Has your niche become clichéd?

If there exists a magic wand that helps one find a new niche, do let me know. I could do with it for sure. My old niche has become so clichéd.

As I continue in my professional journey looking to hone my skills further, the one question that I am often asked is – ‘What is your niche?’ In simple terms, which field do I specialise in and what am I good at.

This question really terrifies me. It kind of puts a full stop on my skills and competencies.

The question takes me back to my early days of student life where I was supposed to know the subjects/field I wanted to pursue ahead. All I knew was that I wanted science to be an integral part of my life. Nothing beyond that.

But hey, guess what – in my postgraduate I changed my field. I had evolved. I had picked up a new subject.

Then came the professional life. Over the past three decades of my working period, I have engaged with various industries in different avatars. During each job, I have learned something about myself that has taught me what I should subtract and what I should add in the years to come.

I never set out to be a communications person. I entered this field by meandering through different pathways. I liked what it had to offer – an opportunity to understand the business, network, build your narrative, hone your story telling and writing skills, and manage the reputation of the organisation. I felt I had discovered my niche.

Today, when I oversee societal engagement activities, I feel this is my niche. And this is where the realisation hits – there can be so many areas where one can learn new things and carve out a new niche for oneself. Why be satisfied with just one?

Having a niche is no longer cool

How does one find one’s niche? Is there a standard formula that can be applied to find the answer? But most importantly, do I need to have a niche?

There are honestly no set rules or pathways for finding your niche. Except for the standard one that solemnly tells you to list down your strengths and what you enjoy doing. Yet, that may not take your far. What can work though is your own willingness to explore the unknown. When you jump into the new world of unknowns, you will be surprised with what really catches your attention and interest.

We all use just a miniscule percentage of our potential. This is because we rarely make an effort to learn something different and new. We chose the same kind of jobs. We prefer organisations whose cultures we are comfortable with. We pick up books from the same author because we are familiar with the writing style. Most of our clothes by default bear the same label. In short, we get stuck with the familiar and what was once a niche is now clichéd and yes, often boring.

If you have been in the same field for quite a few years, it is likely you have carved out a name for yourself. Congratulations. You are now a specialist. And that is what you shall remain. Locked in that niche where you specialise in just one area.

Now, what if you were to change your area of expertise and test new waters every few years. Nothing stops you as a communicator to make that switch over to business or sales function except for our own limitations in our own mind. There is no HR rule book that says a communicator cannot get into change management. When you expand your horizon and explore different opportunities, it is likely you may fail in some and succeed in some. The latter may also come as a pleasant surprise – for you would have never known if you had not tried! Now, your niche is the ability to navigate different environments, new cultures and solve varied problems. You are not a specialist but rather someone more valuable with a range of abilities and skill sets. You continue to evolve.

Ask of yourself – are you a person with a niche or have you become clichéd?

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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