Life’s Journey Magazine: The Dream Job – Happy Life Series
Our recent article in Life’s Journey Magazine the Dream Job – Happy Life series is “Niches are Riches – Specific Beats Generic Anytime“.
She said she wanted to be an engineer. She had been out of work caring for her family for a few years so she felt desperate. “Any engineer”. “I’ll do anything”, she said.
Will you be an aeronautical engineer? No
Will you be an electrical engineer? No
Will you be a civil engineer? No
Well, I guess you won’t do “anything” after all!
Juana really wanted a very specific kind of engineering job. Turns out she wanted to be a mechanical engineer with a specialization in packaging. That is very specific, isn’t it? A far cry from “Any engineer”.
Cutting away the stuff you don’t want leaves the very specific core of what you do want!
A sculpture starts with a block of marble then chips away the marble that does not fit to reveal the beautiful sculpture inside. In our lives, we don’t want to just see the block of marble, we want to see the artist’s vision of what the marble can be.
We yearn to express the very specific core that is meaningful to ourselves. The trick is expressing what you want, putting the niche into words. Everything changes when you know specifically what you want. Until then you float.
Let’s imagine that Juana runs into James, an engineering manager, at a networking event. James asks Juana what she does. “I am an engineer,” she answers. The next logical question for James to ask Juana is, “What kind of engineer are you?” or “What is your specialty?”
Juana must be able to answer this question. James cannot help Juana unless she knows what she wants. No one can.
I think the individual’s fear is that if you narrow down the possibilities then you will miss out on something great. Let’s test that.
If Ali asks Juana what kind of engineer she is and Juana answers mechanical engineer with a packaging specialization, now James can help her. Maybe he does not work with that specialty but his friend Sabrina does. James can make a referral. He can talk shop.
Juana cannot say she is an electrical engineer if she is a mechanical engineer. They are completely different specialties. It just won’t work. Juana will not get far. James will figure out with a few simple questions that Juana is not an electrical engineer. Then he will be annoyed that she wasted his time.
You have to know what you want to get what you want. Know your niche.
It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? On the surface it seems like more opportunities will open up if you are flexible in your requirements. But it is not true. You have to know what you want. Otherwise you will just flounder.
Specific is better than generic. Let’s not confine ourselves to job search. Let’s consider some other situations in which specific is better than generic.
- If you order beans at the restaurant, what will you get? Black, brown, red, kidney, green, navy, white, chickpeas, mung, Lima, runner, broad, soy, peas. I am sure there are more. But if I only like green beans I am certain to be disappointed if kidney beans show up on my plate when I ask for beans. Any old bean just won’t do. Being specific means I will eat the food I want, not the food that shows up.
- Let’s say you are interested in buying a boat, something I know a little bit about. You walk into the boat store and you say, “I want to buy a boat.” Well, good for you Skippy! Would you be happy with the first boat they brought out? Probably not. You have to ask yourself, “What kind of boat do you want to buy?” Do you want sail or power, bass, bow rider, cabin cruiser, cuddy cabin, deck, dinghy, high performance, inflatable, fishing, center console, ski, jet, motor yacht, catamaran, tri-maran, pontoon, trawler, walkaround, or sportfish? How big do you want it? How many masts? What size engine? How many engines? If you can’t answer those questions then you are just shopping. The sales person can never satisfy you.
- Imagine the old days. You walk into a bar (no, not the start of a bad joke!), order a drink, turn to the first person you see and decide this is the person you want to spend your life with. Makes sense, right? NO. Online dating changed all that. The beauty of online dating is in the questions you answer before getting started. Man or woman? Want to get married or just have a good time? Is the right person for you: physically fit, healthy, attractive, hobbies?
Dating websites replicate the kinds of winnowing out that we do in real life. The online aspect improves the selection process by offering you a wider array of possibilities than you might find in your local bar. Specific is better in relationships too.
It is true in beans, boats and dating and it is true in becoming happy and successful in your career. Just as Juana does not want to be just any engineer, dating websites don’t match people up at random and I want to be sure I don’t inadvertently order kidney beans.
You have to know what you want to get what you want. You have to know your niche. Knowing your niche makes the difference between spot on targeting and floundering.
Niche marketing is critical in social media marketing. And everything these days is a question of social media marketing.
In marketing almost anything – books, online business, coaching services, yourself in a job search, finding candidates, selling toasters – it makes all the difference to know exactly who is your ideal customer and what he or she wants. The ideal or target customer is the person on the other end of whatever you are doing.
When I started my coaching business in 2004 my coach asked me to describe my ideal client. I said anyone changing jobs could use my coaching service to improve their job search process, interview better or create a stronger resume or online presence. That is a broad audience, isn’t it? Sort of like saying, “I am an engineer.”
What I have learned over the last dozen years is that while my message might apply to almost anyone, being that broad is not a good way to market my services. Many people will hear my message but my message is meaningful to only a few. I am wasting time sharing my message with folks who just don’t care about what I say.
Saying “my message is meaningful for anyone…” is like a candidate saying, “I’ll do anything” or a company saying, “I just need a warm body”. It is simply not true. The outcome is sloppy and not likely to gain traction.
Understanding my niche helps me focus my attention on the few who really could benefit. I can increase sales while being more specific.
My specific niche is higher level process oriented technical folks who are probably in the middle of their career. I can be flexible about the place in the career but I cannot be flexible about the rest. I won’t turn away business that comes to me from folks who are not technical or process oriented but those folks really resonate on my message. I love those folks and they love me.
Ask yourself some questions. To understand your niche you must be clear on what people, feelings and tasks bring you joy and what would you rather avoid:
- People – What people just seem to “get” you? What people gravitate towards you? Why is that? What people do you want to stay away from?
- Feelings – What work or tasks or people make you feel happiest? What gives you a headache?
- Tasks – What work or tasks is like eating dessert to you, the work or tasks that comes the easiest to you? What work gives you the feeling you would rather pick up dog poop in the front yard?
The 80/20 rule probably applies. You probably get most of your bang from the fewest contacts. If you eliminate the people and tasks to focus on your core, then you will likely hit your mark most often. You will be happier and more comfortable.
As I write this I am thinking about who might find this article appealing. I am hoping that I am targeting my ideal client. Otherwise I am just sending words out into the stratosphere. I don’t have time for that!
I am thinking about how I can translate the idea of niche marketing into terms a mid-career technical, process oriented person can appreciate as that person moves through his or her career. This whole concept of niche marketing might be a new idea to my target client so getting this idea across could be helpful to him or her. I want to share my knowledge in a way that helps my niche, my target client, to propel that ideal client to me.
Some people draw pictures of their ideal client so they can imagine talking to someone. You can create an emoji. My friend Carolyn talked to a stuffed animal so she could focus during phone conversations. I think about a few clients who really seemed to get me.
Understand your target audience. What do they want? What can you say that is meaningful to your target audience? Then scrape away all the extraneous information that will not be meaningful.
This concept is important to everyone. How can you translate your ideas in a way that makes sense to your target audience, to bring that target audience closer to you?
Focus on the specific work you love, the specific kind of people you want to work with in the specific industry that values the work you do. Then cut away all the other extraneous ideas so you can focus on what is important to you. Talk to those people in the language they understand. Write or share information to those people in forums where those people hang out.
This is true for beans, boats and dating and it is true for managing your career. Niches are riches!