Board member blog post: Be a mentor … or a mentee!

LizSeegertBy Liz Seegert, JAWS Board Member and Co-chair Mentoring Committee

One of the greatest benefits of being part of JAWS is the tremendous opportunity to interact with other women journos at all stages of their careers. Many of us benefit from these relationships through informal mentoring —like quick advice on how to use a new iPhone app, or a quick review of a potential story proposal by someone who’s written for the same publication.

Mentoring goes both ways — for example, I’ve advised other JAWSdesses about health reporting and health policy; others have helped me with tips on audio editing and staying sane while freelancing (hint: join and participate in JAWS). I love that I’m learning learn new things from women of all ages and phases of life.

JAWS also offers opportunities for more formal, structured mentoring. Mentor and mentee are paired according to skill sets, location, needs and expertise. It’s a unique opportunity to work one on one, sharing knowledge (because information flows both ways), solving problems and knowing someone’s got your back.

We just launched new, more streamlined versions of our Mentor availability and Request for Mentor forms that can be accessed at the members-only site. We hope to start matching those needing help — whether one time, for a few months or all year, with those who can volunteer their time and experience — in about a month.

Many mentors/mentees, find that being local to each other is a plus: It’s nice to have face-to-face get-togethers if possible. So if you’re in or near a regional group, let us know that too. And if not, don’t despair! There may still be a mentor or mentee nearby. If not, we’ll tap into the wonders of technology to connect you by Skype, FaceTime, chat or POT (plain old telephone).

We want to make sure your mentor/mentee relationship is the best it can be. If you have never mentored anyone before, don’t fret. We will supply you with resources and tips. If you feel funny about asking for advice — don’t. The women of JAWS are incredibly kind, sharing, open and more than willing to pass along what they know — whether it’s dealing with a boss who steals your great ideas, sexism in the newsroom, your next career move, ramping up your writing or reporting skills or … well, just about anything, really, that’s connected to women and journalism.

So why not pay it forward? Chances are, someone helped you along the way. Volunteer to be a mentor. Or give a boost to your professional future as a mentee; before you know it, you will be passing along sage advice to other women journos.