Work Experience Explosion

Raise your hand if you want to grab one week worth of work experience in Australia’s top-selling fashion and lifestyle magazine? I don’t see a single hand down. I thought so.

Raise your hand if you were fortunate enough to get a few months of internship in the beauty or fashion section of Australia’s top-selling fashion and lifestyle magazine? There are quite a few hands up. I knew it.

Thanks to Lauren Conrad, Emily Weiss, and more recently, Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl – the entire concept of ‘work experience’ and ‘magazine internship’ is revolutionised. It is not just something that is recommended to university students who are studying a Journalism or Communication degree. It is a dream of every Sportsgirl-clad, magazine-hoarding, still-living-at-home girl. Excuse my stereotype, but it is the ultimate truth. Every one wants to be part of the glossy pages. The fictional character of Anne Hathaway in the infamous The Devil Wears Prada, added more fuel to the fire. She made us believe that every employee/intern gets free stuff from the fashion cupboards. If only. Every one wants to be one of the characters from The Hills. Truth be told, I never watched that show. Mainly because they bring nothing fresh or exciting to the world of reality television. They are cliché, dumb and badly scripted. Nothing “real” about reality TV is portrayed. It is overpowered by Jimmy Choo wearing blonde bimbos who think they know everything about fashion and journalism. Leave aside their Hollywood-styled attire, I can place bets on their incapability to have a minute-long intellectual conversation. It breaks my heart and burns my degree to see them strutting down magazine offices.

When I was told to look for work experience in my first year of uni by a very humble lecturer, I hunt down the community newspaper’s office and wrote about cows, income tax and army barracks. I got free coffee and tea. It counts, right? I knew getting a spot at a magazine HQ in Sydney would be close to impossible. But had I known that it would be SO high in demand, I would have asked my mum to book me in when I was learning how to crawl.

Zoe Foster – one of my favourite writers – her journey to the world of shiny pages is induced with luck. Mia Freedman got in after she harassed the life out of the magazine’s editorial coordinator. But luck followed her. And so it tailed behind Paula Joye, Sarah Wilson, Elizabeth Renkert… I can keep naming names. A nice blend of luck, shiny networks, an outgoing personality, 52-weeks of free work and great hair is what you need to get into this industry. It’s not always about the hair though (I bloody hope not).

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not mocking the idea of working for free in magazines to get my foot in the door. I am pro-work experience and internship. Always have been. I did some last year and I fully intend on doing more in 2011. But you can say that I am disappointed with the mind-blasting competition that surrounds us today. Every girl in a newsagency wants to be part of the masthead. Every girl on the train wants a cupboard full on free clothes and products (dream on, baby). And going with the latest trend, every girl wants to be on the set of Arena‘s new reality show – Park Street. Wait till the show is aired, I’ll pray for all the five magazines’ editorial coordinators. Their phone and inbox will ring off the hook. Just you wait and watch.

This post is a follow up to my recent email/phone conversation with [insert Australia’s top-selling women’s fashion magazine title]’s editorial coordinator. Since I’m moving to the city of dreams in four days (eeeeekkkkk), I am trying to organise some work experience. The reply I received was ridiculously unexpected. I was told – “I’m sorry but we’re booked till January 27, 2012. There isn’t a single week free”. Now that means two work experience girls per week for 52 weeks. You do the math – but that sounds crazy to me!

If only I had the courage to look beyond my local community newspaper when I started uni, I would have a pretty heavy resume as of today. And if only someone had told me to watch The Hills.

Damn you all trashy TV addicts!

Image Credit 1. 2.

12 thoughts on “Work Experience Explosion

  1. Yep. Back in 2009 I had to wait about 6/8 months for a spot to free up- and when I heard about Park St being filmed, my heart sank. Getting in will be impossible, thanks to an army of girls who have a glamourised view of a heartbreakingly competitive industry, or want their 10 seconds of fame by seeing themselves on Foxtel… Sigh. I just hope that those truly dedicated will shine brighter.

    1. Absolutely Holly. Surely the brilliant past editors didn’t watch crap shows that disillusioned the entire process of working for a fashion and lifestyle magazine. I waited for 6 months myself. It was worth the wait – but I wonder if the prestige of getting work experience will be weighed down after Park Street?! Worth a thought.

  2. I think you have incredible insight. And I completely agree, my mum recently told me I should ‘send in an application to intern at some magazines’ I must admit I scoffed at how idealistic she sounded.
    The Fashion Industry has been turned from quite a serious multi billion dollar a year industry into some new fad diet that everyone’s trying. 😛

  3. What I did, and what some girls may need to do, is look beyond their dream magazines and look for placements at magazines that don’t seem as glamorous. I did work experience at the beginning of ’09 at some of the weekly magazines at ACP – definitely not as glam as the monthly titles but I landed an internship pretty easily. That said, things have probably changed a lot since even the start of ’09! Good luck with your applications!

