Finding Your Niche


I heard this once on a lecture from here and it never left my mind (if anyone else has heard this and knows the exact lecture, please tell so I can give credit!)

a market need + your knack (or ability) = a job that will make you some bucks, but maybe not make you satisfied

your interests + a market need = fun job that may never take off

your interests + your knack = a hobby

 + + + + + +


your interests + your knack + a market need = magic. this is where you find your career. your contribution.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, and also been thinking how this piece of my life sort of shifts the whole equation:

What are your thoughts? Have you ever taken low pay to do something you love? Have you ever made bank at a job that you couldn’t bring yourself to enjoy? Is a job even a place to to look for satisfaction? What about life balance? Would love to hear what you’re thinking.






{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

SammaMichelle September 27, 2012 at 6:39 am

Why yes I have!! About 2 1/2 years ago I took a leave of absence from a VERY well paying job in a law firm to get kiddos off to college and then the economy completely eradicated the need for me to go back. (Commercial Real Estate). I made great money but I was so miserable every single day it just wasn’t worth it. Now, I sub a little here and there at the local elementary schools (not much money at all) and I blog (zero money). I’m happier and more content than ever. Thankfully I have a supportive husband with a good job that allows me to continue hanging out doing “my thing”. Hopefully soon we will be starting up an embroidery business and I’ll have another outlet for my crafting whims. I figure one day all the pieces will intersect and hopefully help pay a few bills too!


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

Samma I loved reading this. IT’s always amazing to me how much you learn about yourself when you have to, or choose to, try something different. Best wishes as you think up your embroidery business!


Lisa September 27, 2012 at 7:12 am

My dad gave me some great advice when I graduated college and was stressed about finding a job. He said that some people are passionate about their work, some people are passionate about their hobbies, and you don’t have to be both.

Somehow knowing that I didn’t have to be passionate about my work allowed me a greater sense of freedom. I like what I do, but it’s not my passion. I work hard all day, and as soon as the work day is over, I can’t wait to go home and indulge my passions. It’s a balance that works for me.


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

Ooh Lisa, I love this advice. You have a wise dad. I totally agree that that takes a load of pressure off.


Tawna November 5, 2012 at 4:45 am

Thank you Lisa and Lisa’s Dad. I really needed to hear this. I work in Mortgage Servicing Law firm in Evictions ( aka I work for the Banks who foreclose and I do the paper work to evict the previous owners) Not a Warm and Fuzzie job. But “ve doubled my income and for the first time in this century I have insurance ( dental, health and vision ! ) . But All I want to do is have a blog, an etsy shop and be a WAHM ( we don’t have kids yet) Thaks for putting it in pespective that I dont have to be passionate about my job I can just be passionate about my hobbies ( baking, crafting, reading, gift-giving)


Caitlin September 27, 2012 at 7:44 am

Even when I was in high school and college & worked to save enough money for expenses that weren’t covered by my scholarship, I never really enjoyed going to work. After I got married, I worked a little bit, but mostly loved to stay home and be a homemaker. I started making various crafts, and every once in awhile, someone would say, “Oh, you should sell that!” I thought about that and even tried out an Etsy store for a bit. But, for me, crafting is my escape. It’s what I do when I’m stressed, and it got my mind off my infertility problems when we were first married. Making things to sell made my relaxation time into a job, and I really didn’t like it. Now that I have two girls, I am a stay-at-home mom & I use my crafting to make things for my kids, my home, and my friends and family. Sometimes I’m still tempted to try selling a few things online, but I really don’t want my happy crafting time to turn into something that I have to do for a job.


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 8:23 am

Caitlin this is so true, it’s interesting to me to notice some of the same things, some things in your life you just want to keep as your outlet, pure and simple. Thanks for the note!!


Michelle September 27, 2012 at 8:48 am

Love all the comments so far! I often think of how to find a balance between passions & abilities. I am currently pregnant with my first child due in November so the motherhood piece of the equation is something I don’t know how will affect everything. I have to say my career is not very fulfilling for me (I’m a CPA) but it provides my growing family with stability and income to do the things we want without financial stress. I sometimes fantasize of quitting and doing something more “fun” like become a professional organizer/decorator or sell my crochet projects but I agree with Caitlin that then those things might not be as fun. Not to mention, would giving up my income really be the best choice for my family? So much to ponder indeed. For now, I am content with not having my dream job but coming home to a loving husband (& soon baby) and making the most of my life :) My job does not define me so I don’t put too much pressure on myself if I’m not having loads of fun between the hours of 9 – 5.


