So you’ve graduated and want to work in magazines. What’s next?
Once you’ve graduated with your English degree, or other, you might find yourself wondering if you should get an unpaid internship and hope for a job, or apply to begin a magazine publishing certificate.
“I would never hire anyone without experience in the industry. That experience and work means more to me than formal training.” —Jennifer Reynolds, editor-in-chief, Canadian Family Magazine
Looking at the backgrounds of your favourite magazine editors, you recognize no pattern save for a blend of hard work, helpful business contacts and a lucky break here and there. How do you get yourself that dream job?
Getting an internship
One requirement magazine hopefuls can pretty much bank on as “necessary” is completing a magazine internship. Whether you want to work in editorial, sales, marketing, design or production, a magazine internship is your way of saying, “Dear employer, I have experience in the field and your fellow editor/magazine director can vouch for me.”
It’s also important for you. Coming out of a theory-based university program, chances are you haven’t studied industry specifics, such as copy editing marks, design principles or sales techniques. An internship is as close to “job reality” as a magazine hopeful can get. Instead of reading about what it’s like to work with magazines, you are working with magazines. You can get a feel for the job, the hours, the pace, the people and the work itself.
In an industry as competitive as magazine publishing, experience is difficult to come by. Magazine internships – most of which are unpaid – are so highly contested that aspiring hopefuls will work for free and even then there are more applicants than there are positions.
On top of that, most magazine internships will, unfortunately, not lead into a full-time position. Editorial interns are rotated in and out of the office every three to four months, and many magazines have experienced budget or job cuts due to the struggling economy and shifting business models in the publishing world.
However, at the same time, magazines are growing in other ways thanks to the web, and someone with your youth, resourcefulness and creativity has a lot to offer. An internship is pretty much essential to your magazine career path, and you’ll meet a lot of people in the industry who can help you attain your goal.
Furthering your magazine education
In addition to an internship, or while completing an internship, you may opt to acquire a magazine certificate. Some magazine editors and companies consider a magazine publishing certificate to be a huge advantage over someone with “only” an undergraduate degree, while others consider it to be a nice bonus. It won’t be your ticket to a job, but the benefits are a-plenty.
“If they don’t have experience, but have gone through a magazine program that I know, I can talk to their teachers.”
—James Little, editor, explore magazine
Magazine-specific programs, like the certificates offered at Ryerson University or Centennial College, for example, equip a student with knowledge in the areas of magazine editorial, online magazines, design, layout, sales, marketing and production.
Magazine editors will know that you are a well-rounded individual who has studied the business of magazines from all facets, rather than merely focusing on your area of interest.
Also, industry programs like these often bring in guest speakers (pretty much every single week!), granting you the opportunity to introduce yourself to your future colleagues and to ask questions.
If you want to kill two birds with one stepping stone on the path to your magazine career, you’ll be happy to know that some magazine programs integrate field experience (essentially, an internship) into the program so that students are almost guaranteed an educational classroom experience and field work. These students hold the advantage over their intern competitors, as magazine editors looking for interns assign priority to a student who requires an internship in order to graduate over an individual with no academic affiliation.
Hiring managers say program is helpful but not a must-have—experience is more valuable
“If they have experience, then I can look at the work they’ve done and talk to previous employers. But if they don’t have experience, but have gone through a magazine program that I know, I can talk to their teachers. So the extra degree isn’t better than actual experience, but it can be helpful in opening doors to get experience.”
His sentiments are echoed by Jennifer Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Canadian Family magazine: “I would never hire anyone without experience in the industry. That experience and work means more to me than formal training.”