As I look to start my internship at Teen Vogue this summer, I’ve been reflecting a little on how in the world I managed to pull of what seemed like a near impossible feat a year ago: scoring an internship. Yes, starting at the bottom of the editorial food chain in an unpaid position isn’t exactly as glamourous as it may seem, but getting your foot in the door is everything. The frustrating thing about the magazine industry is that there’s a lot you learn via trial and error, word of mouth, and sheer connections. As a self proclaimed rookie, I’m fairly certain I don’t even know the half of it. But I have made it my mission to collect every tidbit of advice on the subject throughout my years in journalism school.
Here are a few tips based on what I’ve learned so far…
1. Know where to look
Of course, personal connections are a sure bet for making a foray into in the industry, but if you’re tapped out on resources, no need to fear. You can find great internship postings on the web. When looking for a summer internship, scouting should begin no later than winter break (December- January). The end-all-be-all website for magazine listings is ed2010.com. But, for more varied opportunities, make sure to check around on sites like mediabistro.com or nycreativeinterns.com (if you’re looking in the NYC area). They all have very useful Twitter alerts as well!
2. Quality, not quantity
At the beginning of a job search, it’s tempting to send out dozens of carbon-copied resumes to dozens of perspective employers. But when I applied to Conde Nast, I spent a solid week perfecting my tailored cover letter. This involved researching the brands, developing wording with personality, and securing contact at HR tho whom I could personally address the letter. Not to mention the fact that both my resume and cover letter were placed on designed and branded letterheads (obligatory for creative fields).
It may take a bit of leg work, and madness-inducing attention to detail, but I honestly believe that one perfect application is a best than a dozen sub-par ones.
3. The ‘N’ word
You’ve heard it a million times. The key to getting a job in the media industry (or any industry, for that matter) is networking. It may sound daunting, especially for fellow introverts, but remember that any opportunity is an opportunity. I created a contact at CN simply by attending a session held by CN recruiters at my school. Although I never even spoke to anyone one-on-one, I took down names and email addresses, then made sure to send my resumes straight to these representatives, thanking them for their time. Employers will appreciate the effort.
Contacts are everywhere: alums, campus speakers, recruiters, professors, job interviews, informational interviews, inquisitive emails. Make sure to always grab a business card and consider creating you’re own so people have something to remember you by (I recently created some on moo.com . It’s a great site for creative professionals!)
4. Suit yourself
At the interview where I landed the Teen Vogue internship, I waited for about an hour beforehand. Next to about thirty intimidatingly sleek college students dressed in black skirts, pants, and blazers, I sat in my pink cashmere sweater and snake-skin print black pouffy skirt. Judging from the sideways looks, I probably looked a little naive, a little too pink, and all together a little too much like Elle Woods on her first day in law school. It wouldn’t have worked in every situation, but this was a case of branding. I knew that Teen Vogue was where I wanted to end up so I dressed the part- right down to the rhinestone peter-pan collar.
And when I talk about tailoring yourself, I don’t just mean clothing. Tailor your whole being to be the perfect candidate for the job. Familiarize yourself deeply with the brand , publication, or company. Talk specifics about why you want to be there and be enthusiastic! The campus recruiter from CN explained that (while you must be open to a range of opportunities) one of the worst things you can do is go into an interview with HR stating “I don’t care where you put me, I’ll do whatever.” Unless you are already interviewing in a specific department of a magazine, it helps to explain why you think you fit best in a specific area of a publication. Help them help you.
5. Drop a note
This is an industry standard: ALWAYS always always send a hand-written thank you note after job or internship interviews!! A additional brief email immediately after the interview couldn’t hurt either. Besides simply being polite, all these things are just one more thing to help you stand out in the employers mind and create a lasting connection.