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Finding Success Professionally and Personally

By Witney James

There’s a long list of words and phrases that I often use to describe myself — wife, mother, Black woman, public relations professional, lover of the arts, supporter of all things related to women empowerment — earlier this year, I added PR News Top Woman in PR to that list as I was honored in the Mentors category.

After receiving the honor and preparing for my acceptance speech for the virtual awards ceremony, I began reflecting on the journey to this point in my career and how along the way there were several life experiences and individuals that helped me grow into the professional and mentor I am today — someone who can attest that achieving success at work and at home is hard but can be done with a support system, regular reflections, and a personal connection to work.

Support System

Back when I first began my career in public relations, I started as an intern at one of the top PR firms in the world. Upon my first day, I noticed that while a large percentage of the staff make-up consisted of women, very few were Black women.

Despite that, I went on to secure a full-time position there and spent the first seven years of my career learning, growing, and establishing a solid foundation for my career in public relations. That would not have been possible without a select few women taking me under their wings and showing me the way. These were Black women, white women, single mothers, leaders in the company, and more who looked out for me, gave me constructive feedback, and celebrated my small and large successes. I looked up to these women, and their encouragement and mentorship made all the difference. It helped me develop the confidence to find my voice and chart my own path in this profession, lead accounts, and serve as a leader and mentor to other staff members.

But having a support system doesn’t have to stop at work. We all need our personal support system, our support warriors who are there to celebrate, lift us up, and help us out through good and bad times. For me, that’s my husband, my kids, my family, and close friends — the people who know me inside and out. It’s important to have this type of support system because life is more than work. To this day, I stand on the shoulders of the women who guided me in my career and lean on my personal circle of cheerleaders to guide others at work, at home, and in my community.


Reflecting on my professional and personal journey is something I try to do regularly to remind myself of lessons learned, best practices, and to help navigate how I want to move forward. When I get nervous about meeting a new client or presenting for new business opportunities, I think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished since beginning my career as a young 21-year-old college graduate who was so nervous and worried about making a good impression.

Looking back on that time allows me to use that nervous energy as motivation to show clients, potential clients, colleagues, community members, and family members what I’m truly capable of. When I’m faced with a personal or professional issue that I’m trying to solve, I think about a time when my husband and I had our first child, and I think everyone needs those moments of reflection to motivate themselves or to navigate potential issues. The way we handle past situations can often help us handle issues in the present.

Personal Connections

Having a personal connection to my work is what drives me to do my best every day. I currently lead a team in providing strategic communications support to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. I draw a personal connection to this work because several of my family members, including my father, are military Veterans and I want to do my part to ensure they know they have a quality care system in VA — during good and bad times.

Also, helping and mentoring others, particularly other women, is personal to me because I remember all the women who have helped me along the way to becoming better in all aspects of my life. Leading a team to communicate about resources available for Veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and mentoring or advocating for others isn’t work to me because it’s so meaningful and benefits the greater good.

While this is just one woman’s perspective on achieving success professionally and personally, hopefully this sparks an internal evaluation on what success looks like to you and how to go about achieving it. When you embark on or continue that journey, be sure to lean on your support system, reflect, and draw on those personal connections for motivation and empowerment.

Finding Success Professionally and Personally was originally published in DCG Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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