Ed Note: Life doesn’t end once you get your dream job. In his new column, Ed interviews young magazine staffers to get their success stories and advice for jobseekers. Whether you’re still on the hunt or looking for tips on how to shine, Ed has got you covered.
Though Pittsburgh native Alison Goldman grew up with a passion for theater, she realized she could turn her love for magazines into a career during her senior year of high school — just in time to apply and be accepted at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. After stints at regional Pennsylvania magazine Whirl, The Knot, and Family Circle, her final internship was at Glamour — and it was at the Conde Nast glossy that she was offered a job shortly after graduation. Alison gave us the lowdown on transitioning from intern to EA.
Ed: How did you end up at Glamour?
Alison: At Medill, you spend one quarter of your junior or senior year doing an internship for credit. I was placed at Glamour the fall quarter of my senior year, which was a dream come true — I had every issue of Glamour since I was 16 years old on my bookshelf at home. Sometimes I take a step back and think, “Sixteen-year-old Alison would be freaking out right now if she knew what I was doing.”
There, I interned in the features department. One of the neat parts is that you’re working with so many editors on so many different sections — I helped the entertainment editorial assistant, worked on newsy items, and assisted with the “Top 10 College Women” contest. For three weeks, I sat in for one of Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive’s assistants and learned so much. I pitched to both the magazine and the website, and had a few articles approved. There’s a lot of transcribing, too, but Glamour is great about giving their editorial interns fun tasks.
Ed: What happened after the internship?
AG: I went back to school in January and finished my coursework a quarter early in March 2011. There’s something to be said for keeping in touch; in April, I asked if I could pop by the office to say hello to everyone I had worked with. I was standing by an editor’s desk, talking to everyone, when my now boss walked past me and said, “Alison, can you meet with me at 5 p.m.?” Three weeks later, I had my job and was sitting in my cubicle.
I am so lucky that there was a job open at a place where I had interned, and that they thought of me. All of those things had to fall in place for me to get this job, and it doesn’t always work that way. The first three vacation days I took at Glamour were to go back to Chicago to walk in my Northwestern graduation!
Ed: How does your job differ from your internship?
AG: At Glamour, I now assist three editors, which means everything from maintaining calendars to helping with reporting for an upcoming feature. I work on a few pages, such as the What Men Think page. I really enjoyed working on one in the August issue about women’s bodies — the headline was “78 Percent of Men Would Rather Date a Confident Plus-Size Woman Than an Insecure Supermodel.” And one of my favorite pieces I’ve done is “What to Do (and Say) if a Friend Loses a Baby,” which ran as a sidebar to a Bethenny Frankel story in the July issue.
Ed: How did being a former intern prepare you for your job?
AG: It was so helpful that they already knew me. Enthusiasm and a good attitude are so important and I always tried to have one while interning. When I started the job, I already knew how to use the mail service and where the bathroom and cafeteria were. You feel like you’re in a completely new world when you start a job, and I was already familiar with those. There was still a ton of stuff I had to get used to and learn but some of the little things were there and that was helpful.
Ed: What advice can you give others making the transition from intern to EA?
AG: Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you start — or ever. It’s so much better to ask what you think is a stupid question and do it right the first time. Always carry a pen and notepad with you, so when you do ask the question, you’ll have notes to look back on. And with any task, big or small, have a great attitude about it. You’re not going to get the bigger jobs if you don’t do the smaller ones well.
Ed: Now that you’re on staff, what makes an intern stand out to you?
AG: Passion, most of all. Even if an intern has all the experience in the world, if he or she is not passionate about Glamour and passionate about what he or she would be doing, then that’s hard. You want someone who wants to be there as much as you love being there — someone who is going to glean something from the experience.
Ed: What is it about Glamour you’re passionate about?
AG: I really believe in what Glamour stands for. It’s empowering and optimistic and makes you feel good about yourself — and it’s awesome to be a part of that.
The Ed Takeaway: Alison’s DOs and DON’Ts
1. DON’T shy away from regional magazines — they’re often where you’ll get the most hands-on work, like writing opportunities.
2. DO get the most out of every task — with projects like transcribing, you can learn a lot of about how other people interview.
3. When interviewing, DO make sure that your enthusiasm for that publication shines through. Everyone wants someone who cares about what they’re doing.
4. DO enjoy your senior year — you’ll never get another chance to be in college. It’s much easier said than done, but if you’re keeping in touch and doing informational interviews, you’re doing everything right, so just relax and know that what’s supposed to happen will happen.
Photograph by Brian Marcus