Hi everyone! I’m Rachel, the newest addition to The Niche Movement Team. I am a sophomore at the George Washington University studying Journalism and Mass Communication.
The Niche Movement has met yet another milestone and hired another piece to this growing puzzle! Hi everyone! I'm Emilie, the newest addition to this growing tribe.
I'm a brand new transplant to Washington D.C., just moving here this summer. In just two short months I've fallen in love with the District, mastered the metro, and had my fair share of battles with the DMV. One of my favorite things is being told fun facts about new people and so naturally, I'm going to share a few with the NM community.
- I aim to leave no Froyo store untried. My newest discovery is Blue Moo. Check it out! You might even see me in there.
- If the real housewives series are wrong, I don’t want to be right. (#TeamBethenny)
- I love my niece Lola and nephew Cason. I'm that annoying Aunt filling my Instagram with fun pictures of them.
Born and raised in Millville NJ, I attended Rutgers University and am a proud Scarlet Knight. While in New Brunswick, I served as project manager under Kevin for the university’s rec marketing team. The role developed my passion for social media and project management that I didn't know I had. But after graduation, like many millennials, I took the first job offered to me. After the honeymoon phase with my new company was over, I found myself unhappy with the lack of creativity and autonomy, and wanted something more. All signs kept pointing to D.C. and when timing matched up, I took the plunge and made the move.
At the Niche Movement, I will primarily serve as Director of Community & Lead Strategist. Those are fancy words but what do they mean? To me, I will mark this role a success if I can look back and be able to easily identify growth I brought to this company. Whether that be through content curation, branding, social media, or new clients, it is important for me to see specific growth both in myself and The Niche Movement. One thing I'm most excited about in taking on this new role is learning about and meeting other individuals and companies who are living their passions. Undoubtedly, surrounding yourself with progressive people inspires and benefits you. It is one of the best things I've done post-graduation so far. If you know of anyone like this, share them with me! (Think: Gary Vaynerchuck and Vaynermedia.) The Niche Movement would love to tell their story and I'd love to get inspired by them.
I am so excited to be expanding and spreading The Niche Movements mission. I truly can't wait to add to its ever evolving success story! If you want to know more about me (or see Cason and Lola!) follow my life on Instagram and Twitter. You can also chat directly with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based in New Jersey, Kendra DeBree works as the Business Development Director at Durga Tree International, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support and empower non-profits that work to end human slavery all over the world. Kendra spoke with us about her transition to the non-profit field, what she does at Durga Tree, and her advice for millenials. Keep reading to find out more about her story and experience!
Hi Kendra! How are you doing?
My day is very busy. I’m seizing the day, I feel like I got three hours of sleep because sometimes you get creative in the middle of the night and you write things down. So that’s what was happening to me and now I’m running on pure adrenaline. You know, as a business development director of a non-profit, I have my hands in like 50 different places, so it’s always re-evaluating and re-prioritizing what needs to happen, and when. I was at a convention over the weekend where I made some really solid contacts, so it’s important to follow up with those contacts before they lose sight. You get them excited but don’t talk to them for too long in between, and before you know it, you may lose them.
What were you doing before Durga Tree?
I was a manager for a little while but I always thought, “I’m only doing this because it pays the bills and I’m getting exposure.” I always knew that I wanted to run my own business and I’ve always been the type of person who always needs to have a job. I was supporting myself through school and working at night. I managed my first Pier 1 Imports when I was 19 and I had no idea what I was doing. They just kind of threw me in, so you know, through the years you just build certain skills and expertise.
On joining the non-profit field:
I have a degree in business management, but non-profit work was something I had never previously considered. You know, when you think non-profit, you think, “Oh, well that won’t make me any money.” I was in my 20s so I was all about making money. The only difference between a for-profit and a non-profit business is that at the end of the year, the extra funds don’t go into the pockets of shareholders, of the executives that aren’t necessarily doing the day-to-day. They’re hard-working people [at Durga Tree]. It goes back into program funding for the next year. It’s a business!
