Friday, September 05, 2008

Landing Your Very First Job

Question of the day: I'm still in college, but graduating soon with my degree in Creative Writing. All I've ever wanted to do was write, and my plan has been to start small with submitting stories and trying my best to get published, then work my way from there. Right now I write for my college's newspaper and have been published by them several times. My post-graduation plan is to try finding a full-time job in publishing and write when I can. My main question is, in your opinion, is that the right course I should take, or rather, what do you think the best course might be when my main goal is to just write? Of course I need a job, which I have, but I want to get into the editing field. I would love to edit stories and such, so I guess I'm wondering what options someone like me has at this point in time.

I think that it sounds like you have an excellent plan and also, an excellent background. I started in PR after college, so maybe some others here can chime in who went right into magazines, but from everything I know, you're on the right track.

I've been asked before from new grads if there's a chance if they can make it right away in the freelancing world, and the cold, hard truth is that I think it would be very difficult. There are so many established writers who are also circling around the same magazines that there is just very little chance that an editor will send a lucrative assignment, as a newbie, your way.

So instead, go out, get that editing job, hone your skills even more, collect great clips (which it sounds like you're already doing), and pull together a great portfolio. In addition to building both your writing and that portfolio, you'll also meet a ton of other up-and-coming editors - you'll all move to and from different magazines, go to the same parties, run in the same circles. And these contacts will prove invaluable once you're ready to head out on your own. I think - and this is just an educated guess - that editors who start at magazines and leave to freelance probably have a much easier time breaking in and staying in the game than total outsiders.

So I think that you're definitely on the right track. Keep at it! Remember that things snowball in this industry, and while you might be chomping at the bit to write, write, write, (or at least get paid for that writing!), all good things come to those who wait. And from the sound of it, good things are headed your way!

Anyone out there get a magazine gig right out of college? Want to chime in with advice for our reader?

8 comments:

Suzyn said...

Hi, Alison --

I have a related question. I already have the job - 8+ years of technical writing and communications. I have a couple of publishing credits under my belt - knitty.com and appearances in a couple of anthologies from voyageur press, and I'm just wrapping up editing an anthology for them (in which I put some of my own writing). I'd love to get into freelance work -- slowly, while keeping my health insurance! Do you have any advice?

Many many thanks!!

Suzyn

Trish said...

I got hired into production (copyediting, proofreading) as a brand new writer fresh from writing essays and papers. I'd get a job at a publisher or paper or proofing for a corporate entity and then from there you could go to editorial. I'd suggest something in-house with training opps. There a a ton of postgrad courses in publishing and that would really serve you well, but in the meantime, find something that gets you learning now (and pays the health insurance). On my blog I talk about moonlighting entrepreneurial tips (how to start something on your own time while holding down a full-time or part-time job).
Hope this helps.
Trish Lawrence
www.trishlawrence.com/blog

Swishy said...

I worked for the website of a magazine right out of college, and then went over to the magazine a couple years later. Editing definitely helped me with my writing, so I agree ... go get that editing job!

Suzanne said...

I think this is sound advice, it gives you the opportunity to learn the business from the inside, learn about writing while editing others, and develop valuable contacts. All positives. And you get to pay the rent on a timely basis.

Anonymous said...

Hi Allison - I have a publishing question not related to this post - I hope that's okay! Wasn't sure of the appropriate procedure.

I am seeking representation for my first novel. I have three agents considering it, and in the meantime have discovered that "a friend of a friend" has a connection with a large publisher in my genre. Based on my friend's recommendation, the person with the connection has offered to make an introduction. Not currently having an agent to guide me through these waters, I'm a little nervous. Any advice? I don’t want to pass up an opportunity, but also don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize getting an agent. Thanks very much.

thewritermama said...

One thing I never pursued after I got my MFA was internships. Even though those typically go to those still in school, I'd say to jump on any opportunities, if you haven't already. Jane Friedman is the Editorial Director of Writer's Digest at the age of 31. How did she do it? I believe it all started with an internship. She would be a good person to ask this question to, as well. Her blog is over at Writers Digest and it's called There Are No Rules.

C said...

I didn't see anything about mag publishing in the original question so I'd have different advice and suggest the asker either go into book publishing or take whatever job comes and volunteer at a lit mag. It was incredibly helpful for me to do both - not only in terms of contacts but also in terms of seeing what else is out there. There's no better way to see what's in the slush pile (so you can avoid being in it!) than to be one of the readers of it!

Allison Winn Scotch said...

C- Good point! I'd assumed she meant magazine editing, but thanks for pointing that out.