Finding Your Unique Niche
In the March 2006 issue of The Art of Sensitive Living e-zine, I suggested that we must 1) create our own work, 2) do mainstream work in an alternative way, or 3) do mainstream work in a supportive environment. Regardless of which approach we choose, we must also find a unique niche or specialty that aligns with who we really are.
Unfortunately, many people fear that if they specialize, they will lose business or be less appealing to prospective employers. But what's interesting about a niche is that it actually makes it easier for you to stand out, and to command higher rates of pay.
The key is to "get slightly famous," as author Steven Van Yoder recommends. When you position yourself as an expert in your specialty, people have a way to find you and will come to rely on your knowledge. For instance, among a sea of life coaches -- with more and more appearing daily -- I stand out as the "Life Coach for Sensitive Souls."
One way to discover your unique niche is to combine your passions, talents, qualities, and life purpose. Don't be afraid to create unusual or untested combinations of products and services. For example, I know an animal homeopath in Berkeley who has launched a natural pet store called "Holistic Hound." She has created a unique and successful business that's tied into her values, talents, and passions.
As you consider these things, "don't let your big buts stop you." One of the most tragic mistakes I see people make about careers is to quickly rule out ideas because of a "Yeah, but" statement, before they consider the notion. These may sound like, "Yeah, but I won't make enough money," or "Yeah, but there isn't a market," or "Yeah, but I don't have enough training." I encourage you to put the buts aside for now and be open to possibilities.
To find your niche, consider these aspects:
1. Your Qualities, Values, and Needs
It's critically important to know who you are. Most sensitives have spent many years trying not to be themselves, so we get downright confused about this issue. Make time to learn more about who you are, what makes you tick, and why you are special. Each of us has our own specific formula for feeling fulfilled. The formula's ingredients are your own qualities, values, and needs.
Consider these questions broadly, not just focusing on careers:
* What is unique about me, both now and as a child?
* What do others love about me?
* What makes me feel happy?
* What's most important to me?
The answers will point you toward your potential market -- people like you or people who'd like to be like you.
2. Your Life Purpose
Another component is your life purpose. The key thing to remember is that a specific career, vocation, or profession is simply one possible outlet for your life purpose. It's my belief that for sensitive souls to be optimally satisfied with work, our careers must be tied to our purpose.
Identifying your life purpose can seem daunting. A guiding principle I use with my clients is that if your purpose feels over-reaching or humbling, you are on the right track. In other words, if you find yourself thinking, "It would be incredible to achieve something like that, but there's no way that I'm the one to do it," you've most likely hit it.
To begin to identify your life purpose, consider these questions:
* What great obstacle(s) have I overcome in my life?
* What troubled me most about myself as a child?
* How am I naturally drawn to help others?
* What do I feel most called to learn?
The answers will lead you toward who you might work with -- people who are dealing with similar life issues.
3. Your Talents
Your talents are the natural, innate skills you excel with. They reach beyond the traditional work setting, and can inform you about possible specialties. Having a sense of what you are capable of gives you confidence to pursue your true work. We are also drawn to areas we naturally have an aptitude for, by our inclinations and longings. Go ahead and include the talents you long to use, as well as your already developed strengths. They will point you toward places you can grow into.
Again, as you consider these questions, stay broad-brushed:
* What am I good at?
* What do others acknowledge me for?
* In my most pleasurable life experiences, what talents was I using?
* What talents do I long to have?
Your talents will guide you toward specific ways you might specialize.
4. Your Passions
When sensitive souls try to do work that lacks meaning for them, they become sick or despondent. Finding meaningful work is the key to shifting toward a satisfying and healthy life. Focus on getting in touch with what you care deeply about -- what you're drawn to and what you love. These will be clues about your passions.
Consider these questions:
* What do I love?
* What excites me?
* What injustices in the world do I believe must be corrected?
Your passions will help you identify possible niches.
5. Pull the Pieces Together
Finally, brainstorm about possible combinations of your qualities, purpose, talents, and passions, to discover potential niches.
For example, as someone who is passionate about personal development and growth, I knew I wanted to be a coach. But I wasn't clear about whom my clients would be until I started examining who I am and the issues I had struggled with as a child -- being highly sensitive and not fitting in! The concept of working with sensitive souls then fell quickly into place.
Or, if you are an artist, you might look at what you are passionate about as a way to focus your art, the way that Heather O'Neill of Angels By Heather has done. Her market is people who admire her qualities, and are drawn to the ethereal realms she has a natural connection to.
The key is to be creative, unusual, and willing to explore. Pull all of the pieces together and see what you discover.