What is your career backstory? In college, I tried getting as much journalism experience as I possibly could, but Iowa isn’t the easiest place to make connections in the magazine world. To make myself stand out, I became an editor for my college newspaper, started up my own online magazine for twenty-somethings, ended up coming out to NYC for the first time for an internship at Seventeen, and then I was lucky enough to snag a job as the online editor of J-14.com a couple months before I graduated.
I moved my entire life out to the East Coast (adorable dog, Trixie, and all!) and jumped right into this crazy, exciting world. And about a year later, I became the Online Entertainment Editor at Teen Vogue. I still can’t believe what a whirlwind it has been, but I feel really lucky to be living out my dream.
What is an industry pet peeve of yours? Name-dropping—without a doubt. I’ve met so many people at events that I would have loved to have a nice conversation with, but all they wanted to do was brag about the big-time stars they’ve spoken with lately. No, thank you.
What is a must-have on the job? My iPhone; I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve written in my Notes app during my morning commute on the subway and the number of interviews I’ve recorded in my Voice Memos. It’s also great for keeping up with news on the go!
What is your favorite work perk? Being an entertainment editor, it’s definitely the events I get to attend for work. My friends and boyfriend definitely don’t mind either. Whether it’s concerts, movie screenings, red carpet interviews, or Broadway shows, I just can’t get enough. They’re things I would love doing in my free time anyway, so getting to do them for my job is definitely an awesome bonus.
What was it about being an editor that attracted you to the industry? Honestly, the first thing that made me really want to become an editor was the ridiculous amount of times I watched 13 Going on 30 and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when I was growing up. The editors just looked so poised (see what I did there?) and important—it seemed like such a cool job to have. I wanted to be Jenna and Andie, with or without motorcycle rides with Matthew McConaughey and swing set competitions with Mark Ruffalo. It all looked so glitzy and fun, and the magic of a big city full of skyscrapers and yellow taxis and pretty offices just added to that fascination.
As I got older and got to know more about the real-life version of the industry, the appeal was still there more than ever, but there were additional reasons why I knew it was what I wanted to do. I’ve always really respected editors who have really mastered their beat, and that’s something I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to become a pro on a certain subject. It’s really nice being trusted and respected enough to take total control over your content and really make it the best it can possibly be.
Even while attending school in Iowa, you were active writing and editing for well-known college lifestyle/entertainment sites such as Her Campus, CollegeCandy.com, and Seventeen (to name a few). What did you learn having an active professional career during school? How did those lessons translate to your professional career after school? Having an active professional career was everything: I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for the experiences I had during college. I’ve never been in an assistant position, and I really think skipping that step was because of how hard I worked to teach myself the ins and outs of the industry and the skills I needed to succeed before jumping into the job world. Those experiences not only taught me how to build my writing and editing, but they showed my future employers that I have what it takes to do the job they want me to do.
You started Love Twenty, which is an amazing site about college, career, and the time in between. What inspired you to start the site and what challenges did you face? Starting Love Twenty was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It taught me so much about the industry: I was writing, editing, working with PR, and managing over 150 writers around the world throughout the time it was thriving. After writing for numerous other websites, I really wanted to start my own so I went for it. I built the website and developed the social media platforms over one of my college spring breaks and a month later I already had interns, a great writing staff, and a lot of loyal readers. It was crazy.
Even though everything was going great, the hardest part was running the website on my own and keeping up with all the emails and posts while also being a full-time student with a job and a social life. Sadly, since moving to NYC to start my career, it’s been incredibly hard to keep up with it. But no matter what, I’ll be forever thankful for everything that website has given me; also the amazing people I’ve met because of it.
How did you make the transition from college in Iowa to a career in New York? It was a lot to get used to! The scariest part was doing it: buying the plane ticket and packing my suitcase to make the move, but it was something I wanted for so long that it was equally as exciting as it was scary. I was leaving behind my family, friends, and boyfriend, but there was this whole new world pulling me in and I couldn’t wait to start the next chapter of my life.
