Ask Sherry: How did you find your career niche?
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You can ask any question using the form here.
Hi Sherry, I’ve been an avid follower for some time. I think we have dealt with some of the same career questions and struggles along the way.
Oh thank you for following. I really appreciate it.
I am curious – how did you find your niche (don’t want to know what it is)?
Listen, I have been one lucky b#%*# because I only went with the company that paid me the most.
I had ZERO CLUE and inkling it would be my niche, and in fact, when I first started out in it, I thought I was going to quit and I made a huge mistake.
I think it was about 8 months into it, I was about to throw in the towel. It seemed impossible, it was difficult, it was just not something that seemed meant to fit my skills at all.
I felt lost, I felt stupid, I did not think I would ever ‘get’ it.
I only stuck it out on the advice of another older colleague, and grew to love my job, and now, it is my specialty.
I even grew out to create a second niche for myself and now have two specialties which make me doubly desirable when I show up for interviews.
I just .. fell into it. Literally.
And I am glad I didn’t quit.
And what kind of advice could you give to those of us who want to find something we enjoy doing, and as you’ve said as pertains to your career, could see ourselves doing forever?
Do not give up on something if you haven’t really given it your all. Stick with it for at least one year before TRULY deciding that it is not for you.
If I didn’t stick it out, I would not be where I am. Sometimes, you get put on bad projects at the start, and to be honest, everything takes time to develop and grow.
A job is like a relationship — there are two parties involved, and it takes a while to get adjusted to each other.
Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t but you have to try.
I also don’t think that everyone can do their “dream career”.
My true “dream” career would be to shop all day, shop for people, pick out outfits, design things I want to wear and buy… this is all what other people want to do as well, but it isn’t realistic, it doesn’t cover the actual hard work that you need to make it into such a job (e.g. stylist), and I only like it on a superficial level.
My career, is something that fits with my skills, and my personality.
To really find something you can see yourself doing forever, you need to check off 3 major boxes:
1. Does it fit with your innate skills — stuff that can’t really be taught but you just have a knack for
I am organized, efficient and fast.
This job requires all three of these skills and without them, I can see why people struggle so hard in my exact career and I excel.
If you are the type that likes to think, take your type, and cannot make a decision, this is not the job for you.
And yet, if you are exactly that type, you could be perfect as a researcher, or in another job that needs exactly that kind of mindset.
2. Does it fit with your personality?
Some jobs, are ones where people HAVE to micromanage you. My job is not that.
People leave me alone, I spend hours thinking, and I get it done.
What I hate would be if someone comes after me every 2 seconds, if I am constantly being hassled, on the phone, interacting with people ALL THE TIME. That is not my jam.
I could not do customer service for instance, or public relations. I’d be mentally exhausted and burned out every day.
And yet, I still interact with people (I am a little bit of an extrovert, but in small doses), and I enjoy it.
I am also a control freak, so team-centric tasks or projects can get under my skin if my other team members are not as dedicated as I am *cough*…. I have been trying very hard to work on this and to just breathe and let it go.
3. Do you wake up excited to go to work?
This is my real litmus test. There were contracts I DREADED going to work for, and others I bounced out of bed for.
Same job, same skills, same person, different work place.
Sometimes, it’s the workplace. It isn’t the job or career itself. It is the people you work with, where you work, and how they treat you that can matter a lot more than what you actually do.
So, knowing all of the above…
You can start by seeing what you have skills or training for.
Are you certified in something?
Look for jobs in that industry, read through the job descriptions and ask yourself if you seem like you’d be a good fit.
From there, join where you can, how you can even at entry level, put in the effort, and then work your way up by observing other positions in that same industry, and whether or not you’d like THAT job or if you want to stay where you are.
This is how I discovered that I wanted to stay where I was. JUST below management. I do not like handling people, telling them about reviews and all that nonsense.
I enjoy working alone for the most part, and I like being in control of everything, which is perfect for what I do.
I never, ever want to “rise” up to be a manager of any kind. I am fine where I am, thankyouverymuch.
If you THINK you’d like to be in a certain industry, get a job in it and try it out. See what it’s like, give it a shot and work hard at trying to be very good at it, while keeping an eye out for other positions that might interest you.
You never know. You start out in marketing one day, and end up in sales.
It could be just one project you happen to be pulled on, that changes your life and you realize that THIS is what you were meant to do.
I hope that helped. Please comment if you want to ask more questions / need specifics!
Still have a burning question?
You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.
You’re right about being excited to go to work. I worked in biotech and made a lot of money but dreaded it every day. Sitting in a lab was no fun. I teach college biology now and have for over a decade. I love my job and have no regrets. There’s something to be said about loving what you do (most days, anyway!)
Research is NOT the job for people who want to take their time and not make decisions. Modern academic research is “publish or perish,” meaning you need to turn our research fast, get results, and get them published in peer reviewed journals and build a reputation, or you are going to be forced out of the profession entirely.