Do you sometimes feel like you are spinning tyres in the mud in figuring out what your career path should look like? You’re not alone. Even working professionals ponder over this now and then.
Finding your niche can help guide your decisions and put goal planning into perspective. Be warned that what you determine today as your specialisation, interest, passion–or whatever you may want to call it–can change in years to come. Sometimes it takes trial and error to discover your niche, but if you never search, you’ll never find it. So, let’s get started.
Know yourself. It sounds basic, but it makes all the difference. Ask yourself these questions, make a list of potential career options to explore, and see where it takes you.
- What do you like? (passion)
Passion, a term used loosely today, can be a vague concept. Despite its cliché, it is a magical spark that charges your energy and enthusiasm. Think about what gets you excited and what you find yourself wanting to know more about. Consider what you enjoy doing tirelessly and what brings you great fulfilment.
- What are you good at? (skill)
Think about areas that you have special skills, talent, knowledge, or experience in. What is your training or education? Ask a trusted friend or family member about your good qualities. They will probably see things you don’t.
- What are your achievements? (passion + skill)
List your highest accomplishments. Now, the pride, excitement, and satisfaction that accompany these successes can suggest that they are possibly your passion points and that you happen to be also very good at them.
#2 Process of Elimination
You have now created a list of career options from the above exercise. It can be two-page long or simply a couple of bullet points. Strive to narrow down your list. As you continue to contemplate, let these questions guide you.
- What is important to you? (values)
Consider your personal values and prioritise them. Identify factors that cannot be compromised. Then evaluate your options against these considerations and see how they line up. This helps you attach value and meaning to each concept you have come up with, and you may realise how much (or little) you care for them.
For example, pursuing Medicine is high on your passion list, and you are reasonably strong in your sciences. However, the financial cost of the medicine program chews a big part of the plan. So how will you rank Medicine in your list of options? How badly do you want it and what will you do to make it happen? Healthcare scholarships can be your potential solution, and perhaps it is time to take serious action on those applications. Or maybe, upon self-actualisation, you realise that this idea has always been an expectation imposed upon you by others.
Now, ask yourself if your identified niche is sustainable. Can you see yourself in that industry for at least five years? Will you still feel as motivated then? Research thoroughly to know what you are getting yourself into. Consider the “personality” of the industry. Does it align with yours? You can also discover job compatibilities by taking the Myers-Briggs personality test.
For example, you may have set your vision on architectural studies with the dream to transform the environment that people live in. Find out what is a realistic day in the life of an architect. Beyond spilling creativity over scale drawings and designs, the role entails dealing with clients, managing logistics and budgets, needing some legal knowledge, and requiring frequent travel to sites. It is a long process before an architect’s constructed vision can be actualised. Now that you know more, the question to yourself is: Is this right for me?
- Is there a market for my niche? (marketability & innovation)
In search of your niche, always start from within – yourself. It is about you, your envisioned future, and how you will work towards it. When you know what you want, look out to the social and economic environments that shape your career. Keep abreast of trends and refine your goals accordingly. Adapt (not change) your passions and strengths to stay relevant to market demands. It is in these scenarios where leaders and innovators emerge, bridging gaps and shifting landscape dynamics.
Read about Shoe Artistry Founder Jeff Wan, who–against all odds–revived a dying leather shoemaking trade in today’s age of industrialisation. Leveraging his product design background, he nurtured a sustainable business, introducing 3D design technologies to the old trade yet retaining its legacy. He created new demand for bespoke handmade shoes and drove awareness of the lost craft through apprenticeship programs and popular shoemaking workshops.
#3 Research & Experiment
If you are still having trouble narrowing down your options, you can have one in each category of Sure Bet, 50-50, and Wild Guess. Now, take time to explore and test your concepts. It will be well worth the effort.
Discipline yourself to dedicate time every day to research the topic. Read success stories of prominent people in the industry to learn why and how they got started. Attend career fairs, academic advice sessions, and webinars. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and discussions. Speak with someone in the industry or with people you think will have some insight. Sign up for newsletters with companies, communities, blogs, and content websites relevant to your topic of interest, keeping yourself up-to-date with market and industry trends that can influence your niche.
Now with greater certainty, walk out of your comfort zone and get involved. Dare to experiment. Here’s an inspiring story of Smart Nation Scholar Goh Jia Yi, who has been playing with HTML coding since age 10, on how she took interest in the then newly-launched Smart Nation Initiative after her ‘O’ levels and curiously downloaded publicly available datasets from government sources and attempted to build visualisations with basic Excel chart features. That experience allowed her to witness the power of analytics first-hand and motivated her to pursue data analytics with a Diploma in Financial Informatics at Singapore Polytechnic.
#3 Nurture Your Niche
Wherever you are right now in finding your niche (or maybe you already found it), continue to cultivate it as much as you possibly can. If you can find a way to blend your passion, skills, and values into one, and carve out a career path to live up to your ideals, do not stop investing in it. You will be amazed by your flow, and you will look back on that journey with pride, even if it has changed gears over time. Accept rejections and embrace failure along the way. And as you grow as a person, do not forget to look beyond yourself and practise social awareness and empathy.