Owning your name: the importance of an online presence

owning your name Now more than ever it is critical that individuals have some presence online. An online presence, be it on social media platforms, a personal website, or an online portfolio, allows individuals to identify and integrate others into their personal learning network. Below are three tips you can use to learn more about your current online presence and ways in which you can build your digital footprint.

  1. Google yourself
    • When you Google yourself, what do you find. Ideally you should make up the entire first page of results; however, if you have perhaps a more common name that may not be the case. A simple way to increase your visibility online is to not only have a Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, but to also make those platforms public. Additionally, utilizing resources such as, Squarespace, or Wordpress are great ways of producing your own unique website and generate content to tell your story.
  2. Consistency is key
    • Consistence in your own personal brand is a huge piece of your digital story. You want to remain authentic but also recognizable across all platforms. For me, a way that I do this is ensure my brief bio on various platforms is similar and that my photo is the same across platform. In doing so, when people search my name or find me one any platform they see a recognizable photo and bio. In addition to visible consistency, consistence in voice or messaging is also critical. While you may utilize various platforms for different purposes, a consistency in voice is important to bring your personality to these otherwise emotionless platforms.
  3. Connections = currency
    • The real power of creating and maintaining an online presence is the connections you can make. The ability to connect with an individual without ever meeting them is incredible! Take, for example, my recent encounter with the Niche Movement’s very own, Kevin O’Connell. Just about two weeks ago a colleague I’ve met in real life but initially became connected to through twitter, Amma Marfo, shared a photo of her copy of the Niche Movement. I looked into the book and it peaked my interest so I bought a copy. After reading the first few chapters I found out that the Niche Movement team is actually based out of D.C. Working in D.C. myself, I thought to reach out to Kevin on Twitter and he subsequently followed up with an email inviting me to meet up. We met up for coffee and had a great conversation about the work each of us were doing.  It’s this type of action, taking online connections offline, that exemplify the power of an online presence.

It’s no longer acceptable to say that you “don’t do social media”  - that’s not an excuse. If you’re hesitant about how you would use it, read some blog post or reach out to friends you know who are online to get advice! Owning your name and having a presence can have a profound impact on your career search. Reaching out to recruiters or companies directly through social media can lead to opportunies you never knew existed; however, companies won’t invest in you if you don’t have a proven history of online presence and a clear story to tell.


Owning your name is about more than simply being online. It is about your willingness to put yourself out there, make connections, ensure your content is visible and take online interactions offline. As you move throughout your week, I challenge you to think about individuals you’re connected to online and reach out to just one of them for a conversation about whatever interests you about them. In doing so you will begin to build your network broadly, which will inevitably provide a number of opportunities for you.

Defining Your Niche

defining your niche

Defining the career you want to pursue with your life can seem daunting and limiting. From a very young age, our parents, teachers, friends, and elders ask us the same mundane question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.

The question is never “Who do you want to be?” or rarely “Where do you want to live?” or even more infrequently “How do you want to impact the world?”. We are expected to decide what we want to be before we even experience real life.

From children, to adolescents, to college graduates we are cradled by society’s comforting protective hands. The rules and regulations we are expected to abide by to maintain order is a small price to pay in exchange for meeting our basic survival needs and the comfort of life in the 21st century. We adapt to a way of life that shields us from raw adulthood. Up until the moment we graduate college, sign up for the military, and/or enter the workforce, we are gifted with a sense of freedom. It is not until we turn the ripe age of eighteen that our reality begins to change.

Eighteen is a milestone age in our nation. It is the age we are deemed adults and independent contributors to society. We are less protected from comforting hands and now must graduate from dreaming up our potential careers to actually living them. We are told to attend college, join the military, enter the workforce; to do something because that is what’s expected. It is the path into our twenties that becomes the defining decade of our professional course.

The pressure is real and unwavering. How are you supposed to know what you want to be when you grow up at age eighteen, twenty, twenty-five, or even thirty? How you feel here in this moment is no indicator of how you’re going to feel in twenty years. For this reason, and so many others, it is significant to your employment satisfaction that you choose wisely. You must define your niche now to ensure you won’t be disappointed or unfulfilled later.

