Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Paola Fernandez at Paola.FernandezGrados@colorado.edu.
As newsrooms across the country continue to dwindle in size, the pressure of attaining a dream position in the journalism world is increasingly felt.
How does one even start, freshly graduated from college, to make a mark in the magazine world? Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazine editors talk about what it takes to make the leap.
“If you want to be successful, it all depends on how much harder you work than everyone else,” Joanna Coles—Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan and Creative Director of Hearst Corporation—recently told a room full of eager interns at her magazine. “Work harder than you’ve ever done before—and then double that. You will get better faster, and the compound interest of that will pay off.”
You may be willing to work five times as hard for what you want, but in order to even start showing your chops, you have to land that first competitive internship. How do you get recognizable brands to notice you in a pool full of potential applicants?
Chloe Chase, CU Boulder alumni and assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen magazine, says the key is a damn good cover letter and a pristine edit test.
“I look for people who I can see their personality through their cover letters or resume,” Chase said.
A cover letter shouldn’t regurgitate what your resume lists. Instead, it should give a potential employer a sense of why you’re interested in the corporation, what got you started on this career path and what this would mean to you if you landed the position. Also, know that this is the time to brag about your skills—let them know why you’re capable of achieving the requirements listed and how you can add value beyond that.
As for the edit test, be sure that you’re well-versed with the brand’s vision and voice. Chase recommends going through as many backlog issues of the magazine as possible to familiarize yourself with the kind of content and image they represent. Then, jot down story ideas that come to mind and pitch those in the style that fits the publication.
Network, network, network
Once you’ve made it into the newsroom, use it as an opportunity to curate and work your network. The task may seem daunting, but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean going around a room introducing yourself to complete strangers.
At the same informational meeting, Coles recalled that the first job she ever got was the last one she applied for cold-turkey. The rest came from knowing people who pointed her in the right direction.
“No other job I’ve ever gotten has been advertised. It’s all through word-of-mouth,” she said.
The best thing one can do throughout their internship, and continue doing in their career, is to request face-to-face meetings with people whose title you aspire to reach. Whether that may be an assistant editor starting off, or a senior deputy editor, chances are they will be willing to talk. After all, they had to go through the same process before reaching that next step.
After building that connection, make sure to keep the relationship alive. Go out into the world and get inspired by current events, museums and real people in order to pitch ideas that could benefit your connection at their job. Also, keep up with the work they’re publishing and comment on what you liked about their pieces.
In time, these connections can introduce you to other people in their network, who will connect you to other people and so forth. The more people you know, the more chances that someone will know of a job offer that will help get your foot in the door.
Have goals, but be open to change
According to Andrea Stanley, Senior Editor at Seventeen magazine, one should focus on dream people instead of a dream job.
“If you surround yourself with people who want to help you succeed—and who will go the extra mile to help you succeed—it’s actually going to project you into your career faster, and you’re going to end up where you really want to be.”
While the path to your end goal may not look how you imagined it, Stanley says that it’s all part of the game. Instead of thinking of your career path as a ladder, be open to change and unexpected opportunities. Every step you take forward will build skills, experience and open doors that—coupled with hard work and persistence—will ultimately lead you to the right place.