Have you ever considered any of the following questions: What degree do I pursue to get a job doing [insert random, small field]? Where on earth do I find someone who’s done [insert unique career] before? What have I gotten myself into by chasing after a career in [insert uncommon profession]? I have. Not long […]
Have you ever considered any of the following questions:
- What degree do I pursue to get a job doing [insert random, small field]?
- Where on earth do I find someone who’s done [insert unique career] before?
- What have I gotten myself into by chasing after a career in [insert uncommon profession]?
I have. Not long after I decided I wanted a career in energy efficiency, I found myself in a heap on the floor – sobbing and totally questioning my judgment, ability and general purpose in life. I panicked because I realized I had absolutely no idea how I was going to go about getting a job in this itsy bitsy niche within the energy world.
Though energy efficiency is relatively obscure, it is growing. An April 2010 study from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that the energy efficiency workforce in the US has the potential to more than triple over the next decade. There is also an “extremely high demand” for energy efficiency professionals right now, according to Charles H. Goldman, a scientist in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Berkeley Lab.
Industry growth and staggering demand — it sounded like a dream come true. But with limited knowledge of the industry and few professional contacts that could help me navigate my jungle of questions, breaking in was tough.
Then, exactly one year before I graduated, I landed my first job with an energy efficiency firm as a Project Coordinator doing administrative and planning work a highly successful program in my state.
How did I do it? By developing my very own Burgeoning Niche Career Toolkit.
Arm Yourself With a Machete of Confidence
Confidence is so integral to surviving your journey to an small niche profession. I learned this from
my beloved Aunt Josi, who built her own niche career as a charter fishing boat nurse in the Florida Keys. When I told her of my aspirations, she said, “Baby, when you start roaring through the forest on your own path – you have to trust your heart and bring a damn machete!”
Confidence is really the only thing that can cut through all the negative feelings and comments you might experience (whether internal or external). Don’t know what you’re doing or what comes next? Be confident that you will figure it out, find the answers, and keep moving forward. Frustrated that no one around you supports your dream? Be confident that it is you, and you alone, that will determine whether or not you achieve it.
From a Tribe of Locals Who Have Made Their Own Path
Chances are you have some unconventional folks in your life somewhere. I had my dear Aunt Josi who stapled cookie sheets to her bathroom ceiling for a “decorative element” and tried to teach me to be a pool hustler at the ripe age of 12. She encouraged me to follow my own path even if it seemed obscure.
I’m sure you have an Aunt Josi somewhere, too. Well… maybe not. But what about that professor who made a killing in the 70s as a HAM Radio Operator? The friend who put himself through college as a Personal Security Consultant? Maybe even the goofy neighbor who had a successful career as a Professional Organizer? Find the people in your life who push boundaries, take risks, and exploit the heck out of their growing niche — and make them your tribe.
Identify the Compass Who Can Help You Plot Your Path
Find just one person who can point you in the right direction. If you don’t know anyone actually doing what it is that you want to do, find someone that just knows how to take action. Finding a mentor or a career coach is a huge asset to anyone paving their own path in a growing niche industry. My coach had nothing more than a very vague understanding of what energy efficiency even meant at first, but she’s helped me figure out where I want to go with my career because she understands me, my skills and passions, and my overarching goals. This why coaches and mentors are so important on the journey: they see the bigger picture when we can’t see through the branches right in front of us.
Chasing a career path in a small but blossoming niche is never easy. But my toolkit can help. Add a few mantras for good measure on bad days (my favorite is “You were put on this earth to do this. So do it!”), some re-commitment to your dream each time you find yourself astray, and the constant envisioning of the end result and you can truck through any obstacles that come your way. But don’t forget your machete!
Megan Atkinson is an energy consultant by day, helping ‘business as usual’ evolve to include greener and smarter energy systems. After hours, you can find her spreading the word about energy jobs on her blog.