Finding your niche is something that can take time! For seven years, I prepared for the population I wanted to serve while walking proudly in another niche. Yes, what I am saying is that you CAN have more than one niche and it can actually change over time depending on the needs of the community or your skill set and passion.
Often, clinicians and other professionals will inquire about how does one identify or develop a niche. I am glad that people are asking this very important question. One, because it is important not have too many areas that you supposedly "specialize in." It will cause a client and other professionals to question if you actually have a specialty area. The other reason is because with the increase in mental health concerns, the community is in dire need of clinical professionals who specialize in areas that speak to their areas of concern. Whatever the presenting issues, persons seeking support want to connect with someone they believe possess the skill set and training that can help them address those needs.
So, when develop your niche area, consider taking the following steps to help you on your journey...
Determine your mission and your end goal.
Whenever I meet with my mentor, and I present a goal or idea to her, the first two questions that I am approached with is, "What is your end goal? What do you hope to accomplish?" After the first two meetings with her, I realized that I have to be prepared to answer these questions when she asks and even when I ask myself. I also find, that these are now my questions I ask clinicians and new private practice/business owners when they present a goal or idea to me. The moment you think of an idea, an area or a specialty, remember to keep your mission and end goal in mind. Make sure you have a mission set in place for your vision. What are you hoping to accomplish over the course of your venture? With any idea that comes to mind, please determine your end goal? For example, is your goal to make money, to serve as many community members as possible, to increase awareness of a specific area, etc? Whatever, your end goal is, that will determine how you market your service or event. But marketing and getting the word out cannot be done, if you do not know your end goal.
Invest time in developing your niche.
Your niche is not something that will take place over night. It is something that has to be developed with care and attention. Time is necessary to determine if whatever your specialty of care is, that it is something you actually would like to do and something that you are prepared to do. Please do not think of it in terms of a grocery list, believing that once you have it in the cart, you can just check it off the list. It goes a little further than that, you not only need to place it in your cart, you need to know what you will do with it once you have it. You will need to know if requires a recipe for one or a group. Once you know that, this will help you in planning how to obtain additional ingredients for a well planned niche. Keep in mind that a niche can also be developed by noticing how you manage other tasks and programming in your current line of work. Someone may notice that you are gifted in a particular area or you may notice that your drive increases when you are working in another area. This is the time to pay close attention to your skill set. For example, for 15 years, I worked with children and families. It was an area I loved and am still passionate about. I also noticed that over the course of my career that I began to develop a passion for working and helping clinicians and professionals. For me, like I said, it took me 7 years, but that was due to me wanting to be sure that I could deliver a skill set and setting to meet their needs. Taking your time is not a bad idea. It will better prepare you for the course before you.
Know the needs of the community.
It is my hope that wherever you work or have your practice/business that you are doing something that improves the overall well-being of the community. In order to do that, you must be aware of the needs of that community. This can be determined by looking at statistics for mental health, federal and state regulations issued annually, and also through the media. Knowing the trends of an issue can give you an idea of what community challenges exist. As the helping professional, you are then able to cater to the needs of the community. Hey, who knows, you may be able to address issues on a larger scale at the state or nationwide level. Knowing your niche and how it can benefit an overall need, can open doors for you.
Get a mentor.
Although, not written in this order, I recommend that the first thing you do is get a mentor, or two or three. That may have made you chuckle, but I am serious. I actually have a total of three mentors who have provided me with different levels of support and guidance. They each serve a different purpose and have been extremely beneficial in teaching me the tools to be successful (even with a few failures and hiccups). I have grown tremendously because of their guidance. The best part about having a mentor is that they are able to help you with the following:
- Bringing life to ideas
- Challenging you to think bigger and beyond what you imagine
- Giving you tools to accomplish goals
- Identifying training and certification programs to improve your skill set
- Helping you to focus on one task at a time
- Establishing realistic goals
- Being accountable to your mission and goals
Consistency is probably the most important thing once you identify your niche. After you have given your attention and planning, in order to be effective, it will require consistency. This means that you may have a niche that you are known for with a couple of other areas that you are skilled at. Make sure that you do not dabble in too many areas, that people are unable to identify you according to your niche. Consistency helps with branding. Once your brand is developed, then feel free to touch on other areas, but make sure the community, organizations, and other professionals know you for your specialization/ niche.
In the end, your niche is something that will stand out to others. It most likely will be how people are able to find you in order to request your service. Remember, the niche is about identifying where the needs are and meeting your end goal. However, you cannot get there without following certain steps. Please follow these or any other helpful steps to assist you in identifying your niche. I wish you well on your journey to greatness.