What It's Really Like to Love Your Job with Kevin O'Connell of The Niche Movement

When someone says, “I love my job!” it almost seems like a myth. Something that couldn’t possibly be true. And especially not something that could ever happen to you.

But the truth is, it is very possible to love your job. Probably even more possible than you’ve ever imagined.

Kevin O’Connell, founder of The Niche Movement, has spent the past eight years dissecting the elements of what goes into loving your job. He has analyzed his own path to finding his niche (digital storytelling, speaking, and coaching), as well as the career stories of nearly 50 experts, dream chasers, and entrepreneurs including the likes of Nancy Lyons — CEO and founder of Clockwork, Michael DuDell – author of Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business, and Meghan St. John — Business Manager of ZinePak, to better understand what it really means to love your job.

As Kevin explains it, the key is finding where your strengths and passions intersect.

It’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about finding a career you love. The Niche Movement gives you the tools you need to build a career of your own design from the ground up.

Kevin’s new book, The Niche Movement: The New Rules to Finding The Career You Love, is out today, and to celebrate its release, he has graciously shared with GenTwenty some of the insider tips he’s discovered along the way to ending career apathy and to prove that you really can love your job.

GenTwenty: What does it really mean to love your job and love what you do?

Kevin O’Connell: Invincibility. The job you love doesn’t always come easy to you, but you have 100 percent confidence in your strengths that you will do whatever it takes to keep pushing forward so you wake up the next day still loving what you do.

G20: Why do you think people stay in jobs they don’t love? In your experience, what leads to career unhappiness?

KO: The first reason is society. Our schooling and families have trained us to take the least risky route and to be an all-around person rather than taking time to find out what your true strengths are and going all in on them.

Second reason is the job search process is outdated. Resumes are only a piece of paper showing you know how to comply with rules. Job boards are filled with a lot of noise and the candidates that apply yet don’t know how to stand out.

We need to teach that communication has been disrupted on both ends (the employer who wants someone innovative with a great work ethic can search you to see the footprint you have created; the candidate needs to realize there are no gate-keepers). If you want to work for X company or Y person, go figure out how to get in touch with them (without being creepy of course — add value and be genuine).

Third reason is we are not learning how to be indispensable. Our degrees, trainings, and former jobs put us in boxes making us think in a black and white way as it relates to job searching.

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If you are stuck in your current job, look at what you can do in your current role or within your organization that is missing and become a linchpin so when you leave, you will truly be missed.

And last, the biggest reason people become unhappy is because we take the first job offer out there. Most of the time, the old style of leadership doesn’t fit the millennial generation. You are valuable and deserve a job you love to do every single day.

G20: What’s a day in the life like for someone who is excited to wake up everyday and do what they love? 

KO: From my perspective as an entrepreneur, it’s that I make my own schedule. I have a ton of priorities from my clients, to the growth of my business, to the day-to-day, but I get to decide what is most urgent and how I want to prioritize my day.

Aside from that, it’s about the people and seeing projects come to life. One of my strengths is reading people and having the ability to pick out a commonality that I can help connect with (or help them connect with someone else). When I wake up and feel energized and knowing I love what I do, I am more positive, more excited, and look at every day as an opportunity to meet someone new or work with a new client that (especially a client that I share the same values with).

G20: Can you briefly share your own niche story?

KO: It took eight years since graduating college, but I finally put the pieces together after many positive and negative experiences in the workforce.

Prior to graduating college I was put in the “marketing degree” box and did everything I was supposed to do — internships, build my resume, and network. But when I graduated I was unsatisfied. I didn’t want to go the traditional corporate marketing route and the cool start-up scene wasn’t created yet in 2006.

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I kept coming back to the fact that I liked being able to work on a college campus, but more importantly, create programs that facilitated others to connect and build their own leadership skills. Eight years later I worked for two different universities and had the opportunity to impact hundreds of young professionals.

In October 2014, I finally decided it was time to take my own leap of faith and go all-in my strengths (digital storytelling, speaking, and coaching) and I launched The Niche Movement full-time. I haven’t looked back since — I’m doing exactly what I should be doing right now.

G20: Many people find excuses to stay in a career or place that doesn’t fulfill them, what advice can you share to help people overcome these excuses?

KO: If you’re young (under 30 years old) they aren’t excuses — they are just desires to have a consistent paycheck to by a really nice purse or beer money for the weekend. You’re young you can get scrappy, and if you really want to be happy, go out and take it. Do it before you have a mortgage, family, etc. If you are in the middle of your career, then you need to be practical. You probably can’t quit your job tomorrow or take that leap of faith just yet.

But the old cliche that there are 24 hours in a day and you work 8-10 of them and most likely have four weeks vacation means you can still find time to pursue your niche. Find a way to start something on the side or spend that time enhancing your personal brand (speaking, blogging, building something) and if you do it consistently for 18-36 months you will get noticed and be able to pivot your career into something you love.

G20: How important is a person’s digital presence in helping find their niche? Why is this the case?

KO: (See above #5 and #2). More than 50 percent of the jobs out there require some type of role that requires you to create content or add value to that company — if you don’t have a place to share your work and more importantly your “professional” personality of who you are outside of work, then those cool companies that value culture, transparency and mission statements will skip right by you. They want someone who is creative.

I can tell you right now, I had two recent graduates apply to work for me and I looked at their Twitter and Instagram accounts before hiring them. It wasn’t to spy or catch them, but to get a sense of their digital voice and how they create content and use the platforms. The ones that were out there using the platforms everyday were the ones I hired over the others.

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G20: What are three things someone could do right now to help them get closer to finding their niche?

KO: Take a deep breath and take time for yourself. Spend that time reflecting what you like to do, what you would do for free, or what you talk about 24/7.

Ask everyone around you what your strengths are. Put them into three concise skills and go ALL-IN on them, even if that is in your current role. Make your own opportunities and excel at what you do.

Put yourself out there. Remember, that doesn’t always mean blogging or creating content, I’m talking about taking risks. Email 10-15 people you think you have no shot connecting with, go to that meet-up, ask for that promotion, or start a new challenge. The more you put yourself out there, the more the world will give back — as long as you are genuine about it.

G20: What does The Niche Movement’s book provide for young professionals?

KO: That we’re all in this together. We’re all trying to figure out the real world, but it requires you to seriously start thinking of the rules I outline in the book that will get your closer to finding your niche.

This book should provide a silver lining to anyone who reads it while helping them harness the positive and negative energy to get one step closer to being happy. It also provides almost 50 unique individuals with amazing stories from all walks of life who are just nice people that want to help others — so it really serves as an addition to your network.

G20: Finally, how does someone know when they’ve found their niche?

KO: Going back to number one — they feel invincible. They love living it. Work shifts from work-life balance to life balance. Your passion starts to intertwine itself into your life and you feel OK with that.

P.S. Pick up your copy of The Niche Movement: The New Rules to Finding The Career You Love right here.

GenTwenty would like to extend a very sincere thanks and congratulations to Kevin on the release of his new book. Find Kevin  (@koco83) and The Niche Movement (@nichemovement) on Twitter and at thenichemovement.com.