After I had my daughter, Emma, who just turned two last month, I was like, “Okay, I haven’t been working retail for nine-plus months now” and I thought, “I can’t go back.” If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do something amazing now. It just so happens that my very best friend’s Aunt and Uncle started this non-profit years ago. I heard about it, but I never really took the time because when you’re in your 20s, you’re not really thinking about this stuff or caring about it. As soon as I turned 30 and became a mom, my priorities changed and I just started thinking about things differently. You see the world differently; you realize how small your world really is.
How did you end up with your position?
I started volunteering last year and just started learning more and more about human trafficking. I was thinking about where I am in my life and thought, “I could really take this non-profit to the next level.” I essentially created this position within Durga Tree International and thought, “we could do something really big”. It turns out that they were ready to take the next steps to make that happen. We’ve raised, in two years, around $250,000 in single donations. We don’t have any grant funding or foundational funding, and that’s actually an element I’m bringing in.
My mother, growing up, worked for the Diocese of Paterson where she worked one-on-one with mentally disabled adults. It was always rewarding for me because I used to go in during the summers and do all sorts of things. I got a little taste of what rewarding work was really like.
What are you currently doing at Durga Tree?
As a business person, you’re always looking at things in a way that’s going to grow and build the organization. I’m making new, lasting contacts and impressions with businesses and individuals at the same time. I have a group of volunteers that I source, solicit and manage on a daily basis. We have a group that we call our “lotus guild”. They are essentially people who are really passionate about becoming day-to-day ambassadors. They also chair or co-chair a certain area of our business. I have someone in charge of “do it yourself” fundraisers, I have someone in charge of speaking engagements, I have someone in charge of social media. We have two large fundraising events per year. We have a gala coming up and we have a walkathon.
Tell us about what Durga Tree does.
We pick and choose specific non-profits around the world that are all working toward the same goal. We all want to eradicate human trafficking but they’re all fighting for the same dollar. We’re bringing organizations so that they don’t have to fight. A lot of this is about planning - event planning is full-time and a lot of these non-profits don’t have the time and resources. That’s where we come in. There’s also the work of building awareness. There are a lot of anti-trafficking organizations in New Jersey where all they do is spread awareness, but we’re unique because we have a plan and we’re going to see it through. Right now we have four partners and we don’t want to take on anymore until we feel that the projects that we have are sustainable.
How Did the Organization Start?
Beth Tiger, on of our co-founders, began as a life coach. She ran “A Life Well Lived” which hosted women’s groups and talks. Her shop was committed to caring products that were made by women-owned businesses. When she started going to trade shows, she found out about trafficking and that is where she met our first partner. The company sold jewelry that was made by survivors of human trafficking. A Life Well Lived dissolved and ultimately became Durga Tree International. Now all of the proceeds made from items sold in the shop are donated toward eradicating human trafficking.
What Organizations Do You Work With?
All of the grassroots organizations that we support must fall in line with one of our branches of freedom. There are organizations that are really great at rescuing, some focus on housing, lobbying or economic empowerment.
Love 146 is awesome, we love them! We actually just went to their red gala, which was the first gala that I attended. We actually supported their creation of their school curriculum around trafficking, which they’re testing it out in Florida, Illinois and Connecticut. Throughout the world, the average trafficked age is 10 so the conversation needs to happen early. A couple of months ago, Love 146 built a women-only shelter out in the Philippines, but when I say women I also mean 10, 11 or 12-year-old girls. They just took in their youngest trafficking survivor who was age two. When you hear stuff like that you think, “who, why would you do something like that?” They also recently opened a boys-only shelter because people have asked why there isn’t a place for little boys who are being trafficked.