Follow these five core ways to define your niche and navigate yourself to employment happiness:

  1. Take a personality check. What type of person are you? Does giving back to the community by helping others invigorate you? Do you enjoy crunching numbers under time sensitive deadlines? Are you happiest in an isolated office space working alone or do you prefer collaborating in large groups? Understanding your personality will aid you in finding the ideal niche to share your talents, skills, and experiences.
  2. Network. How are you supposed to successfully discover what you want to do for a career if you haven’t experienced the possibilities? Networking is a great tool to overcome this obstacle. You must direct your efforts to identifying the key players in industries and organizations you believe you identify with. Look to these figureheads for guidance. Do you agree with their professionalism? Is their work reflected in your own professional values and goals? Strategize to build meaningful partnerships in niches you believe you could work in someday.
  3. Volunteer for your niche. Everything might seem perfect on paper, but before you sign employment contracts or accept a position it’s wise to really experience your decided niche. Explore the industry or organization that appeals to you. Do they offer internships or shadowing appointments? If so, seek those opportunities. Even a brief taste of the daily routine will give you a better idea of what’s to come than reading a summary of the job on paper or electronically. It’s your due diligence to explore before committing.
  4. Remind yourself this is the “real world”. It’s challenging for some young professionals coming right out of college or grad school and entering the workforce. We have these illusions of what careers are like based on our school experiences, and most of us end up floored by the “real world”. You don’t work for a few hours and take the rest of the day off. There’s no schedule of five week vacations plus summers off anymore. You don’t get to call out sick every week and get away with it. Real work equals real responsibility and accountability for your actions. Consider this when defining your niche. If you can’t sit at a desk for eight hours a day, working in an office might not be your best match. If you’re the type of person who constantly needs to have variety in your day, working a strict routine of completing the same tasks day in and day out probably isn’t for you. These are important factors to consider when you begin defining your career niche.
  5. Remember, you’re not stuck. Even if you think you’ve found your professional niche in your twenties or thirties, you aren’t trapped there until retirement. Our interests and goals change all the time. You might realize you want to teach or be a career coach during your youth and find out as time passes that you’d like to try working behind the scenes in administration or make changes on a political level for your organization. We aren’t ever immovable. That’s the beauty about work in our generation. There’s fluidity and we have ever-growing opportunities laid before us. Your niche may be one thing now, but could become another down the road. Don’t be hard on yourself or feel limited if you change paths. We all have the power to change our minds to redefine our niches.

Defining your niche is possible, but may take you some time. Even if you thought you had your whole life figured out, it could change paths right before your eyes. We are constantly moving, growing, changing, and adapting. Every age is a new milestone that brings with it new purpose and possibility. Defining your niche isn't as simple as telling your parents you want to be a doctor when you grow up. You might want that at age six, but discover you want to teach at age twenty-five. Life is unpredictable, but that's what makes it so fun! Be aggressive in your search, truly take action to find your niche, but allow yourself to enjoy the journey. Defining your niche comes from within and needs to be about discovering who you are at your core. We believe in you!

Rise to the Challenges in Front of You


Do you rise to the challenges in front of you? Let me rephrase. Are you making the most of the opportunities you come across? Are you showing up and challenging yourself to be better?

Unfortunately, too many of us let these moments slip right by.

How many times have you skipped out on something that had the potential to be awesome and life-changing because you were afraid?

Maybe you were afraid you wouldn’t be good enough or that you would fail. Maybe you were afraid you weren’t ready. Or maybe you just didn’t really feel like it at the time. I’m guilty of assuming each of these, and I’d bet you are too.

If we fall into the trap of passivity, we let the opportunities that will change our lives pass us right by. We fail to rise to the challenges in front of us, and therefore fail to create the space we need for growth.

One of the most important things I will always advocate for is trying new things and constantly exploring new ways to pursue a life you love. We get stuck in ruts and routines which only lead us to complacency and further unhappiness. Rising to the challenges that are presented to you, gives you the chance to disrupt the routine you've become so used to. Changing your routine and getting outside of your comfort zone will give you a new perspective. It will challenge the way you think and the way you see your life. Staying in the same place day in and day out doesn't do anything for you.

The best way to combat falling into this cycle is simply to say, “yes.” Say goodbye to passivity and hello to action. 

After you've said yes, show up! Bring your A-game and be ready to learn and absorb the knowledge and experiences from those around you. Ask questions, engage, and be innovative. Look for problems that need to be solved and then find a solution. Go the extra step and implement the solution. Volunteer to do the dirty work. Ask yourself what else can be done? How can this be improved? And then go do it. Be present and be open to the opportunities that present themselves to you. But don't stop there. Why wait for opportunities when you can chase them?

