Finding your Ideal Niche and Landing a Job in It
There’s plenty of ways you can figure out what you want to do with your career and your life. You can sit at your computer for hours researching job descriptions that sound semi-interesting to you. You can speak with your friends to figure out what interests they have and see if you share the same. You can stare at the wall of your cubicle and think of opportunities that are the complete opposite of what you’re doing, hoping they’d actually be fulfilling. But folks, here’s a better way, and it’s much easier…just read the next few paragraphs for a quick fix.
When I coach professionals just like you, the first thing to do when figuring out “what you want to do,” is an exercise in reverse engineering. It’s a simple task that boils things down to easy and obvious details about you, your career and what ultimately makes you tick as a professional. The first way to do this is to be methodological in answering this question: what have I done within my personal and work life that has made me successful?
Think about it. What have you done? Are there several things that you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of? Have you created a positive impact on something that has left you feeling good about yourself? Most people have had these experiences, and don’t connect them to their current job search. But you should. It’s the simplest way to figure out what you’re good at.
Put it in this context. When you were a teenager, did you lead a group of Boy Scouts up a mountain, and find that your leadership skills had folks persevere past their normal comfort zones, allowing them to ultimately make it to the top? Have you ever trained for a half-marathon and overcome difficult injuries to make it past the finish line? Did you build a sandcastle that won a contest, showcasing your true talent at design and architecture? And yes, even during the course of your career, have you nailed a project, reduced a budget, or written a report that truly impressed others (and yourself!)?
There are plenty of things that you’ve probably done over the years that highlight your skill set and how those accomplishments stand out in the context of your life. I always suggest to start by making a list of 15 to 25 of those things you’ve done in your life and career that you are most proud of, and narrowing down what stands out from each one. What are the common threads that run through all or most of them? Did they involve leadership skills? Project management? Creative analysis? Did you operate best on a team?
Once you write them out and figure out what’s truly compelling about each experience, you’ll know what types of things (those common threads) you should incorporate into your job search, and what you should look for in your next position. Understanding how your life accomplishments have guided you to what you are doing now will give you the advice you need to figure out what career truly is meant for you. If you can do this simple test successfully, your career assessment will really hit a home run, and you’ll be on your way to that great position you had only dreamt of. You’ll see how effective this exercise truly is!
“Why chase a job you’d settle for when you can target the job of your dreams?”