Looking to change something about the kind of work you do? Let’s say you love your career, but not your job. Or you’ve never found a job you love. Or you realize the job scene is changing as a whole — and you want to make sure you’re still marketable. One possible solution is creating a specialized career niche for yourself.
Niche careers let you target what you can offer an employer — and what you really want to do for a living. The Cambridge Dictionary defines niche as “a job or position that is very suitable for someone, especially one that they like: [Example] He has carved / made a niche for himself as a financial advisor.”
How specialized should niche careers be?
It’s up to you. Just like products in a supermarket, careers can be kept to the general (ice cream) or somewhat specialized (vanilla ice cream) or whittled way down to the very rare and specific (coffee ice cream with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and swirls of burnt caramel.)
But there’s a trade-off: the number of actual jobs you’ll qualify for. You’ll find a lot more job listings under general categories. But you’ll also have a lot more competition with perhaps not enough to differentiate you.
Now if you are great at your niche, an employer (with the help of a recruiter) may actually come looking for you. Or at least when you see the keywords and key phrases describing what they’re looking for in a candidate, you’ll have your well-honed niche skills to get you to the front of the “yes” pile.
Also, the more expert you become, while the total number of jobs may be less, your chances of getting those jobs may increase. But you better keep those skills sharp and updated.
And you also need to take into account whether you want to be be seen as a specialist to the extent you might not be seen as someone who can take on a less niched, wider scope role in the company.
How do you find a niche you’d enjoy?
First, make sure you know who you are. And what a niche career can do for you — as well as what it can’t do for you. Or what it might mean for your career direction. Is this really what you want for yourself five years down the road?
Once you’re sure you want to proceed (and you can always decide “never mind”), start to immerse yourself in the idea. Wrote about it. Talk about it. Explore it. See how it feels.
Can you imagine yourself five years from now, an expert in the field. People turning to you for your knowledge and expertise. Feeling good about what you’ve created for yourself.
Sometimes you start with just a vague idea. And then as you dig into it further. You shape it and hone it to feel like it truly fits who you are. Not who others want you to be — but who you really are. And the parts you especially want to feed and grow.
And yes … you may take some wrong steps and go down dead-end paths, but that’s ok. It’s how we figure things out. At least things that really matter.
The next section talks about how to get yourself into a career niche. But it can also be part of the process that helps you figure things out. And helps you re-evaluate / change directions if needed.
How to get yourself into a career niche
Research, research, research
First … research the heck out of it! Often things feel & sound different in your mind and in images you see in the media than in real life. I used to want to be a talent agent. Even took a low-level job in an agency to get an inside look at things.
But the more I saw of the day-to-day work — including lots of socializing this introvert would hate — I knew it was not for me. Sure, I could do contracts and be there for my clients, but that wasn’t the heart of the job. And the only way to find that out is by doing your research carefully.
Talk to people
- Use LinkedIn and other online sources to find people to talk to.
- If you have an alumni group, turn to them for help.
- Read articles about the subject and look for experts in the field to contact.
- Find books that mention the subject (and note the authors to perhaps contact.)
- Dig deeper into any source that sparks your interest.
- Mention it to everyone you know — or will soon know.
- Join organizations & online groups.
Immerse yourself as best you can
- Take courses.
- Teach yourself.
- Ask experts for help.
- Reach out on social media for help and ongoing discussions.
- See if you can somehow get your job to help you acquire the skills / knowledge.
- Really dig in, especially areas that speak to you most.
Also: Get a certificate or other specialized credentials if available.
A few more thoughts on niche careers
While getting overly specialized can remove you from the mainstream of job search, it can also open doors to things you truly enjoy. Including fields you never knew existed. You never know what you’ll find once you start exploring by letting your interests guide the way.
Also, an added benefit of “being in the niche”: as you increase your networking circle, when you do start looking you have people immersed in the field who can help. Someone I know in a very specialized marketing area got a job at a top tech firm last year. Even though it took a while, she loves her new job.
True … it takes dedicated time and effort to make sure you’re aiming toward something that matches you: your interests, values, and skills. But the reward can be finding a career niche that feels like it was made for you. And in a way it will be — with your help.
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