Career advisors will tell you about the value of creating a niche for yourself: it helps position you as an expert and helps you avoid being all things to all people or spreading yourself too thin. This maxim applies whether you’re in corporate PR, work as an independent consultant or are part of a department within an agency. But what if you don’t like the niche you’re currently in? Consider these seven steps if you’re thinking about breaking into a new niche:
Step #1: Articulate your reasons
Find other PR pros who work in the field you want to be in and shadow them or ask them about their work. Understanding the field’s requirements, the schedule and how payment and rewards work will ensure there are no surprises later. It will also help you visualize yourself doing the work and reassure you that it’s what you want to do. Being able to explain why you want to switch gears is important as it will help you convince others to take a chance on you even though you don’t yet have the experience. Before he became a top CNBC reporter Darren Rovell explored career opportunities in sports journalism. His journey included looking at where most sports journalists focused their efforts, getting advice on market opportunities from veterans and doing extensive research on the field (see step #7 below).
Step #2: Ask for help
Identify a few mentors who work in the niche you’re targeting and offer to take them out for coffee or lunch in exchange for advice on breaking into the niche.
Step #3: Look for pro bono opportunities
Pro bono projects, i.e. those done without pay, can help you get your feet wet, make some connections and build up your resume/credentials.
Step #4: Look the part
Your transition will go more smoothly if you look the part. Use your business cards, web site, blog and tweets to let people know you are focusing on a particular niche.
Step #5: Focus on what you can do
Just because you’re new to a niche, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not qualified. Highlight the experience you have that is transferable. In other words focus on what you can do not what you’ve done. This WSJ installment of The Resume Doctor offers advice on what to emphasize in a career shifter resume.
Step #6: Network
Networking is good advice for all job seekers, but if you’re exploring a new field or niche look for groups, sub-groups or special interest groups (SIGS) that specialize in your chosen niche. Kristie Aylett, APR, a PR consultant in Mississippi (@krisTK) says, “Two resources I’ve found helpful: Linkedin for Q&A and Group Discussions and PRSA’s Business Case for PR award summaries.”
Step #7: Become a student
PR pros with niche experience are viewed as experts because they’ve built up experience and made important connections in that field. Emulate their knowledge by investing time in industry research: read relevant trade publications, subscribe to blogs and newsfeeds and look for classes that can help you get up to speed. Recently, the #solopr chat on Twitter covered this topic and shared this advice:
@shonali: I think like anything else, you have to educate yourself. Research, listen, watch, get to know people in that area.
@krisTK: Set up Alerts, RSS feeds for new industry. Identify the players, issues.
@luannsaid: I find bloggers to be the most insightfully passionate players in any industry. Follow key ones & you’ll learn the issues fast.
(More excellent advice from the #solopr Twitter chat can be found here.)
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. Learn more her here.