Our "Making It in Media" panel at Friday's all-day "How to Make It in Fashion" conference featured five names you might recognize if you're tuned into the digital editorial world: beauty writer Arabelle Sicardi, Complex Media Deputy Style Editor Jian DeLeon, GQ Senior Digital Editor John Jannuzzi, Racked Features Editor Julia Rubin and Elle Deputy Digital Editor Ruthie Friedlander — who, for the record, have more than a combined 54,500 Instagram followers and 69,000 Twitter followers.
While their careers have very different origins with equally different trajectories, each of our five panelists agreed on the following, very uplifting concept: Now is a much better time to land a job in media than ever before. With digital companies expanding more by the day, there are now many positions to be had in fields that barely existed 10 years ago.
So, how do you go about getting that lucrative gig, exactly? That's where our panel came in. Below, we've listed the five most important pieces of career advice learned from Sicardi, DeLeon, Jannuzzi, Rubin and Friedlander on how to land — and thrive in — your dream job.
1. Intern somewhere you're truly interested, and work your ass off.
This might seem intuitive, but all five panelists emphasized how absolutely crucial it was for interns to do all of things you think interns are supposed to do. Say yes to everything. Be the first in the office in the morning, and the last to leave. Do it all with a smile! Rubin put it plainly: "If you do a good job, you're going to get hired. Don't act like you're an intern. Do what [your supervisors] ask, and ask all the right questions — not 'How are we doing this?' but rather, 'Why are we doing this?'" It's important to be authentic, though. "I've had interns who have been there just to have something on their résumé," said Friedlander. "You should intern at a place you really care about. It's noticeable to me when an intern really believes in the brand."
2. Start writing and freelancing as early — and often — as you can, even in high school.
Thanks to today's widespread accessibility to editors and more and more outlets, like Rookie, catering to younger readers, there's no need to wait until you're in college to pitch your ideas, said Sicardi. "At the end of the day, your résumé and academic experience doesn't mean as much," she said. "Knowing how to write and take edits doesn't take a degree." It also helps to develop a voice that's unique and true to your beliefs, be it on Tumblr or on social media. "Some of the industry's best critics aren't afraid to say what they want to say," added Jannuzzi. "Their opinions are always truthful to what they believe, and what they write is very true to who they are."
Speaking of social media...
3. Social media is far more important than, perhaps, it should be — so important, in fact, that it could help you get the gig you want.
Friedlander mentioned that if a hiring manager is between two candidates and they're equal in all other qualifications, the person with more social media followers has a better likelihood of getting the job. But with great power, as always, comes great responsibility: "All of you are public people living in this world, and we all need to pay attention to what we say online and how we say it." Yet consistency, DeLeon mentions, is key: "If you're the same person online as you are in real life, your followers will appreciate it. It should be equal parts portfolio, and equal parts what you're about." It's the easiest place to communicate your taste level, according to Jannuzzi, and the best place to share what you're reading and writing. And for stalking — er, researching? — sake, DeLeon smartly said it's "a good litmus test at how well-versed you are in Internet culture."
TL;DR: Be an active participant in social media, but be smart about it.
4. Digital is where it's at. The end.
"Print is becoming a much more luxury experience for most consumers," said DeLeon. While traditional magazines can, potentially, give editors more room to explore the "art of the narrative," it's digital journalism that provides much more freedom for both writers and readers alike. "There's much more room to play, and a lot more to gain," added Sicardi. "Everyone needs digital and now, we can't survive without mobile. MTV has more viewers on its Snapchat than it does on its own network." This innate flexibility is also inherent within the industry, too. "One of the things I like most about the digital path is that it isn't so vertical," explained Friedlander, who worked with brands like The Row and Chanel before moving to Elle. "If you want to do something in the art world or something in analytics, you can move around and still go back to being in editorial." The field, however, is still changing everyday, leaving Rubin to explore questions like: "What do you do when you have an 8,500-word piece on the Internet? What does it look like?"
5. And finally: Maybe don't launch your own e-commerce line just yet?
With the notable exceptions of Into the Gloss's Glossier and Net-a-Porter's Porter, very few brands and companies have successfully married editorial content with an e-commerce component. Why? According to Jannuzzi, "It's solving a problem that doesn't exist." Glossier, Rubin claimed, is doing it right, and for all the right reasons: "Don't try to sell other people's stuff. Come up with your own stuff, and come up with your own awesome branding. But you can't be Amazon, so just be better at what you're doing."