Another partner that we support in Guatemala (Asociación La Alianza). They have a shelter and they call it a “casa”. Girls can stay there until the age of 18. When our organization went out there, we wanted to support the babies but also to support the girls. We taught them different ways to care for their baby and that even though your baby was conceived in certain conditions, you can still love your baby. The trafficking issue is becoming a generational issue. They’re born into it, so this is all they know and then they do what they know. They don’t see other opportunities.
Another partner of ours is Truckers Against Trafficking. They are 100% based in the United States. They’re located around areas where there are airports and intercoastal highways. We support a “Freedom Rig” which is a big truck that travels around to different truck stops and educates truckers on what’s happening. They post about missing persons as well as pictures on their facebook. All of these truckers tap in and actually about once per week, they help save a girl and bring her home.
We also support an organization (Good Shepherd Academy) that works in West Cameroon, Africa. What happens there is that many children have to walk five-plus miles to school and on that walk they are taken and then sacrificed for their organs. What we’re trying to do right now is get $25,000 to support the guards that look out for the children as they go to school.
What else are you currently involved in?
I was recently hired as a consultant to help with a window cleaning and pressure washing association. I’ve been in retail for over 10 years and managed hundreds of different types of people, so my friend reached out to me a couple months ago to help out with this 500+ event.
Her advice for millennials:
I felt that I was in an industry that I didn’t really belong in and that I was meant to do something more. I was seriously job-hunting and networking, but I got a tip from a friend and volunteer. Once you start giving back and not thinking about yourself you realize that the more you give, the more you get in return. The moment you let go and when you start doing things that aren’t typical for you, you never know who you’ll meet through a volunteer experience.
Who Would Play You in a Movie About Your Life?
That’s so funny - my friends were just talking about this! Who did we decide on…I think Rachel McAdams.
What is your favorite social media platform?
Facebook is my favorite because I know it so well. I love following Clinton Kelly because I love the show “What Not To Wear”.
Thank you so much, Kendra, for sharing your story and insights! We had a great time talking to you.
(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.
This month's read, Alice Flaherty's 2010 The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, was a long read for me. It hasn't taken me this long to finish a book for quite some time. However, when I really think about why it took me so long, it brought about a lesson that I wanted to write about here.
I've been very open in this space previously about my advocacy for changing paths. I often use the examples of Ken Jeong, a former medical doctor who transitioned into comedy when he realized it fulfilled him more; Retta did something different after leaving pharmaceutical research to pursue standup comedy and eventually acting. But the trouble with narratives like this is that they invite the idea of pursuing one love/skill/talent over another. But what if it didn't have to be that way?
When I first picked up this book (a bargain acquisition at an outdoor book sale), I expected it to be a musing on creativity and writing, from a fellow creative. It is...and it isn't. In addition to being a writer, Alice Flaherty is also a licensed and practicing neurologist, and her take on how the brain responds to creativity features a take on the topic through both lenses- that of a creative, and that of a medical practitioner. Are you starting to see now why this reader, firmly stationed in the realm of the former, had such a hard time getting through the text- peppered equally with anecdotes from writers and complicated medical terminology?
The worry with the "shifting gears" narrative that we employ, is that it implies that you can only follow one path at once. Flaherty has demonstrated that pursuing multiple paths at once has undeniable benefits. She doesn't have to, on any given day, decide if she's a doctor or a writer- because she's both. Most of the time she's performing in one role at a time, but she is- she can choose to define herself- as both.
Now, is there a case for pursuing one path over another? Of course there is. But the idea that we have to choose one path at a time has its falsehoods, as well. One of the most arresting passages in the book, for me, addressed the reason that we might flee one path in favor of another:
[...] a sense of vocation doesn't guarantee happiness at work. Nor does it guarantee being good at the job. Perhaps it merely gives the possessor a feeling of megalomania, a sense of being in some manner chosen for a higher goal. Sense of vocation as disease. How is vocation related to workaholism, and is hypergraphia a special case of either? To some extent, workaholism is a term others use to describe people who prefer to describe themselves as having a vocation. The others are saying that he couldn't enjoy himself as much as he thinks, that he works to relieve anixety, not for pleasure or a goal. Yet even those without a true vocation never feel only the joy of work without occasionally feeling its terror. When your work is part of who you are, and you feel you are working badly, you become foul to yourself.
