the expert on insurance across the board, not just on the one product you have already sold them.

This is, of course, if you represent yourself that way.

If you sell health insurance to a small business and then walk out the door, they may or may not ask you if you can help them with their group life, disability, dental, or their Aunt Georgia's Medicare supplement.

Instead of hoping that they think of you when these other needs arise, make sure they think of you. Put yourself in front of them at every appropriate opportunity.

The insurance industry is a wonderful path to set out on. I have seen firsthand what it has done for many people who probably never imagined they would be insurance brokers. But before embarking on any new journey, it's important to have a positive outlook.

One of the most important life lessons I have learned is that life will be exactly what you make it, and perception can make or break you. I have had my ups and downs, as we all have, and I used to be a lot harder on myself during the downs.

Today, however, I remind myself at every new challenge that my perception of the situation is entirely up to me. If I look at a seemingly negative situation as a failure, or another stroke of bad luck, I will achieve nothing but the ability to wallow in my own misery. However, if I look at it as a challenge to prove to myself that I can succeed and learn from it, I will do exactly that.

Carst is a self-employed broker and consultant. She is the co-founder of Women Insurance Professionals, a non-profit organization that helps women with the licensing process and career support. Reach her at amycarst@hotmail.com. Follow EBN on: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Podcasts

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