Exploring the complexities of making career or market choices.
When I sat down with my school careers adviser to complete my university application, I was given a list of suggested choices; medicine, engineering, law or accountancy. That was pretty much the extent of the options. Not only that, the expectation was having made your career choice, you would stick to it for your entire career until retirement when you would be invited to select your preferred retirement pastime; golf, bowls, darts or dominoes!
I may have exaggerated slightly but compared to the bewildering plethora of options that my children had to choose from; it was pretty limited. Being a non-conformist, I rejected the traditional career paths and found my own way in business, following my intuition and intercepting opportunities as and when they arose. This led to me fulfilling a variety of functional roles from procurement to sales and marketing to operations. I worked in many different sectors, from travel and hospitality to rock concerts and super-yachts. What resulted was an exciting and rewarding career, or set of careers, full of adventure, discovery and personal growth. My contemporaries who stuck to a single career and became experts in their field may have generated greater wealth but are they happier or more fulfilled?
The above conversation came up with one of my coaching clients, coincidentally a fellow coach who is in the process of planning the launch of his coaching practice. The session’s focus was around his marketing strategy and whether he should focus on a specific niche, targeting leaders in education (he is an ex and very well respected headteacher) or seek a broader audience offering support to leaders across various sectors.
As a coach, the focus is 100% on the client and their agenda, so there is no prerequisite to have specialist or technical knowledge on the subject matter. Indeed, it can often be an interference that causes an inexperienced coach to lose focus and drift into giving advice rather than helping the client develop awareness and understanding of their own thinking. Thereby figuring out the right solution for them or their business, rather than adopting prescriptive advice. However, from a marketing perspective, it’s much easier to speak to a niche audience that shares a common background, beliefs and behaviours, particularly if you are familiar with the segment. You know how they think, the issues they face and the language they use. Not only that, your background and experience give you immediate credibility and authority to speak to their agendas. This provides a significant advantage when it comes to generating the sales leads required to build a new business; hence the advice from the marketing guru’s, “there are riches in the niches”.
As a marketeer, I can’t argue against the benefits of segmentation; it absolutely makes sense and will undoubtedly improve the ROI of your marketing spend if you understand and direct your messaging to a well-defined niche audience. However, I know my client’s goals are not orientated purely around financial metrics, hence why I asked the question, “what will constitute success for you as a leadership coach?” He could envisage a scenario where focusing on coaching leaders in education, he can make a positive impact (one of his core values) by helping them tackle the specific leadership challenges that headteachers face. However, he sensed that this would not be particularly challenging or stimulating for him, working in an area he is familiar with, effectively operating in his comfort zone. The alternative scenario, seeking out different types of leaders across all commercial sectors would provide him with a greater diversity of issues and topics to coach upon. While less straightforward to develop from a marketing perspective and therefore potentially less lucrative at least in the short term, my client felt that this choice would be more fulfilling and the one most likely to lead to his personal growth and development as a leadership coach.
There is a great deal of research material about the benefits, risks, complexities and stresses associated with choice. The key is to have absolute clarity about your real goals and core values, as this will help you make decisions with confidence irrespective of how many or how complex the choices are. I find it helps to look through both ends of the telescope; what makes sense from a customer or market perspective and what makes sense from your, or your business’s perspective. This requires a good understanding of both your personal or your business’s goals and the requirements of your customers. It enables you to make balanced decisions that fulfill the needs of both parties and are aligned to your true goals.
Are you wrestling with career plans or struggling to make important business decisions? Seeking to identify your real goals and core values to inform your decision making? Then please get in touch as I am sure I can help you gain the clarity and insight you are looking for. Contact me via any of the links below to arrange a free, no-obligation call.
Professional Business Coach, Mentor & Advisor