Sometimes, the logical thing to do when we have a bad day, bad week, or bad few months, our consciousness drives us to assume that we shouldn't be doing it. And while that could be true, it may also mean that an outlet is needed to balance our time and mindset. And occasionally, that outlet becomes a lifeline, a way to feel more vital in times good and bad. In the best case, our vocation and our "outlet" should be able to coexist as equally essential parts of who we are.
What's more, I appreciated how openly Flaherty shared the degree to which embracing her dual vocations affected her work in each area. She was particularly forthright about how her experience as a writer, and one whose writing was (a) a key part of an ailment, and (b) an avenue by which she got to experience her vocation from the opposite side:
Sometimes I think the hospital psychiatrist judged me too strictly because I was a physician. If doctors' thoughts are perfectly linear, they need- what else?- medicine. Metaphors and heightened imagery are permissible only for poets [...] I miss the days when I had the kind of faith in the scientific method that a nun has in her vows. But now my brain is more permeable to metaphors than it was before.
And when I think about the best benefit that comes from pursuing multiple paths at once, particularly as it pertains to my own life as an educator and a writer (neither of which I could imagine giving up), it is this element that sticks out. When you feel your motivation, inspiration, or spark for life flagging in one area, it could be something in another area that brings you back, re-energizes you. In the absence of that additional area of exploration (or vocation), you may resign yourself to one way of thinking- and no additional means of motivation when that way fails you.
As you ponder the path that your life will take, consider the prospect that there isn't just one path. Maybe the freedom to pursue a "both/and" strategy in your own life, and exploring how those multiple paths could inform one another, could make a seemingly agonizing decision, a little less stressful. One thing's for sure, though- the decision to broaden your path will make your life fuller. So think about it: what could your "both/and" be?
Millennials are commonly labeled as the generation of overeducated and underemployed young professionals. A recent post in NPR's new boom series reads, "Millennials are often marked as Starbucks baristas with Ivy League educations,". Members of Gen-Y are the best-educated generation to date, yet too many millennials continue facing obstacles of underemployment nationwide in the United States.
Underemployment refers to an individual employed at a job that does not fully utilize his/her skills, educational achievements, and/or applicable qualifications. Being underemployed means a young professional has a job, but it's part-time and/or below the skill set s/he possesses. Basic entry level jobs with wages of $10-$12 per hour with no benefits and scattered hours are common among recent college grads. As of July 2015, this trend among millennials has resulted in 14.2% of young professionals claiming to be underemployed nationwide. Whether the cause of this employment unhappiness is reflected in the job responsibilities, hourly wage, scheduled hours per week, or a combination of other reasons, the result is the same: too many young professionals are underemployed and lack employment satisfaction.
Young professionals are in search of their career niche. They want a career, not an interim job to pay the bills. While many millennials are fortunate to be underemployed as opposed to being unemployed, the lack of employment satisfaction still has its woes. Navigating early career woes can prove to be challenging, yet there are ways for millennials to beat the underemployment blues.
Refer to these occupational tips to make the most of underemployment:
- Take your current job seriously. While you may very well and rightfully so feel underemployed in your current job situation, be sure to take this experience just as seriously as you would your dream job. Each employment experience offers an opportunity to build meaningful and lasting connections with colleagues. Similarly, you're bound to acquire new skills you lacked before. Show up to work everyday early, enthusiastic, and engaged. This positive, eager attitude will make your day more pleasant, and if you're lucky, will even land you a solid reference for your next interview.
- Stop waiting for the opportunity to come to you. Even though you are employed and it's effortless to fall into the routine of settling for what you already have, don't allow yourself to become stagnant. This isn't your dream career, remember? This is a temporary gig for you to afford your livelihood while you search for the perfect career niche. Don't wait for your dream career to fall into your lap, because chances are it won't happen. Be aggressive in your job hunt and force yourself to continue sending out your resume. You never know what doors will open by being assertive in your search.
