Want more than just a job? First steps to finding your career niche

“Comfort kills! If your goal in life is to be comfortable, I guarantee two things. First, you will never be rich. Second, you will never be happy. Happiness doesn’t come from living a lukewarm life, always wondering what could have been. Happiness comes as a result of being in our natural state of growth and living up to our fullest potential.” ~ T. Harv Eker

Know your job isn’t really what you want to be doing but don’t want to jump just because it’s not right? Even when we know it’s not the right job for us, it can be hard to change jobs when we don’t have confidence in what we’re moving towards. What helps us to move forward is a compass from which to assess job opportunities. When embarking on the process of finding your career where you’ll thrive, you’ll want to know about purpose. In this post, I’ll look at why you’d want to spend the time on figuring  out  your purposeful career niche rather than just finding a new job or doing a personality assessment that matches strengths to job titles. I’ll tell you about the process of finding your purposeful career niche, and I’ll look at a first step you can take and give you a tool to kickstart this process.

Where you may be

Here are some things that I felt and are described by clients who are in the wrong jobs: something is missing, I feel drained, I dread going to work, I can’t wait to leave work, my real talents aren’t being utilized, my talents aren’t valued. Then there’s what we say about what we want: to love what I do, more balance, to contribute, to use my unique strengths, to be valued for what I bring.

For me, I started to feel like I was on a  hamster wheel; I dreaded getting on my bike and going to work. It felt like I was living the same day on repeat. And my life was pretty good: a job many people in my field wanted, in a beautiful city, with good friends, and lots of fun activities after work.  Finally, I decided  I wasn’t going to settle for pretty good, but I was afraid to jump before I knew what would really be a fit. I’d changed jobs before and found myself back in the same place. I had even gone back to school to do my masters to change careers. At the time, I felt a bit ridiculous to say that I didn’t know what I wanted career-wise in my thirties, but it was true. I also felt judged by some for wanting more than I had. Even so, I embarked on the process of figuring out my purposeful career niche. Which is what lead me to the work I do now and the process I’ll share with you.

The value of a purposeful career niche

Having a job that’s meaningful, that you enjoy, where you get to use and be valued for your strengths is not the status quo, but it is totally possible. Often, this kind of job, is called a calling, or a purpose.

In their research on the distinction between job – career – calling, Wrzesniewski et al. (1997) find that people who see their work as a calling (focus on enjoyment of fulfilling, socially useful work) report significantly greater life and work satisfaction.

We spend many hours a day working to earn money to pay for our lives. Making a conscious choice to pursue a purposeful career niche is one of the best ways to increase your happiness and satisfaction.

“Psychologists who study happiness repeatedly discover a puzzling paradox: the happiest people are those who pay little attention to the goal of becoming happy. Many of the things that we strive for in order to become happy seem to have little to do with it…What does matter is engaging in something that you find absorbing, challenging, and compelling. A noble purpose is a prime example of something that brings great personal satisfaction by bringing us outside ourselves into activities that capture our imaginations and promote the causes we believe in….Self-indulgence simply does not work. We end up feeling empty and resentful and not at all indulged, because we have failed to satisfy our truest and deepest desires: the universal yearning for a life with meaning.” ~William Damon- Noble purpose

I use the term purposeful career niche to describe the work where you’ll thrive because it is purposeful (includes meaning) and is a career (being paid for the work you do). I include niche because you want the specifics around where you’ll be successful in this career. Having a career title to pursue doesn’t get you very far.

What are the key components to a purposeful career niche? To describe it in one sentence: a purposeful career niche is a career where your unique gifts (strengths) are being utilized in service of the goal, has meaning (meaningful contribution) and is valued (the world needs and will pay for it), and that sustains your interest over time (passion).

Purposeful Career Niche = Strengths + Meaningful Valued Contribution + Passions

A purposeful career niche is where you will feel fulfilled, sustain interest and motivation and be more successful. Your purposeful career niche becomes a compass for future decisions. It will decrease the stress and give you a sense of direction; choosing a job or setting out to get a job is no longer confusing.

Process of introspection

“Your authentic voice is a gift. How will you offer it to others today through your work? Answering that question is your life’s mission.” ~ Todd Henry, Louder than words

Finding your purpose/ your mission in life is not easily done by most people, and then combining it with your career niche is a whole other step up. The most effective way to find your purposeful career niche is a process of introspection.

Maybe you’ve started to try to figure this out for yourself and talked to a career counselor, explored some self-help, self development, career books such as  What Should I Do With My Life? or How Will You Measure Your Life?  or What colour is your parachute? There are a myriad of books and assessments out there trying to help you find the “right”  job for you.

I explored these routes first, and though they may work for some people, they didn’t work for me. Connecting to your purposeful career niche often requires more than a consultation with a career counselor or reading a book; it requires commitment, focused introspection, and pattern identification. I have aggregated and simplified the process to connect people to their purposeful career niches and will share a resource to start you off below.

Start here

“Although purpose is everywhere, it may be most readily found in places that are familiar to you.” ~ William Damon

A key part of this process is looking at your work experience and mining it for key data points. Instead of rushing off on a journey, it’s useful to check in right under your feet.  This is a valuable exercise to do before you leave your job or having just left a job because the information is fresh.

In Coming Alive, Phil Stutz, puts it this way:

“Most people focus on the bigger, more challenging events in life, but the forces that drive the universe function on a much smaller level. We call this the world of small things—‘things’ in the sense of minor, seemingly inconsequential acts. Just the way modern physics studies matter at the level of the smallest particles, the best way to understand human behavior is at the level of the most common actions and events. Rudolf Steiner, the great European philosopher, put it this way: the most important things enter the world through the smallest things. The commonplace is crucial because most of our time is spent doing commonplace things.”

I’ve created Simple Work 5 to make mining your work experience easier, simpler and most effective for you. You don’t have to think about what to ask yourself. Just follow the guide and it will lead you through the most important aspects of your work experience. It will get  you to the the bottom of what works and doesn’t work for you from your work experience.

Click below to download your free quickstart guide.

There is an equation to finding your purposeful career niche that is solved through a process of introspection. One of the first steps in the process is to look at your career experience and understand what has worked and not worked for you. This will give you important clues to piece into the purposeful career niche equation.