I suppose I should give you a disclaimer here: It’s not going to be easy and it’s not always going to be fun. It probably won’t always feel worth the effort either. In truth, you’ll end up finding things you're pretty terrible at, don’t enjoy in the least, and you’ll no doubt find yourself in awkward situations. But the truth is we need to experience the awkward and cross off the things we don’t like in order to find the things we do like and are indeed extraordinary at.

Look at it this way: Every time you say no or turn down an opportunity, you’re giving up a chance for greatness. More importantly, you’re giving up a chance to find your greatness and your niche.

In my own niche journey, I’ve found that the good will outweigh the bad every single time. Have you always wanted to start a blog or a podcast? Go for it! What’s stopping you from sending an email to your boss’ boss and asking to have coffee? Be brave, be bold. Step up, you may be surprised of what comes of it.

If you’re thinking this means you need to say “yes” every single time, you’re missing the mark. Say yes when something gives you butterflies but also a touch of nerves. These feelings let you know that you're a little bit nervous and afraid, but also excited. They're speaking to you and saying, "hey, maybe this could really be something for you."

I challenge you to rise to the challenges and opportunities in front of you. Go after what calls to you, chase it with abandon, and go home satisfied but hungry for the next go round. Don't get down on yourself if something doesn't work out; write it off as a lesson learned and keep on keeping on.

When it comes down to it, you know you best, even if you haven't realized it yet. If you’re still in the “trying to figure it all out” stage (don't worry -- most of us are), remember that what it boils down to is that you have nothing to lose by trying. You have everything to lose by letting another chance pass you by.

On top of all this, you’ll end up leagues ahead of those people who are still stuck at home, refusing to rise to the challenges in front of them. As they say, always go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.

See What Sticks: An Unconventional Partnership


Hi everyone, Amma Marfo here. Two quick things about me that you’ll need to know before we begin:(1) I am a reader. I am a library-loving, constant tome-carrying, unapologetic bibliophile. (2) If there’s anyone you will meet who can connect what she’s reading to the world around her, it’s me. As such, I want to dedicate my time in this space to sharing with you what I’m reading, and how it could inform a budding professional’s daily life.

Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Batman and Robin. Lucy and Ethel (sometimes). History and pop culture are littered with examples of powerful duos, hard at work to make the world better (or, in the case of Lucy and Ethel, more filled with chocolate). So often, we distill the stories behind creative excellence down to a moment of brilliance in one person (think Newton's revelation of gravity), or farm it out to a group through exercises like brainstorming. But Joshua Wolf Shenk's Power of Two splits the difference of those two long-held tenets, making the case for excellence as a pair.

He explores the accomplishments of collaborators like The Wright Brothers and the DaVinci brothers, comedy writers and producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Alternatively, he explores the power of rivalries as well, and how the relationship between competitors like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys brought out the best work in each. But in the most emotional part of the book, Shenk walks us through his final deadline for the very book we're reading...and the struggle he's having in the absence of such a powerful collaborative relationship.

I've been lucky enough to have a few people in my life that have given me the "power of two," each in a different season of my career. I can attest that there are projects I wouldn't have finished, ideas I would have doubted, and praise I would have shrugged away if not for the presence of strong, caring, and brilliant co-conspirators. The perspective of a dedicated partner can help you articulate your thoughts, can compassionately redirect you when you're feeling lost, and can cheer you on when your motivation is flagging. In the absence of that help from a trusted friend and second mind, some ideas would never take root. So my heart goes out to Shenk- writing a book about the power of creative relationships, all while searching for his own creative "other half."

As he chronicles his race to the deadline, he highlights a few strategies to create the kinds of partnerships that yield significant work:


Connection will not swoop down on you like a hawk seizing a mouse, and even if it does come toward you like a boat while you're floating in the ocean, you will still need to grab the rungs of the ladder and climb onto it, and the first step may not be the hardest, but it is, often, the wildest.

