EDvice: Tips on How to Network at a Distance

Abigail Cuffey, Associate Health Editor at Woman's Day

 

Ed knows you pile your plate high and may not be able to see every speaker he brings to campus, so he’s going to make this easy. Every week this semester, he’s looking to treat you to a juicy Q&A session with an editor– delivered straight to your computer. Keep checking back to the website for his latest guest speaker and the newest piece of advice.

  

 

First in line is Abigail Cuffey. This Syracuse University alumna started out as an editorial assistant at Ladies’ Home Journal in her summer after graduation (’07). Its features department offered an excellent place to begin, but after a year and a half she wanted to jump back into health journalism– an interest she pursued at SU as Editor in Chief of What the Health. When opportunity came knocking, Cuffey moved to the staff at Woman’s Day as Assistant Health Editor and now Associate Health Editor. Cozy up to your computer on this chilly morning to learn how she didn’t let distance separate her from her jump-starting her career in New York City. 

   

ED: Where did you come from to attend Syracuse?

AC: I’m from Urbana, Illinois. A Big Ten college town in the middle of the cornfields! 

ED: How did the distance from New York City affect your internships?

AC: The distance from New York City didn’t affect my internships during school, because I refused to let it. I actually applied to and reserved summer student housing in the NYU dorms before I even had an internship lined up for the summer after my sophomore year! The dorms fill up fast and they start accepting applications in February, so it’s a good idea to go ahead and apply. (Columbia and the New School also offer summer housing for students coming from elsewhere.)   

ED: How did you arrange interviews?

AC: I realized that for me, meeting with editors in NYC was going to be most possible while I was still at ‘Cuse during the school year. One year, I ended up landing an interview at Redbook for the health editorial internship and drove down by myself (during finals week in May) to meet with the editor who happened to be a ‘Cuse grad. I parked in a midtown parking garage and changed into interview clothes in a McDonald’s bathroom. They called me the next day and offered me the internship. My junior year, I applied to the Time Inc. summer internship program in November and found out I was accepted in March (everyone should apply to their program, they give interns a stipend and provide housing at Columbia!) If you don’t have a car at Syracuse, look into the bus or train schedules. Yes, it can be a hassle, but you have to put in the effort and hustle to land a gig.   

ED: What would you suggest for current students with limited ability to frequently visit the city to connect with editors? 

AC: You can connect with editors quite well over email or phone. If you’re not able to come down to the city to have coffee or chat (which many people aren’t, so don’t worry if you can’t), its OK to reach out to an editor via email and ask if they might have a few minutes to chat on the phone instead. Make sure you have some sort of interest in what they do as well as specific questions prepared. It always helps to ask them first about how they landed their job/general career path and then ask any specific questions about what they do now. Always end with asking for advice they might have for you. If you start off asking for advice, it can be a little off-putting. Show that you are interested in them/their job rather than simply what they can do for you.   

ED: What is the biggest mistake to avoid in e-mail communication?  

AC: Make sure you know what magazine they work for and how to spell it. For example, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people e-mail me and say Women’s Day, when the correct spelling is Woman’s Day. It may seem like a small issue, but it suggests that you didn’t take the time to do your homework.   

ED: What advice do you have for a student reaching out to an editor for the first time via e-mail?

 AC: Flattery is your friend. Do your research and find a specific article they wrote or thing they handled in the magazine if you can and mention how/why you liked it upfront. Then just explain who you are and why you’re contacting them… Also, don’t be afraid to email editors! We’ve all been in your place before and are happy to help, if you approach it in the right way.

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