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Your first graduate job in magazine publishing

For every graduate who lands a plum job in magazine publishing, countless other people’s careers fail to take off. Read on for tips on how to get yourself noticed and your name in print.

You may thrive best under pressure and welcome a monthly, or even weekly, deadline, or you may want to kick back a bit more with a quarterly or bi-monthly mag.

Where can I work?

Think carefully about the kind of magazine you want to work on - the ones on display at your local newsagent's represent just a tiny percentage of what's out there. There are specialist magazines on almost every subject you can imagine (and a few you'd probably rather not).

While high-profile titles may generate the most competition for jobs, here your degree subject could give you an edge. There's also a growing demand for publishers to produce glossy, high quality in-house magazines for large companies such as Boots, Waitrose and IBM.

Think about the frequency of issue as well - you may thrive best under pressure and welcome a monthly, or even weekly, deadline, or you may want to kick back a bit more with a quarterly or bi-monthly mag.

What can I do?

As a graduate you could start off as an editorial assistant, junior reporter, staff writer, sub-editor, production assistant, art assistant, sales, marketing, subscriptions or licensing executive… the job titles just go on and on. Don't panic though - roughly speaking these can divided into:

  • The words. Editorial staff and copywriters spend their time researching, writing, editing and commissioning. They should have an enquiring mind, a good grasp of grammar and punctuation and of course a deep and abiding love of the written language.
  • The look. Designers, photographers and picture editors make sure the words and images look great on the page - commissioning photographers and illustrators is all part of the process, and possessing a visual flair is a must.
  • The business. Sales and marketing staff take the audience and turn them into a revenue stream. They sell advertising, improve circulation, market and promote a publication. You'll need confidence, great 'soft skills' and the ability to work in a high-pressure atmosphere.

How do I get a job?

The one area in magazine publishing where most people hold a subject-related degree is in design, although a good portfolio and experience will be respected here as well. Many writers, editors and photographers (especially the latter) work on a freelance basis. The big snag is that many of the creative jobs aren't advertised at all. Speculative applications, networking and even unpaid work experience can be the key that unlocks the door.

This requires self-discipline and determination: ‘It may sound obvious,' says Alex MacNaughton, a freelance photographer who's contributed to FHM and the Independent magazine, among others, ‘but it's vital to know the magazine you want to work for inside out. Make sure your portfolio matches your target audience - there's no point, for example, in bringing along your stuff on anti-war protestors to an interview for a food magazine.'