My first internship was as a writer for a women’s lifestyle site. I snagged opportunities in the entertainment industry I never thought I would have, including red carpet interviews with A-list celebrities, press passes to gifting suites, and invites to fashion shows from coast to coast. To paraphrase The Devil Wears Prada, I had an internship a million girls would kill for—and I had a Miranda Priestly-esque editor too.
Okay, my editor wasn’t 100 percent Miranda, but she was tough. Only a handful of pieces I wrote received her nod of approval—the rest were torn up for copious rewrites without much constructive criticism. The creative right side of my brain urged me to leave, but instead, I listened to the logical left side. I wasn’t about to give up on my dream internship because of a few red lines on a Word document. Instead, I pushed myself to grow a thicker skin, be open to what she wanted, and prove that I had the writing chops it took to stay on the site.
When you have a fabulous editorial gig but an impossible editor, what’s the right move to make? Do you stick it out? Speak up? Or simply quit altogether when it becomes apparent that your best just isn’t enough? It turns out there a few things you can do to remain professional and hopefully wow your boss.
Get on your editor’s wavelength.
If your writing is constantly getting rejected or reworked, it might be because you and your editor aren’t on the same page in terms of expectations. While nobody likes their work to be over-edited, it’s a good idea to calmly meet with your editor and ask what you can do better in the future, rather than assuming you know what’s going on, says Richard Larsson, director of social and digital content at Advertising Week. After all, your editor is in that position because he or she knows what’s best for the publication—and can help you figure out what can make you a better fit there too.
Go above and beyond with what is expected of you.
It’s time to step up your game across the board, says Brooke Saxon-Spencer, founder of Belong Magazine. Respond to emails promptly, be succinct and brief in messages, and when it comes to the job, be willing to do anything, even if it’s not what you thought you signed up for.
Write what you can with what you have.
Closing in on a deadline with hardly any sources or assets ready for your piece? We’ve come a long way from high school and the dog eating your homework, so don’t spend any time coming up with excuses for your editor about why you can’t meet your deadline. “Write the best piece you can with the resources you have available at the moment,” says Minda Smiley, reporter at The Drum. “In today’s fast-paced newsrooms, time is precious and editors often depend on their writers to work independently and efficiently.”
Now more than ever, our deadlines are imposed by public expectations, Larsson says. Everyone in editorial, from the intern to the editor-in-chief, answers to the content-reading masses who will go to whatever site or publication that will give them fresh content. “Odds are good that your editor is every bit as stressed as you and has simply grown used to a more abrupt ‘get it done’ attitude than you might like. Keeping that in mind is half the battle in dealing with it.”
Good luck, whippersnappers!