Tuesday, November 1, 2011

From the Article Archive: How Do I Find My Niche

Question: Eleven years after entering the workforce, I still haven’t figured out what I want to become “when I grow up.” How can I know the best career direction to take?

Jo Miller answers:
One of the tactics I covered in my “Recession-Proof Your Career” session at the 2008 Grace Hopper Celebration is to know your personal brand.

One senior executive in charge of a multi-million dollar technology business unit that I interviewed recently shared that one of the best pieces of career advice she had received from a mentor was to know her career niche. Her mentor had advised her to “be famous for something” and to know her claim to fame. For this senior-level woman, it meant focusing her career around her greatest strength – sales – which led to an outstanding career.

In Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great,” he describes the parable of the fox and the hedgehog. A fox is a true multi-tasker with many talents. It is fast, stealthy, clever, and an excellent hunter. In contrast, a hedgehog has only one skill: it curls into a ball and pokes out its spines. Yet, the hedgehog does this one thing so well that the fox can’t beat it.

Collins discovered companies that consistently outperform competitors know what their “hedgehog” concept is and focus with laser-like clarity on being great at it. A similar principle works when identifying your niche and creating a powerful personal brand. It begins with giving up the temptation to be good at many things, but being famous for none of them.

But how do you choose what your focus should be?

Building from Collins’ concept, when considering what you want to carve a reputation for in your career, start by drawing a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles.

Name each circle for one of the three essential elements of a great personal brand:

Step 1. Talents
What are your greatest strengths, skills, and talents? (Or, which new ones could you easily learn?)

Step 2. Passions
What are your passions? (For example, what subject matter areas could you remain endlessly fascinated with for the rest of your life?)

Step 3. Market
What does your company, industry or market need, want, and reward? (Something for which you can be paid handsomely.)

Your challenge is to identify a niche where all three elements overlap for you – and one for which you could become synonymous with in your career.

Too many women try focus on their talents and passions without first investigating whether there is a market that will reward them. It is vital that all three conditions are met, but when they are, you can build an outstanding brand and a rewarding career.

What will you be famous for?

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

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