Tag Archive | skills

How do you discover your niche?

Each of us is unique, and it’s got nothing to do with our gender or appearance. Even identical twins have differences, and sometimes the only thing they share in common is their looks and date of birth. This uniqueness has everything to do our purpose under heaven, yet for many it seems difficult to discover. So, how do you discover your niche?

In my efforts to reinvent myself for my later years, I found that I had a lot of interests and some knowledge and skill in each area, but I was not focused. Some people have a strong passion for one thing, and they can’t seem to help themselves. They have to pursue it.

Years ago, I had just such a student. Today, kids would call him a nerd because he zeroed in like a laser on anything that had to do with science. I’d continually have to tell him that science was not my forte, so he’d dumb down his theories for me until our next conversation. And the topic? You guessed it. Science. He loved it. If anyone tried to realign his thoughts, he’d always return to his favorite. He had focus.

I read something the other day from Brian Tracy on finding your competitive advantage, and I thought it might be applied as well to finding your niche and moving forward with it. It will require some time when you can be alone for some self-analysis, but hey, you’re worth it.

  • Identify your strengths – What do you think you’re good at? Where have you excelled in the past as well as the present? What do others see as your strongest qualities? Write them down even if they seem small. They may develop into a pattern.
  • Identify your interests – What do you really like to do? Pay close attention to your heart because your true interests may not be where you’re currently expending your energies. Someone mentioned that you should think back to age 10 and what you wanted to be when you grew up. Are you there?
  • Identify your area(s) of specialization and narrow it down to one or two core skills. Keep in mind that these should be in the area of your strengths and interests.
  • Identify areas within your specialization that could be further developed to add different and better value. You want to differentiate yourself from all the rest by excelling where others have not even thought to go.
  • Identify markets where your skills and talents will be best used or better yet, an unfulfilled need where you can forge into new territory.
  • Pray. God created you with a specific purpose in mind, and He delights in revealing His plans when you ask.

It took me a while to narrow my focus and find my niche, but I think I’m on the right track now. Don’t be discouraged that the process requires time. Remember, it’s what we’re here for.

What’s so great about the Comfort Zone?

Have you ever spoken with a person who was miserable in his job? He hated to get up in the morning and face the onslaught of meetings, messages and minutia. He lived for the weekend reprieve, yet if you tried to pin him down on what he’d rather do, he had no answer. He’d bought into the old adage that the bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush. Although the proverb warns against greed, it can also imply being satisfied with the status quo. In other words, it’s easier to exist in what you know and are comfortable with rather than try to improve yourself and grow to experience more. You know where he lived? Right in the eye of the Comfort Zone.

I’m not going to pick on that individual because if truth be told, we’ve all lived there at one time or another, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. What’s so great about enduring and tolerating unpleasant situations, behaviors and habits when they do nothing for us? Do they help us develop new skills, meet new people, see new places? Will we experience greater focus, commitment or self-discipline and better health? Are we truly better off? We need to ask ourselves these and some other important questions especially when we find ourselves in difficult or stressful situations. Our friend may not be able to quit his day job just yet, but he can begin to make changes to reinvent himself so that he can fulfill his dreams, goals and purpose.

Like him, I have areas of my life that I want to see changed. While one of TV’s total makeovers would be nice, it is not reality because lasting change requires commitment, action and time. I believe it also requires God’s power, and I am enlisting His wisdom and strength to do it because, frankly, I see nothing great in the Comfort Zone.

What’s the purpose?

In this economy, most everyone is watching their quarters. (It used to be pennies.) The job market is still not great and even if you have a job, the likelihood of your remaining in that position could change with little or no notice. Everyone is unsettled.

What do you do when you find yourself looking for another position and you receive rejection notices or nothing at all from your efforts?  Many companies don’t even open letters or read emails anymore, so how do you get your foot in the door?

This was the situation Ken Eldred described in an interview with Dr. James Dobson on today’s Family Talk radio program. (Click the link to listen to the broadcast.) He’d been in that predicament in the past and knew how it felt to look for work and find nothing. He understood what it did to his family and himself. Yet through it, he found God’s unique purpose for his life. I won’t spoil the outcome of his story, but it is well worth listening to if you are searching for a new job or direction in your life. It’s a great interview, but here’s the catch. You have to tune in again tomorrow to hear the second part.

There’s no doubt that each of us is created for a unique purpose. Our skills, talents, personalities and all that make us who we are have a role to play in God’s much larger plan. We do, however, need to ask Him what it is and listen for His answer. Sometimes that’s the difficult part because we want things our way. Nevertheless, it only makes sense that the God who created you knows what is best for you, so who else should you ask to get the right answer?

Then, when you know what it is you should be doing, point others in the right direction because there are a whole lot of other people asking the same questions, “Why am I here? What’s the purpose?”

You can’t beat writers

Say what you will about writers, I think they’re among the best. So what if they work in their pajamas, wield their craft unshaven or keep irregular hours? They have some, in fact quite a few, redeeming qualities.

