Finding Your Niche
By Holly Reisem Hanna
You know how some people grow up knowing what they want to do from a very young age? Yeah, well, that wasn’t me.
Every year in my School Days Keepsake Album, it would ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And every year I would answer something different: a school teacher, nurse, mom, model, flight attendant … Even when I got to high school, I still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I dabbled in art, Spanish, sociology, and psychology — but I didn’t feel a strong pull in any one direction.
When I went off to college, I started out as an undecided major. I took my basics along with a ton of social science studies. And while I enjoyed my classes, I still had no idea what I should do for a career. I ended up switching majors numerous times until I finally settled on anthropology for a major with a sociology minor.
What did I plan to do with those? No clue. All I knew is if I got my Bachelor’s Degree everything else would fall into place.
After college, I took off a couple of months from my waitressing job to backpack around Europe and to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Throughout my travels, I kept thinking back to folklore class I had taken. In this class, we had learned about the varying birth practices from around the world. And all of a sudden it hit me — I wanted to be a midwife!
When I got back to the US, I started researching midwifery and labor and delivery nursing and decided to apply for nursing school. I felt so proud that I had finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
Fast forward a few years, and one nursing degree later, I found myself working in a hospital on a pediatric unit (Yup, turns out I didn’t enjoy labor and delivery like I thought I would).
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about nursing such as the critical thinking that was involved, the joy of helping others, and working with a great team. But there were more things I disliked about nursing than I liked, such as staffing shortages, odd and long working hours, dealing with doctors who were demanding, demeaning, and condescending, and don’t forget the stress of having patient’s lives in your hands. In the course of one short year, I went from idealistic and excited to totally burnt out.
From there I went on to prior authorization for Medicaid, then to surveillance and utilization review, and finally on to clinical research for pharmaceutical companies. These roles were better than my hospital days, but they didn’t bring me joy. In fact, I dreaded going to work every Monday morning.
As soon as I got pregnant with my daughter, I planned for my departure from the work world. Since I knew I’d be unemployed for an extended period, I saved as much money as I could during my last nine months working as a nurse. I was able to save $15,000 which I thought would last me at least 12 to 15 months. But my savings dwindled much faster that I anticipated. Even though my husband’s income covered major expenses, I still wanted to have money for mommy and me classes, play-dates out, and my regular coffee fix at Starbucks. It was during this period that I started looking for work-at-home gigs.
I had no clue what I wanted to do. What I did I know was that I didn’t want to put my daughter in daycare, and I didn’t want to work in the nursing field. My goal was to make just enough money, so my daughter and I could continue to participate in our outside activities.
I searched online for work-at-home opportunities but encountered a bunch of scams. I read tons of books on changing careers, starting a business, and working from home. I talked with friends and family about different career options and had even considered starting a Personal Concierge business or building a website. I also asked past employers and friends who were self-employed if they had any work that I could do from home. My efforts finally paid off, and I started working from home, 10 hours a week for a small publishing company completing marketing tasks.
Once I had money coming in, my mind was free to focus on other things. And that other thing that kept popping into my head was starting a blog. If I had such trouble finding a home-based career, there must be other women who were facing the same issues. It was at this time that I decided to create The Work at Home Woman.
For months, I researched work-at-home ideas, wrote content, and brainstormed monetization methods. Eventually, I bit the bullet, hired a graphic designer and created the website. I officially launched on March 19, 2009.
For six years, I continued to do freelance work for the publishing company and work on my blog which continued to grow by leaps and bounds. But I was stressed out. My position with the publishing company evolved into a much more dynamic role as did my blog. Even though my blog was making a good amount of money, I was afraid to let my freelancing gig go, because it provided consistent income each month (never base decisions off of fear). I finally decided to part ways with my freelance gig and focus on my blog full time. I should have made this break sooner, but live and learn.
Today, I have a career that I LOVE. I never dread Monday mornings, in fact, I look forward to them. And regarding income, last year I tripled what I made working as a full-time nurse and this number is will be even higher this year. When you have a career that you adore, there’s no limit to what you can do.
So what advice do I have for finding your dream career?
Keep exploring and never give up. I had no clue what I wanted to do. I fell into blogging, marketing, and advertising, and it turns out I love it. So get out there are read articles and books, take classes, take personality tests, attend events, try out new things, and talk to people, lots of them. The more you open yourself up to opportunities the more ideas and information that will flow your way. Lastly, don’t be afraid to apply for jobs, start a business, or change careers entirely. Each position you take leads you one step closer to your dream job.
