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Virtual office program geared to help in bad economy

Class offers working professionals a work-from-home opportunity
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Jennifer Haggin said news that she was laid off in August was actually a blessing. The Alta Sierra mother of two said being let go as an accounting administrator for a small construction company in Grass Valley allowed her to pursue the idea of starting her own business. In the downtrodden economy, Sierra College is offering a class to help other working professionals like Haggin who are currently seeking a job in a tough market. The Virtual Office Professional Program is designed to instruct students who want to be independent entrepreneurs for administrative, creative or technical services. It helps professionals find work on a contractual basis and in turn, it cuts costs for businesses. “It’s a very timely program,” said Cyndi Dunn in a news release. “It offers a lot of options as a career.” Dunn is the Sierra College professor who helped bring the program to the school. Haggin, who has a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Nevada, Reno, and 10 years of work experience, signed up for the class at the beginning of this fall’s semester. She said she is in the process of setting up her business, Administrative Virtual Solutions, and hopes to approach potential clients in January. “It’s always been in the back of my mind,” Haggin said. “Being laid off turned out to be a blessing. Along with the class it really gave me sort of that extra push to open my own business.” Haggin said her business will relieve small businesses of day-to-day tasks such as maintaining contacts, responding to e-mails, lower level marketing, maintaining a calendar and more. She added that it is significantly cheaper to hire someone for a specific service versus taking on a full-time administrative assistant. “It makes more sense especially if you’re watching the bottom line of what your payroll could potentially be,” Haggin said. Auburn’s Doctor PC owner Stewart Schurr agreed that it helps small businesses, such as his, keep costs down. He recently hired an office program student to take care of administrative tasks for a new business he is launching. “It is more efficient and economical to use a virtual office professional for new companies,” Schurr said. On a personal level, becoming a virtual office professional allows Haggin to stay at home with her toddler and newborn. “It’s a perfect opportunity for this stage in my life,” Haggin said. “It gives me the chance to use my professional skills and have a flexible schedule.” The college has openings for a winter course starting in mid-January. In addition to learning the tools necessary to launch a successful virtual business, the class helps students network. “It’s designed for the consummate professional,” Dunn said. “It’s for somebody who is not only an independent learner but is also able to be a professional at all times no matter what the circumstance.” For more information, visit www.sierracollege.edu/VOP. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.