By T.K. Brady
Just because your college doesn’t offer a journalism program doesn’t mean you can’t land an internship (or even a job) at your favorite magazine. We got college career counselors and real world editors to give us the scoop on becoming the perfect applicant no matter what your educational background is.
Be interested in something
As a magazine editor, part of your job is to be curious about the subject matter you’re covering, which could range from liquid lipstick application to how America is exploring solar power. “I think what is great about a liberal arts education for someone that wants to work in the publishing world, is that…they’ll be trained to analyze a topic from a variety of viewpoints,” says Lauren Sisson, associate director of alumni career development at Skidmore College. Understanding how to gather information about a topic is the first step to being a good writer and eventually editor.
Start writing at school
“I would recommend that a student major in whatever he or she is interested in, and use campus activities and internships to build the technical writing and editing skills,” says Amy Bugno, an associate director of career development at UNC Kenan-Flagler Buisness School. Most colleges have a school paper (and some even have a magazine), which is a great way to see the writing, editing and design process at work. “I was very involved in [my school paper] the Columbia Daily Spectator,” says Julia Edelstein, senior health editor at Parents magazine with an English degree from Columbia University. “I started as an associate news editor, and then moved to the arts and entertainment section as deputy editor.” She credits this experience with helping her get her first magazine internship. By the end of her college career, she had co-founded her school paper’s weekly magazine, The Eye. (All with no classroom journalism training!)
Build your brand
Start a blog, build a portfolio website, write an opinion column for your local paper. Bottom line: Get your words out there. “And start building a social-media presence while you’re at it—there’s career currency in a large following,” says Mary Clarke, executive editor at Bridal Guide with a photography degree from Rhode Island School of Design. Almost every magazine has a social media department, so if tweeting, pinning, and ‘gramming all day sounds like your dream come true, apply for social media intern positions and highlight your personal branding experience.
Focus your resume
If you still haven’t landed your first magazine internship, don’t sweat it. One of the best ways to get any interview is leveraging your previous experience so it fits the job requirements. “We’re living in the keyword age, so the more your resume aligns with a job description, the better,” says Clarke. No job is insignificant, either. “For example, if you were a camp counselor over the summer, you have management and listening skills,” says Melanie Rush, a career counselor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Those will come in handy when you’re tasked with projects for three editors in the same week.
Learn from your experience
You’re sure to gain plenty of valuable skills and experience on the job, but take note of what you don’t know. “When I came out of art school, I didn’t have strong typing skills and acing the famous Condé Nast typing test was a rite of passage back in the pre-computer day,” says Clarke. Today, your digital know-how is the golden ticket. Even taking a simple online coding class can make you more marketable.
Know what makes you unique
Think about the other skills you bring to the table that a J-school student might lack. Are you a Photoshop whiz? Great. Know how to code? Even better. Ever analyzed web traffic? Super. If you can do all three, you’ve got yourself an interview! And once you’ve aced the interview, your degree is not what matters when it comes to landing the job. “The best edit test will determine who is chosen,” says Clarke.