A ‘niche’ can be defined as a crevice in a rock where a creature can be safe, comfortable and gain strength. It could also be a hollow in a wall where a beautiful sculpture is on display. Of course, it’s also a metaphor for finding the place we belong, in terms of doing the work we love, in an environment that supports our values, working with people we are fascinated with and love to help. But finding that special place in the world where you belong can be elusive.
Some people seem to have an inner compass that compels them towards the kind of work they love to do with the people who inspire them. Others drift from one role to another, never finding true job satisfaction in the work they do. The coaching industry is so wide reaching that it’s easy to believe that merely defining yourself as a business, executive or life coach is about as ‘niche’ as you need to be. But I believe that pinpointing exactly the type of person you work best with and the kind of problems and needs they might be experiencing, is a ‘double bubble’ win! You get to do really satisfying work, and your clients get to work with a specialist.
So, how can you find your niche? There are three different facets that make up a niche, each can be approached as a self-reflection exercise. The process and questions below are adapted from our Clean Coaching programme and could help you to become clearer and more excited about the unique specialism you can offer to the world.
A) When you are at your best, you are like what? What do you do well and love to do? These are typically your strengths and usually also the things you are most interested in doing. Sometimes though the qualities we are naturally good at, we take for granted and don’t even notice or acknowledge them. Some self-reflection with some Clean Coaching questions can help you to get creative about this:
1) What kind of ‘you’ is that, when at your best? What happens? And how do you do that?
2) Put all that down on a piece of paper
3) What are you noticing?
4) What do you know now about your strengths?
B) What’s happening around you when you’re at your best? With your particular strengths and qualities, how have you supported others? What kind of problems have people come to you with? This is about identifying your purpose in life, and your place in the world. There are likely to be many purposes and places that have emerged for you over your lifetime, and noticing what tends to come your way and what you are naturally drawn to helps you pick the most rewarding path. Be specific – is it about creating compelling presentations? Or gaining confidence after a long break from work. Or managing a new team when there’s little trust? By examining what you have done in your past, helps you to recognise the patterns and themes that are repeating. What we have had repeated experience of dealing with a certain kind of problem, it becomes our specialism. whether as a formal job role or through life experiences. If you are a practicing coach, you could take a look at your existing and previous clients – what are the themes that keep cropping up? Put all of this down on another piece of paper and then reflect on these questions:
1) What are you noticing?
2) What do you know about that?
3) What in all of this are you drawn to?
4) What energises and excites you? (this one is NOT a clean question!)
C) Who do you serve? What kind of person comes to you for support? Where have they come from? Again, take some paper and represent a person that you are drawn to serve. Describe this person as specifically as you can, eg age, gender, job role, personality, life circumstances, hobbies etc. It’s tempting to draw many different kinds of people, however if you had to choose just one ideal client for you, who would you choose? Again, you can explore your real-life clients for ideas on this. Some Clean Coaching questions that might help you:
1) What do you know about this person?
2) Whereabouts could they be? Where do they go?
2) What would they like to have happen?
3) When they come to you for coaching, then what happens?
Once you have reflected on all of this, you will have three separate pieces of paper now, one representing WHAT you do, one is WHO you do it for and one is the WHY – the need that your client has for a particular kind of solution. Is there a relationship between all three papers? How are they joined? A metaphor that works for me is to look for the ‘golden thread’ that connects across the papers. And condense it all into a single sentence or statement that addresses all three questions – what, who, and why?
I rarely teach ‘finding your niche’ trainings anymore, but I do train on Clean Coaching skills to coaches who want a structure that supports a truly non-directive approach, enabling their coaches to gain insight and make changes through discovering more about their own ‘insider’ perspective: of themselves and the world around them. Through the use of specifically-phrased, structured coaching questions, the coach’s own biased perspectives are stripped from their language, ensuring the coachee’s unique personal experience is honoured. With no distraction, the coachee’s imagination is free to flourish so new ideas and understandings can emerge.
For more information on our complete Clean Coaching online training programme, consisting of four individual modules to suit all levels, click here
Our foundation-level Module One course for beginners starts on 7th March 2023 – click here for full details and to book.