By Jame Jackson During my career in fashion and beauty, I’ve figured out a few things about the industry that I wish I’d learned earlier in life. Don’t fret, young whippersnapper—I’m going to fill you in now, so you can benefit before you graduate.
You should apply for the ASME internship.
ASME, also known as the American Society of Magazine Editors, is the largest professional organization for people within the industry. There’s also the prestigious ASME internship program, which places college students at a print or online publication so they can gain editorial experience in many departments. Play your cards right and you’ll graduate with a portfolio of writing clips under your belt.
If all else fails, take the unpaid internship.
Nowadays, I’m always astounded by the amount of people who are just getting their start in the industry but don’t want to work at an unpaid internship. Obviously a paid gig is ideal, but if you’re still in school and you’re offered an unpaid internship, you should definitely consider taking it! Whether you’re working a few hours a week or shifts every day, you’ll gain invaluable experience and develop strong skills to put on your resume. That’ll leave you in a better bargaining position later on down the road.
You’ve got to anticipate the future.
Yes, you should learn about current technology, but it’s important to also think about what’s coming up so you’re ahead of your competition. Even a few years ago, for instance, most people weren’t paying attention to digital publishing because print was still the big thing. Well, can you imagine how many people are lost in the sauce now because they don’t know how to work a CMS system? These days, social media and video are essential, so learn how to post a great tweet and how to shoot and edit video—while keeping an eye on what’s next. Trust me: When you graduate, the magazine landscape will definitely look different from what it is now.
Remember: your peers will become your coworkers.
You know that girl who sits in the back of your class and never says anything? In five years, she could be a fashion editor at a publication you love. Yup, the industry is a lot smaller than you think it is, so never assume that you won’t run into someone again after graduation. Instead, make those connections now! Get to know the kids in your classes and become an active member of campus clubs. Of course that doesn’t mean develop fake friendships to get ahead—but you should keep in mind that your fellow classmates will probably be applying for the same types of jobs as you later on. If you start diversifying your network now, you’ll have a headstart once you enter the workforce.
Your experience and your network are your currency.
If you have no experience, getting hired as an editor is going to be tough. And if you haven’t built up a supportive network, then your job search may be a bit more stressful. Think about it: if someone stepped in your office and they had never worked anywhere reputable and nobody could vouch that they had a good work ethic, would you hire them? That’s why it’s crucial to get experience and develop connections with people in the industry while you’re in school. Don’t freak out about it; just do what you can with what you have. Save your writing clips from class and use those as a portfolio. Write for your school or city’s local newspaper. Start a blog. Go to free local events and invite your classmates. Participate in networking opportunities. Before you know it, you’ll be entering the workforce with plenty of material for your resume—and lots of people ready to give you a good recommendation. You got this!
Jamé Jackson is a freelance fashion and beauty journalist based in NYC. She’s the founder of Theblondemisfit.com, a lifestyle site geared toward women of color in the fashion industry. To follow her random antidotes, #Blackgirlmagic, and blonde endeavors, follow her on IG: @theblondemisfit.