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How to Get a Magazine Internship

“A million girls would kill for this job.” – Emily Chalton, 1st Assistant, Runway Magazine.

In the 2007 movie The Devil Wears Prada the glamorous magazine world at the fictional Runway Magazine was revealed to audiences nationwide. Emily, an assistant at the high fashion magazine summed up what so many of us have dreamed of since we first picked up our favorite magazine. Though I can definitely say having a boss like Meryl Streep wasn’t exactly in my plan… Seeing the movie led the most uninformed of people to think that they were now qualified to give advice on breaking into the magazine industry. For example, my nineteen-year-old male cousin tried to tell me that the magazine industry would be brutal, and I should probably stick with being pre-med. Uh, worst advice ever, but thanks! Just like my cousin, most of those people have no idea what they’re talking about — but fortunately Her Campus does have people who know at least how to nail step one: getting a magazine internship.

The Basics

When to apply/start looking: January! While some magazines will hire up until the end of the semester, some of the most coveted positions will be filled immediately. Unless you’re applying through a magazine internship program, in which case you need to get started in the fall (see below). You may have to apply to a ton of magazines, including ones you aren’t all that interested in, but if you want an internship and you work hard to get one, you will get one. Don’t give up!

What you need: A resume that shows interest in the magazine field in addition to the specifics of the magazine you’re applying to, clips (preferably published), a killer cover letter that matches the style and interests of the magazine and is personalized for every single internship you apply for.

How to prepare for the internship: Read the magazine! — if you only do one thing, do this. Be familiar with the sections, the style, and the most recent stories. There are few things worse than not being able to answer: “What do you love most about the magazine?” Also, you may have to take an edit test. This can include actually editing an article, pitching stories, writing a story given to you from another publication in the style of your publication, or writing captions. Either way it’s best to brush up on grammar skills and once again, the writing style of your magazine! Within the magazine world, there are lots of different types of internships. Here, we’ll break them down for you so you know which ones you want to apply for, and what to expect.

Fashion Magazine Internships

How To Find: Danielle Schivek, a former Elle fashion intern, advises checking Ed2010.com every day. Once she saw the opening at Elle she immediately emailed her resume to her boss.

What to Expect: Returning products (think filling out labels and packaging up samples of clothing and accessory), compiling databases, tracking information, and doing research online and over the phone. A fashion assistant at a major magazine explains. “Some days interns can expect to have nothing to do — and they should ask for additional tasks without harassing the editors.” And Danielle reminds those looking for fashion mag internships: “It is not glamorous!”

Interviewing Tip: Go! “I knew it was important to have a face-to-face so I took the train into New York from Boston for the weekend,” Danielle explains. “Even though it’s a lot of money and a bit of a hassle, the person interviewing you knows that it’s a big commitment to travel so far to see them. Showing that you are so dedicated is sure to impress your interviewer.”

The fashion assistant says: “During an interview we look for someone confident, ready to work, energetic, interested in fashion, knowledgeable about fashion, and eager to try a variety of tasks.” She also reminded me that when dressing for fashion positions you should wear something you feel comfortable in, not what you’d wear to a finance interview. Remember to show your style and personality!

Prepping For It All Year Long: The fashion assistant explained what she looks for during the interview: “It’s great to see someone who is involved and active on her campus. I also look at her major, to see if it’s relevant, and check out her GPA.” No slacking!
Teen Magazine Internships

How to Find: Ed2010.com — seriously the go-to place for internships! Katie Sanders who interned at Seventeen Magazine found her internship through Ed2010, which one of the Seventeen editors is heavily involved with.

Interviewing Tip: Elana Altman, who interviewed at TWIST Magazine, advised that at magazines like TWIST and J-14, they are looking for “enthusiasm about pop culture, as well as journalism and writing experience. If you’re not interested in pop culture, as well as journalism and writing experience you’re going to get bored and not do your job as well.”

Advice from the Experienced: “Spend a lot of time on your cover letter!” Elana tells HC readers, For TWIST, I started my cover letter off talking about Miley Cyrus, Edward Cullen, and Gossip Girl.” Katie advises being yourself during the interview — if you have a favorite section of the magazine you’re passionate about then make that very clear! You and your editor will benefit from you being clear about what you love. “Be real when you apply for things,” she advises.

Beauty Magazine Internships

How to Find: Seriously? Ed2010.com.

What to Expect: Calling a ton of PR firms, spending a ton of time in the beauty closet, running back and forth from the editor to the photographer, opening lots and lots of packages of beauty products, filing press releases.

What Impresses Beauty Editors: Having worked as a beauty intern at Life & Style Weekly, I can say what impressed my beauty editor the most was when I was knowledgeable about new products. She always wanted me to be reading press releases and websites about beauty to know what was new, how to use it, and when to use it.

