Sheesh, what’s my Niche?

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Finding your niche, the place where you spend the maximum amount of time and energy doing the things that you love, can be a surprisingly long and hard journey.

Work and other every-day commitments – if they aren’t already aligned with your niche, or at least acting to move you closer to it – can act as a distraction and even obscure any signs that might point in the right direction.  And if you’re not actively looking, or don’t have the means to decode the signs, the process of cutting over to your niche will be more like stumbling around in the dark.

My own journey in search of niche started with the realisation that I wasn’t even on the road – I was spinning my wheels at the side of it.  But a little research brought me to the comforting conclusion that I wasn’t by any means alone.

There are many of us who haven’t identified our niche yet, but there are many resources available to help us move closer to it.  I want to use this post to describe a couple of resources that I have found useful.

First is Ken Robinson‘s book The Element: How finding your passion changes everything.  Robinson defines the Element as “the place where the things that we love to do and the things we are good at come together”.  He argues that it’s not enough to be good at something.  It also has to be something that you have a natural affinity with.

Robinson goes on to say that we also need the presence of two other factors: attitude and opportunity.  Our own attitude and that of those around us plays an important part in realising change.  And there needs to be a first step that is brought about by opportunity, even if we need to create that opportunity ourselves.  (Robinson describes his book and the thinking behind it in a 2010 talk he gave to the RSA.  The talk was uploaded by the RSA to YouTube and is available at this link.)

One practical means of applying this is the approach taken by John Williams in Screw Work Let’s Play.  Williams uses the intersection of what you love to do with what you are good at doing and overlays a third element:  What will someone pay you to do?

This approach involves first finding that area of triple intersection.  Williams then advises using what you’ve learned to create a play project, what he calls his 30-day challenge.

The idea is to find something that tests your idea without burning your bridges completely.  There’s no point in recklessly giving up all that you have if your idea turns out to be unworkable – so don’t give up the day job, not yet anyway.  But by embarking on a play project, you are creating an opportunity to move closer to your niche.

So, the important thing about locating you niche is to take a first step.  Even if it turns out that it’s not in precisely the right direction, you will still learn more than by just standing still.  Set up some kind of a test of your thinking, one that is safe, but still involves a significant step.

Once you’ve taken the step, and tested the waters, you can examine the view from your new position.  If it looks like you are closer to your niche, then you’ve just taken the first step in the cutover phase.