Originally published in Redbrick (redbrickpaper.co.uk)
As fellow ‘Life&Style’ writer April Shadlock and I held our flutes of champagne, admiring the jaw-dropping view of the Thames and the Royal Albert Hall, we both quietly wondered the same thing – how many of the girls in the room would make it into the magazine industry?
We waited on the tenth floor of the IPC Media building for the biggest and best journalists at Marie Claire to impart their wisdom. Plucked out of the office as part of their ‘Inspire and Mentor’ series, the five speakers from Marie Claire made an ominous line-up, and 80 or so girls of all ages and professions hung eagerly upon every word.
If you’ve done your research, some of their tips may have seemed old hat to you. But hearing it from the mouths of those who’ve been there, done that (worked in this fashion cupboard; interned at that weekly…) really struck home how much hard work was put into these prestigious positions. ‘Well, I think that’s put me off going into magazines!’ gossiped one of the (possibly more naïve) girls in the lift down at the end of the night. Step out of the way, ladies… Here are some of the golden nuggets we gathered that evening:
This might not sound like homework, but when applying for work experience, study your magazine carefully. Engage in the subject matter, work out the audience and the magazine’s competition, and, crucially, make sure to reference specific articles in your cover letter. Editors will love that you actually know what you’re talking about – make it personal!
Don’t be afraid of alternative routes
There’s more than one pathway into magazines – Editor-in-Chief, Trish Halpin, started out in publishing and production (fishing magazines, anyone?), before getting noticed and becoming an editor. ‘Aim at a publishing company you admire,’ she recommended us, where you can start low and work your way up. Online Editor Helen Russell echoed this sentiment – ‘make connections wherever you work.’
Go above and beyond
‘Say yes to everything,’ advised Beauty Assistant Jessica Hough, ‘even if it means working out how to do it afterwards.’ The unanimous rule: don’t be afraid to work hard, for free. Treat any internship like a full-time, paid position, recommended Junior Fashion Editor Lucia Debieux, and do it with a smile on your face. If you work with the right attitude, you’ll be noticed for all the right reasons – as Features Editor Kasie Davies said, ‘Be nice to everyone!’ If you’re struggling to get a placement, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone – you can make sure to get put in touch with the right person, and most will be happy to help you out.
Be open to direction
When you finally get something published (whether it’s a professional piece you’ve pitched to a magazine, or something appearing in Redbrick’s pages), don’t be afraid of criticism. ‘Don’t be precious with your writing,’ advised Kasie for writing a feature. ‘When I got my first piece back, it looked like the paper was bleeding, there was so much red ink,’ cringed Jessica. Everything gets edited, and we were all advised to learn from our criticism rather than feel crushed.
‘Once you’ve got in, don’t leave – even if they have to get the security to kick you out!’ Jessica Hough recounted her enthusiastic attempts to hang around when she was an intern – offering to cover colleagues’ holiday leave for free, and proving indispensable until a job opportunity arose. Once your foot is in the door, make sure you keep it there!