  4. What a wonderful entry. Love it. Just one point though… I think it’s a little harsh assuming that every single character on The Hills are dumb and Jimmy Choo wearing bimbos – sure, they’re not overly intelligent, and I don’t dispute that they couldn’t have an intellectual conversation…but still. Whitney, for example (and I am not shunning you for not watching reality tv, I am kind of embarrassed I got sucked into it, haha), one of The Hills stars and now fashion designer of her own line, WhitneyEVE, graduated from NYU and interned in magazines for 5 years at various publications – so she’s not a complete airhead. But I get what you mean, don’t get me wrong. Reality TV is full of girls who do not know a whole lot, yet still seem to get ahead in the increasingly (and quite scarily competitive) fashion/media industry. I do agree with you wholeheartedly on that point – Lauren Conrad is proof of that. Any person with decent intelligence would want to throw her ‘LA Candy/Sweet Little Lies’ book in the garbage (well, me anyway)…and I did. True story. Haha.

    Anyways, I love your writing style very much!
    All what you said about work experience is true. I never ever believed it could be so competitive. Mind you, the world of glossies for me is nice when I am tucked away in the privacy of my own room reading a magazine to myself – strangely enough, I’m probably one of the 0.0001% of journo students who doesn’t crave a career in magazines. Not because of competition of course, just personal preference.
    Ultimately,I guess at the end of the day, all you can do is keep trying your best to stand out from the crowd and work hard at what you like to do (which can be challenging, but not hard for someone as talented as you (well, it sure seems you are). I bet in the next couple of years, you’ll probably be in the glossy world of magazines that you dream about and you’ll be giggling over the times you felt disheartened or slightly grim about your career prospects…because every venting twitter or blogpost from the past would have led you to become the successful, determined young lady you will be in the future! (And are now, I may add).

    Best of luck in following your dreams to Sydney xx 🙂

    1. Thanks Stef. So lovely to read that you’re part of the 0.0001% of journalism students who doesn’t dream of a magazine career. Reduces my competition – haha jokes.
      But really, I say do what makes you happy. If politics and real issues make you content – follow that dream. Thank you for you kind words.

      And as for The Hills – I am sure not all are crazy bimbos – but no one even tries to promote the non-bimbo, intelligent women. Everyone falls in love with the stupid characters. Sadly. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll surrender and watch the trash.

  5. Hey Shitika,

    I got my glossy mag internship by very nicely emailing one of my fave freelance writers, who still had some contacts through her old job. That was four years ago or so, but I still put the hard yards in but didn’t belong. Even though I had a $2500 Chanel bag on my arm. Sometimes, you just have to be a type. The experience worked in my favour. I had two internships at the time, and one actually turned into a magazine advertising job that made me realise that if I wanted to write, I couldn’t do it the traditional way, as I would have to spend a lot of time working my way up from the editorial coordinators chair. Instead, I chanelled my passion for the industry by reading up about freelancing, and that worked in my favour as well, as I have had a lot more bylines this way (and in many mags) than I would have had otherwise. Sometimes, the traditional route is not the best, I am sure you will find a way – just stay positive, hang in there and read wordsmithlane lol x

    1. Thank you. 🙂
      And this is possibly why I have started considering other options for myself. The normal and traditional way, if I may say so, is so commercial now. Everyone knows the normal route. I think freelancing might just be the way to follow my passion for writing. I just need some motivation to get started. haa

  6. Babe we should meet when you get here. Some of my good friends work at the mags and newspapers. No promises of course but I can put you in touch with some lovely people who might be able to help organise something, or at least point you in the right direction. However, from my experience, the glossies don’t pay you well, you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life, you have NO time for yourself and the glory soon wears off once you realise your single, knackered self hasn’t slept for a month and you can’t even afford a coffee. Try copywriting. Way more money and much less painful 😉

    1. Of course we’ll meet Becky. We’ll be the in same town and I’ve heard SO MUCH about you from Tijana. 🙂 I’ve never considered copywriting – but worth a thought. 🙂
      Looking forward to seeing you. xx

  7. Shitika,

    Exceptionally proud to say that you were part of my graduating class. As Siobhan and I said at the movies last week “if you aren’t successful none of us have a chance”!
    Like you I dream of a job in fashion journalism. Having said that, not much is poping up in Brisbane even in the area of work experience. In fact, last week I was told that I could no longer keep doing work experience at the radio station I had been going to! WHAT – I cant get a job and now i cant even work for people for free…??!!! It’s true, if we knew this, would we have taken on journalism degrees? Probably! A love for communication + fashion = journalism!

    Dont be discouraged, the opportunity will come when you lease expect it. Be determined, be strong, build your contacts, attend events you werent invited to and always look fabulous!

    Much love!

  8. Hey Shitika!

    Yes, getting work experience at ACP is super dooper competitive, but I became an ed coordinator for the men’s mags by just applying. Park Street is glamorous, but try some of the ACP titles over at Goulburn Street! I think those guys are always forgotten by everyone, but they have great titles there – Empire, FHM, National Geo. I mean, anything to get your foot in the door, right? Good luck, miss!

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