With a fresh batch of students about to start their first weeks at university, I thought I’d revisit this point I wrote a while back on how I became the editor of a magazine, all before the age of 30. I know some people won’t have a clue what they want to do career wise yet, but there will also be a number who know exactly what path they want to go down and want to know what they need to do to succeed.
Becoming an editor before I turned 30 was something I could never even have dreamt of when I was in my early twenties. I’d moved to Newcastle to study advertising at the age of 18 and was nowhere near ready to be that far away from my family and friends. I hated every second of it and the course didn’t educate me, nor inspire me to develop a career in advertising. Subsequently, I left and came home, thinking I was done with studying and I settled in a 9-5 in a call center collecting debt for unpaid telephone bills – probably more inspiring than my university course if I’m honest.
It wasn’t until I received an email a year later telling me about a course at UCLAN combining Fashion Promotion with Journalism that I even considered the thought of going back. But I did, and in 2006 I started my first year over in Preston.
I couldn’t have chosen a better university, and not only did I meet some of my all-time favourite people there, I had an amazing three years. It has to be said though, in high school I was in the top set for most subjects, achieving A’s, B’s and a few C’s in my GCSE, as well as securing a place in Art College on the basis of my portfolio – which meant I didn’t even need to pass any exams, I’d already got in.
But university was a different matter. I was surrounded by people who were far more intelligent than I was, and I found myself struggling to keep up with the level of work that was expected. It was also super expensive and in my second year, I took a job in another call center, this time sorting out insurance policies for damages to the home. Boring, but it paid well and meant that I could afford to buy all my supplies and printer ink – I’m pretty sure I kept HP in business through my time studying.
I left uni with a 2:1 and when I returned home to Leeds I started this little blog, all the way back in 2009. The same year I started to work freelance – notice the word ‘free’ in that sentence. I worked on various websites, some paying very little, some paying nothing at all. I wrote blog copy, I managed three websites on dressing gowns, the plus size market and the over fifty market, and I spent most evenings sending out my CV for potential jobs. I did pretty much anything I could to build up a portfolio and perfect my writing style.
For those of you who have read my blog from the very beginning, you might remember when I interned at LOOK magazine for a little while, which was great experience, apart from staying in a hotel where I was bitten head to toe by bed-bugs the first few days of being there. Most people would have packed up and left but nope, I stayed and did my time – changing hotel rooms in the meantime. It’s definitely that and my other internships, which helped me secure the job I’m in now.
For anyone out there reading this wondering how to set themselves apart from every other graduate out there chasing the same position, I’d say get as much experience as possible and fill your CV up with freelance writing, blogging and unpaid work experience. It shows your potential employee that you’re not afraid of hard work.
Now that’s not to say I got my job straight away. Nope, it was 18 long months of working for free and building up my portfolio before I was even offered an unpaid internship at my current work place. To cut an-already-long-story short I was originally asked to come for an interview for editorial assistant, but was then was offered deputy editor for a lingerie magazine. Three months in to that role, where I basically worked my arse off, I was asked to become acting editor of the womenswear title while the editor left to have a bambino.
That was probably one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever had and was a definite learning curve. I was so used to writing for consumer websites that turning my hand to a business magazine was difficult to get into the swing of. But I got there in the end, and a year later was offered editor of the company’s menswear magazine. To say I was over the moon is an understatement. I popped the cork on the Tesco Cava that night let me tell you.
I love men, we all know that, but it had never crossed my mind up until this point that I might like to write about men’s fashion. It’s a hell of a lot different to womenswear but I’ve found my niche. It’s hard work, long hours and sometimes stressful to the point of tears, but, and this a massive but, I have never had Sunday night blues, I love the people I work with and get to travel all over the world. It might have taken a couple of years, a couple of call centers, and a whole lot of working for free to get here but it was worth it in the end. You just have to keep at it and never give up.