Getting your first magazine job is easier when you’re a go-getter, but Ed knows that being a go-getter isn’t always easy. That’s why at the latest book club meeting, we read Debra Shigley’s The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide: Get What You Want in Work and Life (and Look Great While You’re at It) . The young author began her media career at CNN, and then worked full-time as an editor for Atlanta magazine. She’s also written for Allure, Fast Company, and Daily Candy. Shigley took the time to explain why only applying to posted jobs isn’t nearly enough and give Ed some of her other top tips for whippersnappers looking for their first job.
Keep in touch with your internship contacts.
Shigley recommends you complete several internships and tap into those contacts when you start job hunting. “Many times, those internships are the funnel to your future job,” says Shigley. “Your bosses or fellow interns are the people who can get you your first gig–or second or third.” To set yourself apart from other interns, make a great impression while you’re working there and stay in touch with the editors for the next several years. Not sure how? See Ed’s advice on the subject.
Take advantage of alumni networking.
After Shigley graduated from Harvard, she landed a year-long spot at CNN as an entry-level video journalist. “The key was that I laid the groundwork [with contacts] while I was still in school,” says Shigley. “Those relationships you have access to when you’re an undergrad are huge. I think your strongest allies will be your [fellow] alumni.”
Line up informational interviews before you graduate.
“It takes a while to find jobs. Your cover letters [sound better if they] say ‘I’m about to graduate in June’ and not ‘I graduated last spring,'” says Shigley. Many jobs stem from face-to-face meetings where you impressed an editor–even when there was no position available. Shigley had done dozens of info interviews by the time she graduated! So where do you start? “Make a list of every single magazine you could possibly work for. It’ll give you so many outlets to explore,” says Shigley. Once you’ve made some appointments, prepare for every single one. “Go in there knowing things you like and don’t like about their magazine, their place in the market, industry trends, and thoughtful, researched questions you want to ask.” Shigley adds that you should know what you would do differently at that magazine and topics you would want to cover because “people like to work with people who have ideas.”
Create your own opportunities.
Shigley had ankle surgery and was out from CNN for a while. She started feeling restless and missed writing, so she contacted Atlanta magazine asking to freelance. She included clips and her resume. The editor was so impressed with her writing that Shigley was offered an interview for an assistant editor position. “You just never know. Sending something out there can end up being a great opportunity,” she says.
Remember that your first job doesn’t define you.
You can’t get too attached to a favorite magazine, especially in this economy. If you get an offer that is on track with the kind of work you want to do, take it, and build your skill set at that publication. “Working at Atlanta magazine was huge in terms of improving my writing,” says Shigley. “It’s doubtful you’re going to get your dream job for your first job because there aren’t a lot of jobs out there. So cast as wide a net as possible.”