Over the past few years, after endless emails and applications, I managed to secure work experience at places like Marie Claire, Closer Magazine and The Mail on Sunday; next month I’ll be gaining experience at YOU Magazine. I’m very grateful that I’ve had these opportunities, and I’d love to share my experiences in the hope of helping someone out there nervously googling before they go off into the big ol’ industry for the first time.
Recently, in September I spent a couple of weeks with the Fashion and Lifestyle team at Closer Magazine. During the two weeks, myself and another work experience girl (a friend called Rebecca) had a variety of tasks including: liaising with PR companies, completing postal duties (booking in and booking out samples/stocks for shoots), organising the fashion/beauty cupboard, calling in samples/stock, sourcing samples for photo shoots and requesting high-resolution images for the magazine itself.
But there was a lot more to do. Other jobs included helping the writers with research for their interviews or features and writing up sections for the weekly ‘Fridge Raider’ feature. I transcribed a lot of interviews for writers and editors, some included celebrities like Diana Vickers, Amy Childs and Kimberly Wyatt. Eventually I phone interviewed Helen Skelton for the ‘Me, Myself and I’ feature, which was the highlight of my time there. I felt like I was actively contributing to the magazine. I saw some random things happen too. One day Charlotte Crosby walked around the office for instance and on my last day Jamie Laing came in with some adorable kittens to promote his new vegan sweets ‘Candy Kittens’.
There was always something to do and I learnt so much. Shadowing the day-to-day life of a weekly magazine is an amazing opportunity and I fully recommend it if you’re wondering if the industry is for you. These experiences have certainly helped me solidify my goals. Plus it was pretty exciting seeing my name in the magazine.
I’m no expert on “how to make the most of your work experience” but I’ve definitely learnt a few things from my mistakes, successes and to be honest a bit of common sense. Here are ‘My Top 10 Tips’ for work experience at a magazine (some tips may be specific to Fashion & Beauty only).
My Top 10 Tips:
So you’ve secured some work experience. First things first – don’t panic. It’s going to be a fantastic few weeks and you’re going to learn a hell of a lot. Wherever you end up doing your work experience, it’s nothing like The Devil Wears Prada or Ugly Betty so keep a level head. The magazine industry is like any other business. There are targets to be met and an awareness of this will come in handy. Helping to fill those pages every week/month shows your worth and passion.
1) Do your homework.
Read a few issues of the magazine you’re going into beforehand. Identify their readership, find out their weekly/monthly features as well as their styling, branding and ‘look’. Research as much as possible about the magazine, the people you will be working with, the publishers and any other basic information you’ll be expected to know. This knowledge will become very useful to you and save you from some embarrassing moments.
2) Ask Questions! But time it right.
No matter how stupid you might feel you’re there to learn, so ask lots of questions. You might feel like you’re annoying everybody but it’s better to get the job done right. But pick the right time to ask. Don’t leave a job to the last moment and suddenly bombard them with questions because you let fear of looking like an idiot get in the way beforehand.
3) Say YES to every opportunity.
When the Lifestyle editor of Closer asked if I wanted to telephone interview a TV presenter, for a split second my brain screamed “No! Don’t do it! You won’t be any good! You’ll be too nervous!” but then I remembered I had some interview experience – I immediately said yes. Take every opportunity. Ignore your nerves and say yes to
e v e r y t h i n g. It was a fantastic experience and I learnt how a weekly mini-feature comes together from an interview.
4) Time to get over your “phonephobia”.
I already work in an office so I’m quite confident on the phone. If you’re nervous about calling PRs, companies, writers and even the editor’s husband (don’t ask…), you need to get over it. Even if you don’t get it right the first time, most people on the receiving end are really friendly and patient. You’ll be using the phone a lot and if you give a great impression you’ll be given more important tasks to do. The real battle is figuring out how all the buttons work…
5) Keep the Fashion Cupboard as tidy as possible.
You’ll thank me later when a PR company rings wanting their samples back ASAP for another client. Oh and they’ve booked a bike to pick them up in an hour. Trust me. Keep it tidy kids.
6) Introduce yourself. Make friends. Network!
See any other work experience bods about? Say hi, network and even schedule lunch dates. They’ll be glad of the company and so will you. I ended up meeting some lovely, talented people who I can now call my friends.
7) Download a map app like Citymapper.
On your first day, getting to your placement on time can be daunting, especially if you don’t know London that well. Also during your experience you may have to run errands for the team. You can potentially waste a lot of time panicking and getting lost in the big city, simple apps like Citymapper are a lifesaver.
8) Learn something new every day.
Whatever the role you’re fulfilling – even if it’s not your cup of tea – remember it’s all great experience and gives you more knowledge of the industry. Take advantage of this. You’ll get to know the important PRs, the delicate relationship between publicist and journalist, learn how shoots are styled and build relationships with senior team members. Set a target to learn something new every day. If you manage this – GO YOU!
9) Keep an open mind.
Explore the business you’re interested in. Keep an ear out for other work experiences or internships in the building. You may not end up working where you originally thought. Maybe marketing plays more to your skills than fashion writing. How are you supposed to know if you don’t explore? Apply, apply, apply!
10) A simple ‘Thank You’ goes a long way.
I like to leave some chocolates and a quick thank you note to the team before leaving. Although you may only be there a short while, it’s a nice gesture that goes a long way. Show a lil appreciation – they’re likely to be very busy and they took time out of their working schedule to help you. I’m not saying you’ll be remembered for it but I’ve always had a follow-up email saying “thank you for the chocolates”.
So chill out, enjoy your experience and learn lots.