Your niche is the place where your background and abilities best align with the needs of your target employers. The fact that there are so many job seekers pursuing so few jobs right now (5 1/2 seekers per opening) makes defining your niche more important than it’s ever been. It is an ESSENTIAL personal marketing tool.
In working to define your niche it may be helpful to think of how a product makes a place for itself in the marketplace (not just a place on the supermarket shelf, but a place in the mind of the consumer) – the key challenge in the field of marketing. Having majored in marketing in business school, and having worked with what is probably the world’s best consumer goods marketer, Procter & Gamble, for over 17 years, it’s an endeavor with which I’ve gained considerable familiarity.
A product finds its ideal niche through learning about the needs of consumers in its category – the target audience (e.g. Starbucks coffee drinkers, parents concerned about their kids getting cavities, teen male Nintendo players). It learns this through research and market testing. The product needs to be packaged and advertised in a unique way that appeals to its target audience, but it must also offer features that will be appreciated by that audience, or else after one try the product won’t be repurchased. Again, packaging, advertising, and desirable product features are discovered through research. As the needs or preferences of its audience changes, the product, its packaging, and its advertising needs to change along with the audience, or it will lose its relevance and ultimately fail.
In the workplace, determining your niche requires you to carefully assess three quite different sets of facts: what it is you have to offer, what it is that is being sought by employers in your chosen field, and what competitors (others seeking similar jobs) are offering. Determining what you offer, and what employers need, is a fluid process. As you experiment with how to present your qualifications, you should be guided by what is being sought by companies that are hiring. Experience? Technical knowledge? Creativity? As you accumulate more and more knowledge you can refine your niche – adjusting both your target audience (employers) and your offering (as reflected, for example, in your resume). Make sure your “ elevator speech* ”, your website, your resume, and every other way you present yourself in a professional context reflects your niche. As for differentiating yourself from the competition, stress results you’ve achieved and ways in which you went above and beyond what was required. This can be done in a cover letter as well as in a resume and interview, and most certainly in a website. By the way, be sensitive to the fact that employers routinely check Facebook and other social media to learn more about you, so try to ensure that your posts are mature.
You can, of course, pursue more than one niche, but the niches need to be specific. If you’re not sure exactly what it is you want to do (i.e. in what field to be job hunting), utilize some of the resources on my Career Counseling page, or call me to make an appointment so that we can move towards greater clarity. I will also work with you to create a niche that will greatly facilitate your finding new employment.
*An elevator speech is a brief statement combining who you are / where you've been / what you excel at / what you're looking for. The name comes from the idea that the statement should be short enough to be delivered during a ride in an elevator (but NOT a 50 story+ building's elevator!). Example: "I'm a sales executive with particular expertise in technological business-to-business products. Until recently I worked at a large conglomerate, but when it was bought by a European company my position was eliminated. I'm looking for a position in a company that needs to improve its market share. That's something I've been able to do consistently across a wide range of product categories, even intensely competitive ones".