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

Michelle. congrats on expecting! I’m totally with you. Sometimes I’m surprised that when my work requires more creativity, I have little left over for other things I love, or even for making things fun for my kids.

best wishes for your upcoming transistion!


Meghan September 27, 2012 at 9:09 am

Such a timely discussion point for me! Lately I have been living mostly in bliss as a stay-at-home mom. But there’s is this vague, almost indistinguishable voice telling me to go back to teaching, or go back for a master’s degree, or start something new. I agree that there is a lot of pressure in finding a job you’re passionate about. But with a sweet baby at home, I would HAVE to be passionate about it to make room for it in my life! Now I’m just hoping for a lightbulb moment, some event that will make that voice clearer, so I’ll know what it is I should do.


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

Meghan, love all your thoughts. Isn’t it a crazy decision as a mama? I still remember the day I called a friend and told her to help me decide if I should start my chocolate biz. Either way, enjoy that sweet little one!


Rachel September 27, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thank you for this post. I have always struggled with this. There are lots of crafty things I do, but wonder if they were my “job” would it still be fun. It took me a long time to figure out that it’s more important to love your job than how much you make. Life is too short and I enjoy being able to walk away at the end of the day and enjoy my personal time. My husband has always said that we work so we can afford to do the things we really want to do. He’s right. I think if you’re fortunate enough to love your job and make some money you have the best combination in the world.


Jen September 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

AmberLee, thanks for posting this topic. I’m in the exact same place right now. I was self employed for about 8-9 years, now working in a job that I’m not enjoying but I am not ready to start another business (or pick up the one I stopped when I became a mother). The comments above help me realize I don’t HAVE to love my job – I always felt I should. It is great to hear the feedback you are receiving.


Leigh September 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

This is also a timely discussion for me. I feel like I’ve been struggling with what I want to do “when I grow up” for more than ten years. I just don’t feel sure enough about my interests and abilities to use those things in a career. Now I am a mom on maternity leave, and I’m struggling with what to do when I go back to work: continue working where I am, an okay job that I’m not crazy about; become a stay at home mom; or continue to look for something that leaves me fulfilled at the end of the work day. I know that I don’t have to be passionate about my job, and I am deeply fulfilled by my friends, family, and hobbies, but I still feel like something is missing from my work life.


Amy September 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I always wanted to do youth ministry as a paid position (and I did for several years before becoming a stay at home mom). Youth ministry salaries are low, they are often part time but the church expects so much that it is more like full time hours, and there are often no benefits nor Christmas bonus (though I was lucky and got an “Easter bonus” my last two years). My parents and my husband never discouraged me from pursuing it and were with me every step of the way. Yet my dad always encouraged me to have other skills to fall back on and this is why he helped me get a job doing customer service and production at a print shop. I later got a second job doing after school care in a Christian school and I’m currently using those skills in my co-op preschool I co-lead. On the practical side, it is great to have other skills in case you need to take on a second job.


Melissa R September 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Ok, this is weird. About 90 minutes ago I put together a plan for a business. It’s been floating around in my mind for quite a while and sometimes I think about it and even mention it in passing. Today, for some reason, it flew out of me as a real option. My belly has has butterflies. I feel it could really happen. I was looking through my favorite blogs as a way to get my mind off my idea for a little while and bingo, here’s this post.
I really think that my idea is that intersection. My belly is flip flopping…. it could really happen!!


amy September 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

It’s a pet peeve when I hear people say, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I don’t think it’s usually true and don’t know if it’s a great idea, even if you can, for all the reasons people mentioned here.

Several years ago, I started thinking about this differently after watching a postal carrier in Italy. He came into the cafe for an espresso in the morning, went home for lunch, and, (in my mind) worked for a paycheck and still tried to enjoy his life throughout the day.

Sure, we shouldn’t be miserable or abused at work, but not sure we need to love it!


