Twelve years ago, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Dana Canedy invited me—then a College of New Jersey sophomore—to shadow her for a day at The New York Times. Googling led her to my brand-new website, the first iteration of tammytibbetts.com. I had a page listing my role models, where her name appeared. I was taking a class on Race, Gender, and Religion in the News and we were all studying her reporting in detail.
Back in 2004, it was uncommon for students to have professional websites, but Professor Kim Pearson made us all launch one in Introduction to Professional Writing class. She said it was essential to have our resume, contact information, and links to our clips online. This was before anyone really knew about LinkedIn. There was no Squarespace. I uploaded HTML pages I created in Microsoft Publisher to an FTP server. The pages were light pink. Humble beginnings.
I think I did a good job acting normal the day I was Dana's guest, inside the mecca of journalism at The Times, but I was utterly starstruck. I didn't know anyone in the industry as accomplished as Dana. I was a first-generation college student paving my own way. When she showed that she believed in me, just a state school teenager from New Jersey, I reasoned anything was possible.
Fast forward 12 years. In an incredibly serendipitous twist of fate, on April 8, Dana interviewed me on stage at the Arthur W Page Society Spring Seminar about She's the First! I was invited to speak by Andy Polansky, one of the most accomplished alumni in TCNJ history (he's the CEO of Weber Shandwick!) It's an event exclusive to CEOs & Chief Communications Officers. Dana and I did not know we'd be paired up on stage when accepting our invitations. No one involved in planning this event knew our backstory. Crazy, huh?
The most exciting part: the President of our She's The First at Staten Island Academy chapter, Megan Shkolyar, was interviewed alongside me. She nailed it as a spokesperson for Gen Z social consciousness. NYU is very lucky to get her this Fall.
Bottom line: Take a chance on a young person who stands out to you, who may not have anyone influential in their court. Just a job shadow day will do! Your impact can be more profound than you ever realize in the moment...hopefully, it will all circle back to you so you can see the ripples.