- Appreciate what you have going for you. Young professionals in the early twenties and thirties blindly rush into careers. Appreciate that while you haven't yet found your dream job, you still have a job that pays the bills and adds experience to your resume. You're lucky to have something, even if it means being underemployed for a bit. Take a moment to be thankful for small favors in our highly competitive economy.
- Don't limit yourself to your day job. If you're underemployed and lacking ambition it could be the perfect time for you to startup a side hustle. In your free time begin pursuing part-time gigs. There are plenty of blogs, YouTube channels, and websites to join that welcome writers, artists, musicians and the like. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there by kick-starting your own business. Entrepreneurship is big these days and you never know if your side hustle could become a full-fledged job down the road.
- Remember, you're not "just" anything. You're not just a secretary, cashier, bank teller, or pizza chef. Every single job serves a purpose, and while your current gig might not be your calling, it's still a contributing key player to society. Give yourself some credit! You're actively aiming for your goals and doing yourself a favor by working in the interim. Don't allow yourself to get too caught up in job titles. We've all had some entry level work at one point or another. We have to start somewhere!
- Don't allow yourself to get too caught up in the drama. Workplaces often present the ideal setting for drama to fester. With a bunch of different people in the same office forty hours per week it's a bit testing to refrain from getting catty. Try your best to avoid office drama. This is your opportunity to shine bright and excel at the job at hand. Don't worry about cliques. This isn't high school, it's work. If your personality doesn't mesh with others, do your best to be a team player and move on. After all, this job is temporary, right?
- Use your part-time gig to your advantage. If you're underemployed with ample amounts of time to refocus your efforts on other things, consider taking classes or going back to school. Keep your mind sharp with studies, online modules, and reading to stay on top of current topics and abreast with trending news. Since you're not sucked into a demanding, all-consuming career right now, chances are you can spare some time to engage your mind while you're stuck in the office surfing the web.
- Don't let your job define your life. There comes a point when you may have to accept your dream career just isn't realistic. We can't all be award-winning pop stars like Taylor Swift or bestselling authors like J.K. Rowling; and that's okay! If you get too obsessed with becoming a New York Times bestselling author you might find yourself heading toward insanity if it never happens. Remember, your job doesn't define you or your life. Work is part of the life balance. It does consume one-third of our day, but it does not define who we are or what we're capable of. Life will go on, even if we don't win a Pulitzer prize or Academy Award.
- Avoid limiting your opportunities. You may think it's silly to apply for an internship after college or consider doing volunteer work because there's no financial reward. Think again. The value of internships and volunteer work are priceless. Opportunities such as these won't offer you income, but they certainly will give you experience, help you establish new connections, and network in incredible ways. Consider volunteering or interning at a company you strive to work for. Sure, you'll work your underemployed job in the meantime, but making new relationships with XYZ company that calls to you could get you one foot in the door.
- Believe in the future. Sure, working as a cashier after four years of college and 60K in student loans can feel very discouraging. You worked hard in school and earned that 4.0 GPA to the decimal. Sometimes things take time. One or two years post-grad might not be enough time for you to figure out what you want to do for work. It may not happen right away, but you must believe that it will. Life has a funny way of working out when you least expect it to. Keep pushing through that entry level job. Before you know it, the time you spent working as an underemployed young professional will payoff. Your future is just around the corner!
Underemployment happens to the best of us; 14.2% nationwide, to be exact. While that percentage may not seem like a lot, to those who work entry level jobs with overqualified backgrounds it can feel stifling. A big factor to consider is that you're working. You may not have employment happiness, but you are employed, and that's a huge step in the right direction. Even the most mundane, simple, and basic jobs can offer valuable experience, networks, and future references. Keep chugging along, millennials. Your career niche will come. Trust the timing of your life.