Or, should I Just Start My Own Business?

05/10/2010 05:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Still no job? Isn't it time to stop waiting for someone to hire you and start taking matters into your own hands? How about starting your own business?

Well, that's the current counsel from some quarters. And it sounds like a great idea especially when we hear such promising stories: a laid-off mid-manager selling her artisanal marmalade to local shops; a lawyer photographing weddings; a teacher attending a franchise fair with a check in her hand. These tales sound oh-so-tempting.

Being your own boss is at the heart of the American Dream. And it's no wonder it is such a common fantasy: the idea of ownership taps into our profound longing for freedom -- freedom from bosses, restrictive policies, glass ceilings, and everything else that robs you of rewards, both financial and creative.

But is it really right for you? Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur? The French root, prendre, means to take. And when you start your own business, you must take on massive responsibility and total risk for any future gains or profit, however delayed they are. So, can you do it?

Here are some quick questions that might resolve whether you have what it takes. Just answer Yes or No. Be brutally honest with yourself. Recall your past experiences -- or lack thereof -- to support your answers to the following:

1. Do I initiate projects and carry them through successfully?
2. Have I managed projects well without supervision?
3. Have I enjoyed being in charge?
4. Can I hire and fire others when necessary?
5. Can I delegate work?
6. Can I criticize others' work when and get what I need from them?
7. Can I negotiate and compromise without feeling that I am selling out?
8. Do I have abundant energy?
9. Can I delay gratification to attain a goal?

If you answer mostly No, you need to recognize that this form of enterprise is not for you, at least not yet. After all, most of us are used to the discipline of structure and fulfilling the tasks required of us. Don't feel bad if you like, even thrive, working for a boss. The upside is that there are plenty more jobs and opportunities. So, being an entrepreneur is just not your style.

If you answer mostly Yes, your risk-taking skills suggest that you can be adept at taking chances. Experiment first by working for an established entrepreneur to see how it's done and test the process to see if you like it before you go out for something you are unprepared for.

If all your answers are Yes, you are most likely ready to start on your own.

Alternatively, your high score can suggest that you're ripe for an even higher level of management. You might consider that position now. This could work in surprising ways, taking you out of your comfort zone, a good thing, but not out of your career.

Know that business owners and entrepreneurs are not just born. I coach many such people and witness them evolving in the process. Business owners have to develop a set of skills that they practice throughout their lives. I call this skill set, Risking Linking. Linking, of course, is connecting to people - in person and online - in meaningful ways of exchange. Risking is more difficult to understand and requires much more than just time and money, though it will take plenty of both. It demands that we act despite our profound fears that we aren't good enough. There is no cure for anxiety or timidity except to keep practicing this skill, which will, in time, prune our terrors. A career coach can help you overcome your own self-imposed limitations - invaluable lessons.

If you are ready, find groups that will support your ideas whether in person or online. Sample local networking meetings, powerful places-- but only if you become an active member. Just attending doesn't do it. Use your entrepreneurial spirit to start an exchange that can lead to your next step. Find and use a civic or professional association to practice leadership skills and meet others who can become or introduce you to investors. Interview members, including the group's officers, for their success stories. Volunteer for a committee or task relating to the business you want to start or buy in order to segue into brainstorming and planning.

Make your luck happen!

Dr Adele
Author, Skills for Success