EDvice: How to Land Your Internship and Make the Most of It

Jane Bianchi, Senior News Editor at Seventeen

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 our latest guest speaker and the newest piece of advice.

Jane Bianchi rocks the newsroom at Hearst’s teen mag as Seventeen‘s Senior News Editor. Before her latest gig, she worked as an Associate Health Editor at Family Circle and an Assistant Editor in the health department at Good Housekeeping. She, as many editors do, credits her success in part to her experience as an intern and the networking that came out of it. Now (to tail on what Ed’s last visitor, Caylin Harris, chatted about), Bianchi shares with Ed the importance of kicking butt at an internship and a couple cover letter and resume tips that will get you there in the first place.

ED: How did you get your foot in the door in the magazine industry?

JB: It all starts with internships. During my sophomore year of college, I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to pursue a career in magazine journalism or music. So when I came home to Long Island that summer, I looked online for an internship in Manhattan that combined both of my interests. I found a 2-day-a-week gig at a small trade magazine, College Music Journal (CMJ). The rest of the week I slapped on some cheesy flair and waited tables at T.G.I. Fridays so I could pay for my train fare. The following summer, a friend of mine from CMJ got me a 2-day-a-week internship at a small educational magazine called Music Alive!. The other 5 days a week I continued serving potato skins.

Senior year, I decided to leave music behind and focus on magazines. During my spring semester, a journalism professor recommended that I intern at Sky, the magazine of Delta Airlines, which was within driving distance from my college in Winston-Salem, NC. (Note: Just in case there is any confusion, Sky is not the Sky Mall catalog. It contains real articles! Not treadmills for dogs.) So I stacked my classes on MWF and interned there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

ED: How did you make the most of your intern experiences?

JB: I hustled. I came in early. I stayed late. I smiled. I pretended it was a paying job. I took everything seriously (even photocopying). I was a student, one of those annoying, eager overachievers. I did very little talking and a whole lot of listening. I took notes whenever an editor told me something. I consolidated my questions, so I wouldn’t bother my manager too often. I made plenty of mistakes, but tried not to make them twice. I asked what I needed to do to get a clip at each place I worked, so I could build up my portfolio. I finished my work as quickly as possible and then asked for more. I pitched ideas, even though I didn’t have to. If an editor asked me for three things, I gave him five. If he asked for them by 5pm, I gave them to him by 2pm. And I kept in touch with my managers after I left. Always keep in touch! You never know who they know. Unless you’re on LinkedIn.com. In which case you do.

ED: What led to the first job?

JB:  Well, the summer after graduation I took  the Columbia Publishing Course (CPC), a six-week graduate course that focuses on book and magazine publishing. Meanwhile, I also started applying for any and every EA position I saw on Ed2010.com and Mediabistro.com. Toward the end of CPC, I sent my resume to 50 editors I had met there, asking for an informational interview. One of them said yes, and she was an editor at Glamour. She didn’t know of any job openings at the time, but she kindly met with me for 15 minutes and kept my resume on file.

Meanwhile, I was broke (ugh), so I moved back home (double ugh). I got a job at Starbucks and networked like crazy. It turned out, one of my editors at Sky knew an editor at Esquire, so I met this Esquire editor for a beer and shamelessly begged for a fall internship. Luckily, he took pity on me. (Note: I think Esquire requires class credit now.) When the Esquire internship was ending, my contact at Glamour happened to call, saying that their news department needed a freelance reporter to work in the office for two weeks. That two-week job turned into a four-month job, and while I was there, I landed an EA job with benefits at Good Housekeeping, assisting the Articles, Features, and Literary Editors.

ED: You’ve seen your fair share of applications come into the office. For those applying to internships and entry-level positions, what makes a cover letter stand out?

JB: Many candidates spend the whole cover letter explaining why they are amazing, but no time explaining why they want to work at that particular magazine. Prove that you went to the library and read the past year’s worth of issues by mentioning specific stories. And explain why you liked them as an editor, not as a reader. Meaning, if you’re applying for a job in, say, the health department at Good Housekeeping or Family Circle, don’t say that you love the magazine because your grandma always kept it in her bathroom and it makes you feel nostalgic. Everyone says that. It’s boring, and it tells me nothing about what kind of editor you are. Instead, tell me that you liked the varicose veins article from the February issue because it had a clever hed & dek, captions that added new information (instead of repeating something from the main text), fresh packaging, a great opening paragraph, etc.

ED: What is one “do” and one “don’t” when creating a resume?

JB: DO make sure there are no typos, and have a variety of mentors read it over and weigh in before you send it anywhere. But DON’T stress about it too much. It’s unlikely that a resume alone is going to be what gets your foot in the door. Meeting people who work at magazines and impressing them by being the B.I.E. (best intern ever) is most important, because it’s a small industry and word travels fast. Remember, even if your internship manager doesn’t have the space or budget to hire you, she will probably tell her 10 magazine friends to scoop you up!

Have a question you’d like answered by an editor? E-mail it to the web editor with the subject line “EDvice question.”

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