Finding the right career niche is crucial to both your personal happiness and your professional success. But it’s not always easy to find the “sweet spot” where you can translate your passion, goals, values, and strengths into a paycheck. First, you have to spend some time thinking about what’s important to you and what you want out of life.
Then you have to be honest about where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Finally, put together your passion and your strengths to find a market gap you’re capable of filling. The easiest way to do this is to narrow down what makes you different from others who might have the same skills and passions.
Identify Your Personal Values and Life Goals
Before you can find the right career niche for you, you first need to know what’s important to you and what you want to accomplish in life. That way, you’ll be able to identify whether an opportunity will mesh with your personal values and your larger vision for your life, so that you can stay on a path that allows you to stay true to yourself. Otherwise, you might take what seems like a dream job only to find out after the fact that your new position doesn’t give you the flexibility you need to spend time with your kids, travel, or do other things that may be just as important to you as your career.
Or, you might end up working for a company whose policies don’t mesh with your own values. Maybe you’re a staunch environmentalist and your company doesn’t have or want any sustainability practices in place. Maybe you place a premium on offering quality customer service and your employer has a bad reputation for providing terrible customer service. You won’t be happy working in any of these jobs.
Pinpoint Your Passions
Some people seem to know what they’re passionate about from the time they’re old enough to know anything. But most of us need many years of experience and a fair amount of serious introspection to uncover our passions. To find out what potential career, or careers, makes your heart beat faster, ask yourself some of these questions:
- If you had plenty of money, plenty of time, and zero concern for practicality, what would you be doing?
- Are you jealous of a friend’s job? If so, what is it?
- What’s the one job, no matter how crazy or weird, you’d secretly like to try?
- If you could start a business selling absolutely any service or product, what would you sell?
- What are your friends completely sick and tired of hearing you yammer on about, but you never do?
- If you could work in any part of the world, where would you work?
Once you find the answers to these questions, you’ll know what you’re passionate about, and you’ll be that much closer to identifying your career niche. Your passion may lead you into a whole new career, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes discovering your passion can inspire you to specialize within your current field. For example, if you’re an RN, learning more about your true passions could encourage you pursue a nursing specialization and translate your clinical skills into a career in nurse leadership or nursing education.
To succeed in a career niche, you need to be brutally honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not sure, you can take personality or aptitude tests online to help pinpoint your own strengths and weaknesses. This way, you won’t end up pursuing something you may feel passionate about but have absolutely no talent for.
If you have some time to think things over, you might keep a journal and write down both the times when you feel particularly happy, successful, and empowered, as well as the times you feel stressed, anxious, and unhappy. This will help you identify the things you’re best at and most fulfilled doing, as well as helping you avoid career tracks that will only lead to misery.
What Makes You Unique?
The final step in identifying your career niche is to know what makes you different. For example, plenty of nurses have a passion for helping others and want to make a difference, but what makes you different from most other nurses? Perhaps it’s your strong leadership skills or your commitment to mentoring younger nurses. Plenty of entrepreneurs are fiercely independent and passionate about business, but what makes you different from those other entrepreneurs?
Maybe you’re not very outgoing and would secretly like to start a business helping other introverts realize their own small business dreams. While it might make sense to try and cater to a more general market, you’ll actually enjoy more success if you cater to a specific group of people with an unmet need.
If you want to enjoy a successful and fulfilling career, you’ll need to find and occupy your niche. While it sounds intimidating, it’s really just a matter of knowing what you want and what you’re good at, and finding a way to translate those things into a marketable skill. Sure, it may take a little more effort than simply drifting from one job to the next until it’s time to retire, but you’ll be glad you made the effort when you find yourself looking forward to another day at work.