Welcome to the ultimate hub for expert advice to help you get your big break (+ move up the ladder). This time, I’m chin-wagging on The Bottom Rung with…
JESSICA BAILEY, 25 – features editor of DOLLY and CLEO magazines
Climbing the ladder
Then: Jess is a true intern Cinderella story! Five years ago, she was interning at DOLLY magazine* and impressed everyone so much that she was locked in as the editorial coordinator the moment a job opened up. From there, she worked her way up to DOLLY features writer and photo researcher, then spent two years as DOLLY’s entertainment editor.
Now: Recently, CLEO and DOLLY magazines merged to form one team and Jess scored the coveted job as features editor across both titles.
Bottom Rung: What were the best and worst things about your early DOLLY days?
Jess: The best thing I ever got to do was write a quiz for DOLLY. Anyone who has started at the bottom will know writing for a magazine is a really big deal for an intern! I drafted copy after copy and finally handed it in to the features editor. Little did I know then, she forwarded it straight to the editor with the comment, “This girl can write!” My first job interview was horrendous so I still think this was the one little quiz that got me my big break. The worst part was working ’til midnight on production deadlines as the editorial coordinator. Even a Chinese dinner feast couldn’t make that a better experience!
Bottom Rung: What makes a standout magazine intern?
Jess: Be different to the next girl. In magazines, there are 101 girls all wanting the next job. Stay back that little bit later to finish that transcribing, pitch story ideas on your days off and when you’re asked to complete work, take your time and put in loads of effort. Working with interns on a daily basis, if you have submitted quality work and gone that extra mile, you’ve cut my job in half. And I won’t forget that when I need to recommend someone for a role.
Bottom Rung: What is a typical day in the life of a magazine intern or work experience student?
Jess: If you are an editorial intern at a magazine, every day will be different. You might be transcribing interviews, researching quotes and facts, doing vox pops in the street or assisting on photo shoots. You could also be doing some other menial jobs like grabbing coffees or photocopying. We’ve all been there!
Bottom Rung: Have you ever felt like giving up? If so, why and how did you overcome it?
Jess: When you first start out in magazines, the pay is low. I mean looooooow. You might watch your friends from uni all start to earn real, adult pay cheques while you’re stuck on a third of their salaries. Stick it out. I remember when I was DOLLY’s editorial coordinator and six months in, I was getting paid next to nothing and my days were spent looking after the work-experience kids and ordering paper. I felt like I’d wasted my uni degree because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. All I wanted was to write. I scheduled a meeting with the editor, told her how I felt and that same afternoon was briefed on my first-ever feature: The Miranda Kerr cover story. I never looked back.
Bottom Rung: Is an internship or work experience really the only way to get a foot in the door?
Jess: Internships are invaluable. These days, it’s very rare that a job opportunity isn’t filled by an intern. The team get to know interns on a weekly basis. We get to know how they work, what their passions are and what their strengths are. So when a job rolls around, it’s easy for us to say, “Hey! Pick this person, she’s amazing.” Maybe I’m old-school but to me, if someone is willing to volunteer their precious time for free every week, they WANT this career. It speaks volumes, really.
Bottom Rung: What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into your industry?
Jess: Don’t get disheartened by the stigma ‘magazines are dying’. Nothing can replace the tangibility of reading a creative edit of issues, opinions and trends on the bus, at the beach or at school with your friends. Having said this, I would also say it’s important to get some digital experience as well. There are lots of jobs available in the digital world if you’re finding it hard to crack magazines. My other advice? I wish I’d started work experience earlier than third year university. I didn’t have a lot to show on my resume when going for my first job!
Thanks again to Jess for sharing her advice! If you’d love to find out more, then you can follow her on Instagram (@jessicalouisebailey).
*(I was lucky enough to be working there at the time)
<The Bottom Rung series is inspired by the release of my novel THE INTERN (HarperCollins, out February 1, 2014) and my desire to ‘pay it forward’ with career advice and tips on climbing the ladder. Click here for more about THE INTERN and say hello at facebook.com/hellogabrielletozer and twitter.com/gabrielletozer – distractions welcome.>