Nanci September 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this. I am nearing the end if the time with my kids at home, one is almost 20 and moving back to finish school, one is 17 and will be leaving next fall for school in Hawaii and my youngest is 15.

I have spent all their growing up years working out my gifts & abilities through the things they have been involved in. I am currently the charter president of the parent organization for an early middle college (think PTO but more fun). It has been great starting this because I have the ability to keep it light and fun.

I find that I use my creativity through flyers, marketing and creating activities we sponsor. I use my management skills through working with parents and other volunteers to help better the program. When we started 4 years ago there were 3 of us now there are about 35 people working in different ways to help our program be great. It is not a paid position but I do gain satisfaction from what I am doing and we have impacted both the youth and the program.

Our family has sacrificed so that I could remain home with the kids, we don’t have all the cool toys and we still watch VHS and are happy with it. We have what is most important, a calm loving home where we are all continuing to grow to be better people.

Maybe I will start doing my artwork again soon as we are moving and I will not be so involved. I am looking forward to learning welding so I can begin doing really large sculpture. It seemed like a really long time as they were growing up that I put my work aside, but now looking back I am so glad I made the decision to do so. We are all better for it, especially me.

I think of your circles above and there is no way to mesh them well. Life is messy and motherhood encompasses all of it.

Grace to you as you move forward!


Stephanie September 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I read things like this, and it just makes me so sad. I’d love to be able to make the transition to a job that I enjoyed, or at least didn’t make me want to cry from frustration, anger and self-pity every day. But all the jobs I like are either not hiring, or do not pay anything approaching a livable salary when you have $1100 in student loan payments every month. It feels more and more that the idea of finding a passion you can live off of is a pipe dream unless you’re already wealthy.

Is there anything in particular that’s bringing on this musing?


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Stephanie, So sad it’s not quite jiving right now. In all my experience, I’d say keep trying and don’t give up on it. Keep running after it, and then, if you’re like me, be ready to be constantly adjusting your direction : )

And really good question. Yes. I need to share this officially but haven’t found the time to write it all down. My SIL and business partner decided to just be a mama for a while, and some days I’m so glad I’ve kept my biz of chocolate going on my own, and some days I think she was totally the smart one! I’ll have to share more later.


amee September 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm

First, I love your blog. Second, thanks for asking the question and opening up the conversation. I am satisfied with my job now and previous jobs. These are def. not my hobby or interest. these just pay bills. not unsatisfied at all. my blog will never make the $ i need, but that’s not why i do it. I have had a HORRIBLE job doing something similar to what i do now. HORRIBLE. but it difficult to see how much better things could be if you left the job. it’s like being in an abusive relationship. a lot of people cannot convince themselves to get out.
Now, i still like my job (not love) and it pays bills and gives me work/life balance. and with that balance, I have time to write my blog. which makes me happy. so i’m not really answering your question, b/c i don’t have answers. but i will say it’s hard to know how happy you are until you are in a contrasting or different environment. i also think it can take years and years and years before you know what “your thing” is.
and lastly, I know a lot of people that don’t have “a thing” and are still happy. ultimately you’ll be measured against your own happiness ruler. my happiness ruler may be just to be at home with my husband and potential kids and no job or hobby… i just don’t know what my ruler is yet. :)


AmberLee September 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Amee. absolutely loved your insight. It is so true that someone can be a wonderful, warm, happy person and not have “a thing.” I totally have friends like that, sometimes I envy them! It really took me a few years into adulthood to get this.


mick September 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I’m really enjoying the discussions in the comments, as well as your musings, AmberLee. I left my PhD program and moved halfway across the country when my husband got a new job three years ago. I’ve been working in my field, but due to enormous budget cuts, I’ve had to make sacrifices, and for the past two years have been doing full-time work for part-time pay. That’s just not sustainable for me emotionally, and I’m really struggling with figuring out my next move. I knit, sew, and enjoy home decorating, and more and more I think I’d be happiest staying home and doing my current work on a truly part-time scale, and my husband and I are talking about starting a family, but I’m really struggling.

