To Niche or Not To Niche: How a specialisation could benefit your business career


As anyone who’s been on the hunt for a job lately knows, it’s increasingly harder to differentiate yourself from the rest of the white-collar workforce. The number of people with bachelor degrees is growing faster than ever before. Outsourcing is on the up. Gone are the days our parents talk about fondly, when all you needed to get started was one qualification and a second cousin’s friend ‘in business’. But don’t despair. This could be your opportunity to become an expert in an in-demand area. Maybe it’s time to be king or queen of your own niche-dom.

The benefits of finding your niche

Richard McDermott of the Harvard Business Review has a few tips on differentiating yourself in today’s economic environment. Two of his main points are: Get on the cutting edge of your discipline and find a market niche. What are the benefits of these specialisation strategies?

First, there’s the job security aspect. Put simply, niche expertise is unlikely to be reengineered or outsourced to a low-cost provider. You become irreplaceable. By staying on top of the latest developments in your niche you remain irreplaceable.

Secondly, there’s the competitive advantage of being an authority in an area that brings value to prospective employers. Using your knowledge to introduce new ideas that are good for business is going to help you get into leadership support roles.

But it’s as much about job satisfaction as it is about remaining competitive. Following the developments in a chosen field of interest is not only easier than struggling to follow a broad stream of industry news, it’s also going to be more satisfying.

The benefits of getting niched up don’t just relate to employees. Forbes magazine recently wrote about the shift towards specialisation as a business as well as personal career strategy. According to them, the market is clearly rewarding businesses that specialize in providing valuable services.

MBAs turning niche

Students have increasingly begun to recognize the perks of going niche. In response to a growing demand for specialized skill sets, an increasing number of education providers are introducing niche MBAs. Bloomberg report on a wide range of specialist courses popping up, from the MBA in International Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC Business School, to an MBA in Bologna focused on the local wine and food industry.

Many of these specialisation-focused MBAs are based within industry specific locales, across the US or Europe. But, this trend is now hitting Australian shores. Kaplan Business School has just launched its’ revamped MBA program. This upgrade represents an attempt to introduce more of the stuff that Richard McDermott recommended: industry-led innovation and specialisation.

Specialising in a certain field can set you apart from others when looking for employment.

Start-ups are currently, well, ‘starting up’ – at a rate of 11,000 per hour – and that trend is unlikely to slow down soon.

KBS’s revamped MBA specialisation options

The redeveloped MBA offers five specialisation options: Digital Management, Entrepreneurship, Health Services Management, International Leadership and Project Management. According to KBS, they conducted research into current and future industry demands and developed these in-demand options in consultation with an Industry Advisory Board. Some of those reflect trends in global markets, others more local.

The option to specialize in Entrepreneurship, for example, responds to a huge demand worldwide for expertise geared towards start-ups. Start-ups are currently, well, ‘starting up’ at a rate of 11,000 per hour and that trend is unlikely to slow down soon. KBS knows that if you have specialised knowledge in this field, you will have a particular competitive advantage in the workforce.

The Digital Management specialisation caters to the growing importance worldwide of an administrative skill set encompassing data analytics, interpretation, storage and technology in an increasingly digital age. With practically every business now engaging with digital information on some level, this has gone beyond a trend; it’s a new fact of life when doing business.

On the more local end of the spectrum, the Health Services Management specialisation responds to the massive expansion of health services in the Australian market. There’s been a shortage of workers in Australia with health industry specific knowledge for over a decade, which continues to grow. This MBA puts you in a position to fill that gap.

Know the market for your niche

Just remember, it’s not uniformly great to choose any niche at all just because you happen to love it. It’s clearly a bad strategy to specialise in some niche that isn’t in demand. Knowing all there is to know about DVD distribution is probably not going to be a great investment of your time right now. Select an area of interest that’s been well researched from a future-projections point of view. With a bit of street smarts and some investment in learning, you could be setting yourself up for an excellent niche career.

Want to know more about our specialisations? Our Master of Business Administration page has more details including course structure and subjects.