Writers think. Regardless if their passion is fiction or non-fiction, they combine their creative talent and language skill as a master builder. They construct a foundation of sentences and paragraphs until they communicate their idea or story, one that could potentially change the world. Like a renowned artist, writers apply colorful language to the blank page and educate, engage or entertain their readers beyond themselves. For good or for bad, writers make you think, even for a brief time.

Writers understand the process can be slow and tedious including a lot of waiting time that may lead to rejections, yet they do what they can to help their writing siblings to avoid their pitfalls. They often meet together both online and off to share their works in progress seeking both affirmation and feedback for ways to improve. In this forum, they also communicate lessons learned about the writing process or making a go of it as a business. Writers share resources and tricks of the trade to save others the hassle of going it alone.

Writers aren’t perfect, but most care about their craft and its impact on others. Those who’ve achieved a measure of success have also experienced rejection – likely a lot of it. Yet with the fortitude of their character and the encouragement of their writing partners, they forge ahead and get better.  You just can’t beat writers.

Keep plowing or bury the book?

From a writer’s perspective, how do you decide if you should continue reading a book? 

If you’re like me, you’ve started books that no matter how hard you tried, the story or information couldn’t hold your attention. You’ve likely picked up some where you had to read the first 100 pages before reaching the point of no return, while others hook you in the first few sentences and compel you to keep on reading.    

As an aspiring writer, you may hope for the latter scenario, yet the truth of the matter is the first two situations will more likely become reality at least once before we succeed. (After all, John Grisham received 25 rejections before he was successful in finding someone to publish his first novel.) The point here is not to discuss rejection, but to discover what makes a book worthy of reading it to the end in order to reduce time spent in the learning curve and number of returned manuscripts. 

The criteria for continuing to read will be different for each person, but an analysis may prove to be an enlightening assignment. Good writers can learn from their own reactions to another author’s work. Unless it is self-published, you recognize at least one editor liked it. The publisher hopes others will also. What makes it read-worthy then becomes critical to prospective writers.

It might be helpful to keep a log of the books you’ve read and list what you liked or disliked about them. This way you can determine what worked well – genre, pace, characters, authenticity, clarity … – as well as what to avoid when you work on your next piece. Writing is like any other skill. You need to use the right tool for the job, and learning from other craftsmen can speed up the process. So before you bury the next volume, keep plowing long enough to see what insight you can gain.

Continuous Improvement Required

The only thing that does not change is God.  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Everything else – seasons, time, people, cultures, clothes, etc. – require change and that’s a good thing, but does it ever stop?

I get it. The business world must continually improve, reinvent and adjust itself because the marketplace and technology are changing so fast they have to keep up to compete. Employers expect their staff to do the same or lose their jobs. Even if you’re one who’s on the unemployment role, you understand these principles and start your reinvention process in order to find a new way to add value and land a job. The truth is, you never reach a point where the improvement process is no longer necessary. 

Few would argue that keeping up with technology, communication and industry trends enhances your capabilities, yet the reason for doing it all is often lacking. The fact is many workers travel focused career paths only to provide the pay and perks they desire. Although climbing the corporate ladder presents its own challenges and rewards, some reach the top and wonder what it was all about. There is a higher purpose for it all, but you could miss it if you’re not looking. 

I figure why wait until you get to the end to ask the hard questions, so I’m asking them of myself now.  To add emphasis, I’m putting them in the present progressive tense.   

  • How am I adding value today?
  • How am I making a positive difference today?
  • How am I making my work count today? 

If I can answer these questions truthfully each day, I should begin to see the direction of my life.  If I discover gaps or inconsistencies, I know I’ve got some work to do. The good news is as long as we have breath, we can change. The best part is if I choose the road of continuous improvement, I might actually change the world or at least the part where I live.

Want to join me?

When the Elevator Door Closes …

What can you say in 30 seconds? 

If you’re like so many others vying to get your message out to land a job or sell your product, you’ll want to master the elevator speech – a 30-second Reader’s Digest version of your resume or business plan. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned 4 S’s to help you focus on your listener and asked you to stay tuned to learn more about technique and content. So I’m picking up on that today. 

The technique sounds simple enough, yet it may require some stiff self-talk and a mini-makeover for you to pull it off. All that’s required is that you look and sound confident. Let your passion show. Do you need to pay closer attention to your appearance or delivery? Practicing your presentation in front of a mirror will help you see what others do.  No worries, though. All of this will fall into place if you’ve done your homework on the content and you’re comfortable with what you have to say. 

First and foremost, keep in mind your goal to engage your listener so that he wants to hear more. 

Start out with the idea of gaining their interest by sharing the benefit your skills, product or idea brings to them.  Perhaps it will solve a problem or address an unmet need. 

Sandwich in how your skills or ideas will meet their need and why it must be fixed sooner – preferably now – rather than later. This may require some home-spun self analysis to hone it down to a few words, but once you think you have it, run it by someone who knows you well to get their feedback.  You may have overlooked your most stellar quality. 

Show how your proposal will succeed to their benefit. Whether you’re interested in employment or selling a product or initiative, they’re interest is in the return on investment. 

Stop talking and listen to their response.  If they ask you questions or for your business card, you’ve got your foot in the door. 

So now I’ll ask myself, “What can you say in 30 seconds?”