Luckily, I transitioned pretty quickly. I love this city just as much as I always thought I would, and even when I’m crammed up against a countless number of people in the subway on my way to work (like we’re basically cuddling), I really wouldn’t want it any other way. I still can’t believe I’m here sometimes. It’s a little crazy that I went from growing up surrounded by cornfields in a town of 1,500 people and not a single stoplight to a city of millions where you’re literally never alone. Not even when you’re in your own apartment and can wave at the people in the apartment across the street. Gotta love it.
Being an entertainment editor, you always need to be aware of what’s happening in pop culture 24/7. How do you stay on top of the happenings and weed out what you cover? I definitely do, and that’s probably the hardest part of the job! Even though I have normal work hours, being in entertainment and being online means your job is pretty much whenever you’re not sleeping. Luckily, celebrities need to sleep too otherwise it really would be never ending.
To stay on top of everything, I’m constantly all over social media and keep an eye out for anything newsworthy that breaks. And as for weeding out what to cover, Teen Vogue readers are incredibly smart and are all about being ahead of the game and in-the-know before anyone else, whether that’s with fashion trends or Taylor Swift’s latest hilarious Tumblr post. It’s all about judgment, and if I think the readers will love it, you’ll definitely see it up on the website as fast as my fingers can type.
What is your advice for applying and getting an editor’s attention during the application process? There are two main things: First of all, you have to set yourself apart from all the other applications…and that can be tough. Make sure you really put forth the qualities that make you perfect for the job, whether it’s the fitting places you’ve written for or the amazing internship you had. When you’re in a stack of other resumes, it’s hard to make sure you’re seen so you have to ensure you get eyes on you long enough for an editor to see how great of a candidate you are.
Second, show your passion. This is one thing I love seeing: when someone’s passion for the position basically slaps you right in the face as you’re reading their cover letter. You can’t fake it—if you want something, it’s going to be very clear. Make sure you spend a lot of time perfecting everything before you send it in. And if you can’t fit it all on one page, brand yourself online with a website featuring a portfolio of your work. Taking those extra steps will be so worth it in the long run, promise.
What is a favorite published piece that you’ve written? This is tough! I absolutely love writing entertainment news, but one of my favorite parts about this job is interviewing stars I really admire about what they’re passionate about. My favorite published piece so far at Teen Vogue is probably my interview with Daniel Radcliffe—he completely blew my mind with how normal, witty, and kind he is despite being one of the most well-known actors in the industry. Plus his movie we chatted about was amazing. If you haven’t seen What If, you need to right now!
Oh, and one more. As one of the biggest Gossip Girl fans of all time, I’m still giddy thinking about my interview with Leighton Meester about her new music. Could she be any more perfect?
What is some advice you have for others trying to break into the industry? Be genuine and work your butt off. This is one of the most competitive industries to get into, and it seems like it keeps getting harder and harder to break in with it being so small. No matter where you are, if you tell yourself you’re going to make it, you will: I’m proof of that. I’ve heard people say it’s not possible if you don’t live in the NYC area and don’t have access to big magazine internships and networking events while you’re in college, and that’s so not true. I worked hard and only had one internship, but I made it count. And I made connections that I’ll be able to call friends for life who helped me get to where I am today.
Stay positive, and don’t give up. It’s a tough journey to get to your dream job—that’s why it’s called your dream job in the first place. But, once you’re there, everything you did to get to that point is so worth it. I still get butterflies every time I walk toward the big, red Teen Vogue sign every morning.
Location: New York, NY
Amanda Jean Black is a guest blogger at Ed2010, sharing stories from her site onthemasthead.com. When not hunting down publishing’s elite for an interview, you can find the native New Yorker obsessing about style and culture, shopping for designer streetwear, and jamming out to 90′s alt rock.