Emily Farra graduated from Indiana University in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Art History. She promptly moved to New York City to search for her dream magazine job. She started out interning in the fashion closet of Marie Claire, where she stayed for three weeks until Style.com contacted her about an opening for their Editorial Coordinator position. She has been at the Condé Nast fashion website ever since.
Here are Emily’s 7 Tips for Getting Started in Magazines:
1. Think outside the box.
Whether you’re looking for an internship or your first job, this industry can be a tough one to read (pun intended). You never know when your favorite newspaper or magazine is going to publish a job/internship posting, and even worse, they may not post anything at all. That’s because plenty of people are reaching out on their own. I applied to nearly 20 internships between January and March of my junior year, but I didn’t find most of them on Ed2010, Media Bistro, etc. I just figured out who to get in contact with at my favorite titles (it’s easier than you think – all of the major publishers have the same e-mail formats) and asked if they were looking for interns. They almost always were.
2. It isn’t about your resume.
Well, not entirely. This probably isn’t what you want to hear. Your experiences are definitely important – you need to have published work to get your first internship, then the next internship, then a job, etc. – but joining an editorial team is about more than what you’ve done on paper. Your interviewer wants to see what kind of person you are; can they tell you are hard-working? Passionate? Would you get along with the rest of the team? It’s extremely team-oriented and they want to see the real you. Focusing too much on your resume and not enough on your qualities (i.e. creativity, time management, working well under pressure, etc.) will make you seem one-dimensional. Be 3D.
3. Stay in touch.
To be honest, I couldn’t stand when people told me they key to success was “staying in touch” with former bosses, colleagues, etc. What does that even mean? I didn’t want to bug the editors, and I didn’t even know what to say. Basically, you want to keep it short and sweet – they probably don’t have time to weave through a long and contrived message. A few things you could write to a former boss: You loved a particular article they recently published; you’re definitely moving to [fill in the blank] and would love if they kept you in mind for openings; etc. In an intern seminar, a human resources director once told us “Don’t sent an e-mail saying, like, ‘Happy Halloween.'” You know the drill.
4. Do your research.
I have the task of hiring Style.com interns for each season. This does not mean I know about all intern hiring processes, but I did learn a lot this summer. It was crystal clear which candidates really understood Style.com and which ones didn’t have a clue. If you aren’t familiar with a publication, do extensive research and mention details to show you understand the pub’s style and audience. Editors want interns who know what they mean when they refer to other editors, sections in the magazine, industry news, etc.
5. Dress the part.
You know the old saying: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s absolutely true. But it’s also kind of tricky. You can’t show up to a casual office in a pressed suit because you want to be Editor-in-Chief some day. Instead, dress like someone in the office who is a few levels above you. At a magazine, maybe this is an associate editor or senior editor. While it’s totally acceptable for me to be casual at my office, I’ll often wear heels, leather pants, or a really great top, because that’s what editors in my office (and at other Condé Nast offices) tend to wear. This applies to interns, too; I’ve seen skimpy denim cut-offs, sheer maxi skirts, designer label overload, visible bra straps… Not okay for the office.
6. Be ready for anything.
Namely (deep breath)…relocating. It is simply easier to get a magazine job in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., or wherever you want to go if you live in that city. I can’t really picture it working any other way. I was lucky people told me this in the very beginning – my whole senior year was spent thinking about the big move. Moving was the easy part (I heart NY!) but I had no job and not the slightest clue what was going to happen. However, when something did happen, it was lightning-speed, and I was prepared. I heard about the Style.com opening on a Tuesday, interviewed on Wednesday, and started the following Monday. If I didn’t live in New York (or if I hadn’t e-mailed the Style.com team to let them know I had moved), I don’t think I would have had a shot.
7. Think positive.
If you haven’t experienced the skeptics yet, I have some bad news – you’ll come across a few. I can’t tell you how many times someone lectured me about how hard it was going to be to get a job. I got it from every angle – students, professors, middle-aged vacationers in Las Vegas… (Did I ask for their advice?) It has the potential to make you feel pretty small, but as cheesy as it sounds, you can’t let it get to you. I was always confident (okay, maybe even a little naïve) and said I would find a way to make it happen. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but what’s the point of going the easy route anyways? The point is, if you work hard and stay passionate, it really will happen.