DEAR PEP: I am graduating soon and am starting to look for a job. (In this economy, wish me luck.) My question, though, is at what level should I aim? I was a Meredith apprentice my junior year and had an internship in New York the summer between my junior and senior years. I am now freelancing at Meredith. I held various editorial positions on Drake Magazine for three years, and am an editor on 515 this year. —GRAD TO BE
DEAR GRAD: You’ve prepared yourself well for a competitive market. Editors today do not have the time to train young editors—they need people to jump right into their jobs. Your Meredith and New York experience sets you apart from most new grads. You’ve already proven yourself at the editorial assistant level, so look for assistant editor jobs. Those often require 3-5 years experience, but folks with fewer years out of school often snag those jobs if their school years were as productive as yours have been.
It is essential though, that your letter immediately prove that you are already a professional, so the HR person who filters these things doesn’t throw you into the “no” pile as too inexperienced. Explain what you did at Meredith and in New York. Be specific. Show don’t tell. Start with an anecdote about being on a photo shoot or having to bat out a last-minute article when the page count changed.
Recognize, however, that New York magazines might be less receptive to your years of experience than good old Des Moines and they might expect you to start as an editorial assistant editor, no matter what. So don’t ignore those jobs if you’re heading to the big city.
Your best bet is to contact your old employers and let them know you are graduating and would love to be a full-timer. It startles me how many new grads assumes people already know this. Editors are busy. You need to remind them you’re out there and eager to join their staff.
And good luck. Yes, this is not the best time to hunt for a job. You might have to be more aggressive and plaster the world with your resume more thoroughly than you would have had to a few years ago. You have a great portfolio, though, and a huge edge over other new grads.