I love that Shenk follows this statement with, "find a stranger who gets you or a friend you think is strange." Sometimes, partnerships start when people realize they have a lot in common- these are the ones that are the easiest to cultivate. However, there's also tremendous benefit to working alongside people who are quite different from you. One of my most successful creative partnerships, with my friend and colleague from graduate school, came about because our personalities are different enough that we decided to present on it. Further, one of my current creative partnerships works well because my partner and I are each good at very different, but complementary, things. In both cases, each party took a leap to get involved- it's a little scary to put yourself out there to someone else- but it's often a risk that needs to be taken. As Shenk says, "To try is to risk succeeding."


Accept that your partner is a pain in the ass. Accept that you are a pain in the ass, so the two of you are made for each other [...] Accept that the people you need will please you and disappoint you but that the index of the creative experience is not your pleasure or disappointment.

The premise of a partnership- be it platonic, romantic, or creative- isn't based in universal harmony. There are misunderstandings, fights, and even dissolution at points of struggle. But these moments are normal, even necessary, if meaningful work is to appear. Work with your partner to keep the work central, while at the same time being attentive to their emotional needs. Both are important, but they are separate, and each will take priority at different points of the ideation process.

Play Your Part.

The way out of the shackles isn't to find the key of to strain like the Hulk until they burst. The way out of the shackles is to stop believing in them. To play your part, do what you do best. To play your part, talk to someone. Talk to your partner.

We often take on projects or initiatives because we believe them to be important. And this is good, because this is how problems big and small get solved. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't enjoy the ride. Let play be a part of your creating process. Have fun. Some of the breakthroughs that have informed things like a new tool to solve a problem, an analogy to describe a concept, or even the structure of my first book, came when I took time away from the situation at hand to enjoy myself. It invites new perspective, and the distance required to look at our work objectively. Let your partner encourage you to play and create in new ways, you never know how it'll affect your final product!

All of this putting yourself out there, cultivating a relationship that supports the work, and making space to play to ensure solid creative work, will go a long way to help you create work you can be proud of. And when you do, Shenk advises you to keep the partnership going: "finish, or, at least, surrender. Give over the thing that you've both created and start the process over." The world needs what you and your partner have built- now get to the work of doing it all again.

The Lost Art of Connection: The Story of the Woman I Met on a Train


When I was younger I can remember my dad always telling us this story about a woman on a train. She was rude: snapping at people who tried to sit by her and making snide remarks under her breath. Everyone was appalled by her behavior. Later, the woman opened up and shared that she was on her way to see her mother, who was dying of a terminal illness. She was scared and hurting, and was taking it out on everyone around her. Moral of the story: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" Plato

That story comes sneaking back into my mind at the most opportune times. It reminds me to take a step back and practice loving kindness even when others don't seem to be doing the same. It reminds me of the importance of human interaction and connection.

Fast forward 20 years from when my dad first told me that story. I was waiting in the downtown Chicago Amtrak station for my train that was delayed. I was annoyed and I was exhausted from spending the last few days at a conference. I just wanted to get back home to my husband. An older woman sat down next to me on the hard, tile floor of the Amtrak station and starting talking my ear off about a fish fry that she was headed to the following day. I don' t like fish and I also don't like it when my travel plans don't go according to schedule. I could care less about the fish fry she was talking about endlessly.

I pretended to be super absorbed in the book I was reading and hoped she would take the hint. Nope. She kept talking. I then remembered the story that my dad told us when we were little, and how ignoring this woman was not going to change the fact that my train was delayed. I was letting something that was bothering me, effect how I was treating this stranger. I put down my book, smiled at her, and decided to engage in the conversation. After about 20 minutes of listening, I had learned a lot about this woman. Additionally, a pigeon had also made it's way into the train station so we were getting a good laugh watching it walk around and eating french fries off the ground - with no regard to that fact that it was indoors now. I was having fun and the time was going by much faster than if I would have continued to ignore her.

The following day when I was home and settled in for the weekend, I got a text message from the woman. We had exchanged contact information because she wanted to text me the name of the fish fry when she remembered it. A stranger, who had no reason to follow through with her promise to text me, did. And I must to admit, her text message made me smile.

I'll probably never see that woman again but for the two hours that we spent together on the cold floor of the Amtrak station, we were connected. How often do we pass by one another without stopping to engage? How often do we make assumptions about others without knowing what is really going on in their lives?

The next time I am tempted to shut someone out simply because I don't feel like making conversation, I'll think twice. That's what life is all about for me: connection. I don't want to miss any of it. And plus, now I have the name of a fish fry to go to in case I ever decide I'm in the mood for such an event.