I can’t seem to find the courage to take the next step. In some ways, this is the perfect time to start a family; my schedule is really flexible, so I could stay home and be a hands on mama. On the other hand, I’m worried about money, giving up my career, and so much change. How did you decide to take the leap and make these changes? Thanks so much for starting this conversation; I’m realizing lately that I may never really have a fulfilling “career,” and I’m really thinking I may be happier having a part-time job that I don’t hate and balancing that with being a mama.


AmberLee September 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Mick, this is such a good point! And I’ve totally been somewhere similar. All I know is that conversations with wise friends have made a huge difference when I’m at a major fork. And it’s funny, I’ve tried really 4 completely unrelated career options if you include staying at home w no job at all, all incorporating something I enjoyed, and in every one I had parts I cherished but I also always felt a little tug towards doing something different or something I’d already done or to just being a mama. No easy answers, I guess? But I really think I’m learning more and appreciating more along the way.


Susan September 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm

As a stay-at-home mom, then teacher, then school board member, now retired…. I enjoyed the comment about the Italian postman’s workday “moments” No job is all wonderful all the time. Teaching public school was a fulfillment of all my creative talents (as were my years at home w/kids) , but also a nightmare of frustration and anger. Maybe just having parts of our outside job be fulfilling and a little challenging is the best we can hope for. And then we can come home to the world WE create :-) I don’t regret a single day spent as a full-time mom, and still cringe at a comment I heard at a kids’ league game: “Oh, I am so bored at home. I can hardly wait to go back to work”. “Bored at home”?? Yet now, being totally retired, I can’t seem to get motivated or disciplined enough to write my books or blog regularly or even craft (a LOT harder as your eyesight weakens!) Funny how every stage in life needs to be figured out as we get into it!


AmberLee September 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Susan, you are one wise woman. Love this–”having parts of our outside job be fulfilling and a little challenging–And then we can come home to the world WE create.” So brilliant. These are all things i’m learning, at my own very slow learning pace : ) And totally agree about always learning and navigating because our stages of life keep changing!


nicole September 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm

The timing of your post was so interesting to me yesterday. I have thought about it constantly since. Where is my niche, that is a good question. My hubby lost his job 4 years ago and suddenly my hobby became my job. I have counted myself so lucky to be able to work from home, especially so that I can be a Mom to our daughter that it took 10 years of infertility struggles to get. The thought of having to leave the home to work and have someone else raise my child just about undid me. I have felt like the heavens opened and presented opportunities for me to earn bits here and there to support my hubby going back to school, that somehow this little hobby of mine actually has paid the bills. I have felt the love of family and my clients who have completely become my friends through everything. My sister even started a blog with me to help promote my skills and help my family survive during our economic crisis. There are days when I have absolutely no desire to And then all I have to do is look at my daughter and I know that it’s all worth it. I don’t make very much money for what I do~and it feels like since I work at home I work all the time, but I get to work at home and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Thanks so much for inspiring me and for all the other comments that yes, actually did get read.:)


cindy October 4, 2012 at 7:09 am

What are you willing to trade your life for? That is the question.
My 6 kids are married now. You really have children in your care for just a short time (yeah I know–some days seem to last forever!). Live your life so that when your kids are gone you have few regrets. You will sleep well..
You can do everything–just not all at once!
Choose wisely.


Dana October 15, 2012 at 7:13 am

Early last year, I went to a bridal shower where I knew no one except the future bride. I was sitting next to an older lady who (as a starter for small talk) randomly asked me what my passion was. Being a stay at home mom, I replied my family. and she again told me that I needed a passion outside of my family and something for me. That conversation has made me a little crazy since then. I have no passion! I am constantly looking for something that I love, that I can do while having a family and that I am good at. I get jealous when I see other people (women especially) setting about something in life and accomplishing it. I think I need to get a move on before life passes me by. Every September when the kids head back to school and I can not really justify my stay at home-ness I think about this.


AmberLee October 15, 2012 at 8:03 am

I totally appreciated your note. And if I can give my two cents, I say take it easy! Of course you can totally disagree with me, but sometimes I think how the friends who are there to help me out the most are the ones who have made some space in their schedule, so they have the time to jump in and help out when I need them. I try really hard to keep my schedule open enough to be able to do this for others too. And some days, I wish I didn’t have some big think I’d been dying to do! Just the flip side, something to consider : ). Hope your week is great!


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