To help you find your niche here are some great articles, books, and resources to get your creative juices flowing.
- How to Figure Out What Work at Home Job Is Right for You
- Finding Your Niche: How to Find a Career That You Love
- How to Choose the Business That’s Right for You
- Find Your Niche by Following Your Heart
- Are You in Need of Some Vocational Soul Searching?
- Which Career Best Fits Your Personality?
- 99 Work at Home Career Ideas for Women
- Finding Passion for Your Work
Books to Get Your Creatives Juices Flowing:
- The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube
- Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently
- The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do
Finding Your Niche Resources:
- Career One Stop
- Career Shifters
- Changing Course
- Levo League
- Quint Careers
- The Muse
- The Oxford Program
Quiz: What’s Your Dream Career?
By Tag and Catherine Goulet founders of FabJob.com
Do you ever feel you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up?
If you’re not sure what you’d like to do – you just know that what you’re doing now isn’t it – you can find some clues to your dream career by looking at what you enjoy doing in your time off.
Your answers to the following questions can help you start to identify the type of jobs you’d most likely enjoy:
1. If you had an evening off, what would you rather do?
a. Go to a party.
b. Stay home and surf the Internet.
c. Work on a hobby such as scrapbooking or model building
d. Go to a movie.
2. Which section of the newspaper do you turn to first?
a. Advice column or letters to the editor
3. What would you prefer to do at a party?
a. Greet people at the door.
b. Join in a discussion of current events.
c. Make hors d’oeuvres.
4. Which book would you rather receive as a gift?
a. Chicken Soup for the Soul.
b. A Brief History of Time.
c. How Things Work.
d. An art book for your coffee table.
5. What would you rather do in your spare time?
a. Catch up with friends over coffee.
b. Organize your closets.
c. Garden or do home renovations.
d. Write poetry.
6. It’s your turn to choose the movie. What’s your first choice?
a. A romantic comedy such as Sleepless in Seattle.
b. A thought-provoking drama such as A Beautiful Mind.
c. An action-adventure movie such as Star Wars.
d. An independent film such as What the Bleep Do We Know?
7. You’re at a social event. Who would you rather join?
a. A large group that is laughing a lot.
b. A small group having a lively discussion.
c. Several people playing a game such as pool or darts.
d. An individual who looks like an interesting person.
8. You have the chance to be on a reality show. You choose:
a. A show where your interpersonal skills can help you win, such as Survivor, The Apprentice, or The Bachelor.
b. None. You think reality shows are a mindless waste of time.
c. A show that gives you the chance to work hands-on to improve something, such as Trading Spaces.
d. A show where you can win on the basis of your talent, such as American Idol, Last Comic Standing, or Project Runway.
9. Which of the following would your friends say best describes you?
a. A people person
Your answers can give you some clues to your ideal career. While virtually all careers involve working with people, information, and things, and many allow some creativity in doing the job, most careers focus on one particular aspect and most of us have a distinct preference.
If you answered mostly A’s, your ideal career probably involves working with people.
According to Human Resources Development Canada’s National Occupation Classification, these careers may involve: mentoring, negotiating, instructing, consulting, supervising, persuading, speaking, serving, or assisting. Possible career choices include: teacher, human resources, flight attendant, life coach, daycare worker, personal assistant.
If you answered mostly B’s, your ideal career probably involves working with information.
These careers may include tasks such as synthesizing, coordinating, analyzing, compiling, computing, copying, or comparing. Possible career choices include: library assistant, editor, web developer, professional organizer, accountant, private investigator.
If you answered mostly C’s, your ideal career probably involves working with things.
Tasks you might do in these careers include setting up, precision working, controlling, driving, operating, tending, feeding, or handling. Possible career choices include: personal chef, repair person, carpenter, collectibles dealer, dog trainer, mechanic.
If you answered mostly D’s, your ideal career is probably creative.
Of course there are many more careers to choose from, but knowing your preferred type can help you narrow down the choices.
Tag and Catherine Goulet are founders of FabJob.com.
Visit FabJob.com to discover how to break into the career of your dreams.
This page includes affiliate links. Please be aware that we only promote advertising from companies that we feel we can legitimately recommend to our readers. Please see our disclosure policy for further information.