By Kimberly Johnson, JAWS Secretary
Want some unsolicited career advice? Find a good mentor and latch on. It can make all the difference.
In my case, it was my mentor, Andrea Stone, who not only supported me down a career-changing path, but also led me to JAWS.
When I met Andrea nearly 10 years ago through a mentoring program at the National Press Club, I could not have imagined how big a role she would eventually play in my life. At the time, she was a veteran reporter at USA Today with numerous war zone assignments under her belt. I, on the other hand, was a young reporter with aspirations of leaving industry reporting in Washington to cover the biggest foreign news story of the time, by embedding with the Marines in Iraq. She, understandably, was dubious. But when she saw I was determined to go, she made sure I did so knowing she was fully in my corner. In the field, communications weren’t always easy, but our steady dialogue rivaled only that with my mother. She knew instinctively what I was trying to achieve and the barriers I would face, both with editors and the military, and she never shied from offering guidance. Freelancers are, by their very nature, vulnerable to exploitation in a combat zone. Andrea’s influence, however, gave me valuable perspective that helped me make better decisions for my work and personal safety. And when I was wrapping up a six-month assignment in the field and preparing to come home, she urged me to make time to get to JAWS CAMP.
My first JAWS camp was in 2006 in Sun Valley, Idaho, which I attended as a fellow. After flying solo professionally speaking, the spirit of instant camaraderie among JAWS members seemed like a dream. The connections made at CAMP are rooted in wanting to not only do our best individually, but also in helping others realize their best potential. Now, as a board member, I am thrilled that JAWS will be unveiling even more mentoring initiatives for members later this year.
Having my own personal cheerleader continues to make all the difference in my career. And the beauty of JAWS is, you never have just one. You have an army.