Name: Kaitlin Menza
Job Title and Description: Associate Lifestyle Editor at Seventeen magazine
College/Major: Bryn Mawr College, Sociology major
Twitter Handle: @heykmenz
Her Campus: What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Kaitlin Menza: There’s no typical day, and that’s why I love it so much! My job entails writing the fashion copy and editing the Fun section, which is sometimes a lifestyle package (like recipes for an awesome sleepover) and sometimes an entertainment story (like a preview of all the best summer movies and television). So on a typical day, I will attend a run-through in the fashion closet or meet with a fashion editor to go over talking points for a story. I’ll edit or write a few pages. I’ll go over story concepts or layouts with our art department. Almost every day, an up-and-coming celebrity will stop by for a quick interview. Last week, I had lunch with Kylie Jenner when she and her sister Kendall stopped by the office. And usually, I’ll check out new musicians at night in the city or attend a screening of a new movie.
HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
KM: My first job in magazines was as the Entertainment Assistant at Glamour magazine—so even more movies, music, TV, and celebrity gossip. I interned at Glamour and kept in constant (probably annoying) contact with the editors I had worked with there. When an assistant left the summer after I graduated, they called me in for an interview and I was hired.
HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
KM: I wish I had realized how truly small the magazine industry is. Sometimes I feel like there are under 100 people in consumer magazines, and before long editors around you will refer to people on a first-name basis and you’ll know exactly whom they’re talking about (“Did you hear that Diane got promoted?” “Good, she totally deserves it!”). What that translates to is you cannot ever burn bridges, and you have to think about the fact that you never know who may help you (or hurt you!). I heard about the job at Seventeen when an editor I had met for ten minutes two years earlier at a networking event e-mailed me to tell me it was open. We talked for ten minutes!
HC: Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
KM: Ann Shoket, the editor-in-chief of Seventeen. When I first graduated and entered the working world, I thought that major success in magazines, media, and New York City in general meant completely giving over your life to that job. But Ann has always tells us that the work we do should be fun. My job is really, really fun on a daily basis and I feel so grateful for that. You shouldn’t stay late just to show your dedication, you should be out in the world experiencing everything—it makes you a better editor. If you’re not having fun, something’s wrong.
Her other big lesson to editors is to dream bigger. Yes, you might have a nice story idea but how can it be even bigger? Can we get the story on TV? Can we have a concert in Times Square? Can we sky-write the headline over a campus football game? It’s a good philosophy for workers—how can you take your work to the next level?—as well as a nice life motto.
HC: What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
KM: I’ve noticed that lots of staffers at Seventeen have words or phrases taped to their monitors. Ann declared that our official staff “word” for 2012 would be “brave”, which I love. But mine is pretty corny—I have “Bring it” taped there. I’m fairly new at Seventeen and I want to keep reminding myself to bring my “A” game. Don’t just come up with the same old story ideas. Bring it!
HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
KM: I’m still trying to learn this every day, but I have a problem of never asking someone for help, even when I don’t understand something. When I had just started at Seventeen, I didn’t ask anyone questions because I wanted to seem cool and collected and super ready for this new job. But nothing makes you look less mature than never asking any questions! You’re not born knowing how to run a sweepstakes or how to route copy in a weird, new system, so always ask. It looks worse if you hide your misunderstanding and then your boss has to clean up your mess later.
HC: What is the best part of your job?
KM: Aside from being paid to watch TV? And read gossip blogs? And getting piles of CDs and books? It’s meeting readers. Readers are so attached to Seventeen, and sometimes I forget how much it meant to me when I was a teenager. You spend so much time tweaking deks and captions that you forget that a girl is really going to follow this advice. I edit the mail page, and it’s so nice to read e-mails from girls thanking us for birth control information or confidence tips that made them feel less insecure or alone. There’s no better feeling than that!
HC: What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
KM: I hire one or two interns every semester, and I always look for passion. You can see that in a resume—is she taking every possible opportunity to write? Does she live for magazines, or does this just seem like a cool internship to her? You can hear that in potential interns’ voices, too, when I interview them on the phone. And I always end interviews asking girls if they’ve seen any movies lately, or with what they think the best pop song of the year is. You learn a lot by a person by this answer!
HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
KM: You’ve probably heard the usual magazine advice before—network, ask for informationals, make sure you’ve read the magazine—and yes, it’s all totally true. But I think another important thing is to ask yourself how badly you want this. The magazine industry is hard to break into, and you’ll probably spend your first two years surviving on ramen noodles in a four-bedroom apartment while your friends in finance are sampling Eleven Madison Park’s tasting menu. But my coworkers and I live and breathe for magazines. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Make sure you really want it, and then never ever, ever give up!