When Tara MacInnis moved to Toronto, she wanted to be the next devilishly prada-wearing fashion journalist.
But before she could go shoe shopping for her first pair of power-heels, she had to overcome one of the city’s most difficult challenges (outside of finding a decently-priced apartment).
She had to land a media internship in Toronto.
The Ryerson University Master of Journalism student quickly discovered that making the most of past connections could get her on the road to her fashionista future.
What got you interested in working in the media?
Tara: During my undergrad at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX), I really didn’t enjoy what I was studying, and a few of my friends were looking at getting involved in the campus newspaper. I always liked writing, so I figured I’d give it a shot as well. Two years later, I’d held four different jobs at that paper, and I’d totally fallen in love with it.
Why did you want to keep connected to your university after you left?
Tara: StFX was a really big part of my life, and it is sort of a family tradition for me – I am the 26th person in my family to graduate from StFX. The alumni community, even including those who aren’t related to me, is amazing. StFX alumni are always willing to help each other out, and you never know when you’ll run into an X grad who is able to give you a break.
And keeping in touch with your alumni network paid off didn’t it?
Tara: I was at an alumni party in Toronto and one of the women I worked for on campus was there, giving a quick speech about the Toronto StFX alumni community. She mentioned a few alumni who had experienced success in their fields, and one of them was an editor at Canadian Living. I made a point of getting a look at her, and I found an opportunity to introduce myself. It turned out that she was also an editor at the Xaverian Weekly, and therefore knew what my time there meant and how committed I was to being a journalist. I must have made an impression on her, because she asked me to send her an email with my information and career goals (I didn’t let her card out of my sight for the rest of the night). The next day, she e-introduced me to the style editor at Canadian Living, who was looking for an intern. She liked me as well, and I spent four months interning there.
What did you do as a Canadian Living intern?
Tara: In the office, I got to spend a day working on a photo shoot, which involved helping style the outfits, setting up some scenes, and meeting really talented makeup artists and photographers. Probably the most amazing thing I got to do was attend World MasterCard Fashion Week. That pretty much blew my mind, and definitely increased my awareness of Toronto fashion.
Why do you think it was important to use your connections versus just applying on your own?
Tara: Let’s put it this way: the only two internships I’ve had in this city so far were obtained via someone else passing on my information to someone they knew who was looking for an intern. Having someone pre-approve me has been invaluable, and I doubt I would have been successful without that asset.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a magazine intern?
Tara: The problem with working as a style intern at a publication with a really small style staff is that a lot of the tedious jobs that no one else has time to do fall to you. However, looking back, the monotony of the job was definitely worth it for the boost it gave my resume. The other rough part is that interns at any publication come and go, because no one can really afford to work for free for an extended period of time. This can make it hard to break into the more social side of a publication, since you’re almost always “the new girl.”
Why was getting an internship so important to you?
Tara: No matter how menial the tasks may seem, getting your foot in the door at a publication is invaluable. And, especially in a city like Toronto, people change jobs all the time, so you never know where someone you’ve worked with is going to end up. In addition to making connections, it is, of course, also about gaining experience. When you’re an intern, people are pretty willing to help you out and show you the ropes. Lastly, I do require an internship to complete my degree at Ryerson, so it was basically imperative that I get one!
This summer, Tara completed an internship at Cosmetics Magazine and also worked as a National Post intern.