Celebrity Weekly Magazine Internships

How to Find: Do you even have to ask? Ed2010.com.

What to Expect: Lots of research! Whether it’s reading blogs, other magazines, old issues of your magazine — research will be a huge part of it. If you’re lucky some red carpet reporting could be a part of your internship, which is really fun! Plus administrative work like compiling databases and organizing magazine libraries.

Interviewing Tips: Stay up on current gossip — especially what the magazine has been featuring. I have interviewed as an editorial intern at Life & Style Weekly and OK! Magazine, and I have always been asked what section and recent stories in the magazine I liked best and who my favorite celebrity was, plus who I was most eager to find out more about.

Advice from the Experienced: Celebrity gossip magazines are so much about memory! Remembering the details of all celebrity scandals and stories from the past few years will set you apart, so keep constantly up-to-date on celeb news.

Advertising Magazine Internships

How to Find: Joanna Buffum, who was an advertising intern at OK! Magazine, originally applied for nearly fifty (!) internships through Ed2010, and in a state of panic began applying to “any listing in the writing section of Craigslist that did not sound too sketchy.” The internship that she was hired for quickly did not work out… Joanna advises: “if you ever apply for an internship that has a listing that is very vague in its description and does not provide the name of the company in the listing, do not apply for it. They will most likely be extremely unorganized and a very small company.” After Joanna’s first internship went bust she utilized friends and networking to land her advertising internship. One of her friends met OK!’s publisher and told her Joanna’s horror story. Within days, the publisher, who had clearly sympathized with Joanna, offered her an internship! Networking pays off!

What to Expect: A mix of the magazine’s creativity with a business angle. Tasks for advertising interns could include editing/proofreading the advertising sections, assembling media kits, and sending mailings/materials to clients.
Creative Services (Promotions) Magazine Internships

How to Find: Kara Brass, who interned at Vogue, explained that she “applied through Condé Nast’s internship program. You can specify what areas of interest you have — beauty, fashion, golf, whatever — and then they interview you and place you.”

What to Expect: “I helped with a lot of proposals for advertising like events and sweepstakes to offer to advertisers,” Kara explained. “I helped execute a sweepstakes and did budgets for events. I also did page drivers to drive ad pages. Also I did a lot of research on what other magazines were doing with advertising that looks like content — who they were doing it with and how they do it.”

Interviewing: During interviewing Kara advises that like any magazine internship interview you should “show your passion about business and magazines!” Kara explained that during her interview she told her Condé Nast interviewer: “I’ll work anywhere but I love Vogue, I read Vogue constantly!” This helped her get placed at her favorite magazine.

Advice from the Experienced: “A lot of people have connections, so there aren’t necessarily so many internship spots for people who don’t have connections,” Kara says. So apply to as many places as you can!

Applying through a Magazine Internship Program

While Ed2010.com is a GREAT resource, applying through an internship program is another option. Some popular programs include ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors), Condé Nast, Time Inc, and Meredith. These programs may be more structured than other magazine internships, where an assistant at the magazine is usually given the task of hiring interns. Through these programs you apply and then if accepted are placed at a magazine from there. Some of these are also paid and/or offer housing!

How to Apply: Cassie Kreitner worked at Family Circle through the ASME internship program. ASME requires that all applicants are college juniors; to apply you fill out the application form, send in a cover letter, get a supporting letter from a dean/department head/professor who personally knows you, five published clips, a photo (not used in the selection process!), plus a $25 processing fee. Her school, Syracuse University, nominated two students for the national pool, where 27 are chosen. Sadly, the deadline has already passed this year, so for those of you who will be rising seniors in Summer 2011, this is one to check out!

After you Get it: Cassie explains that once you get ASME, they send you a list of magazines to rank your choices and the magazine does the same (similar to sorority rush). This 10-week paid program (a rarity!) offers a three-day orientation and weekly lunches with panels from former ASME interns or people on the ASME Executive Board from magazines like People, Glamour, and Entertainment Weekly.

Advice from the Experienced: Cassie advises to stay involved with many “different types of media (newspaper, magazine, online, multimedia), and on-campus and off-campus publications so that you aren’t stuck in the “campus bubble. Get out of your comfort zone by taking on writing assignments that you haven’t before because it will help with your research and reporting skills.”

And while at the internship: Do everything you are asked. “You should never have down time on your internship; there is always something that can be done.” Also, make sure you aren’t too presumptuous! Cassie says, “entitlement is a huge no-no.”

Fashion Assistant at major magazine Cassie Kreitner
ASME Intern at Family Circle
Cara Sprunk, Life & Style Beauty/Editorial Intern
OK! Magazine Editorial Intern Elana Altman
TWIST Magazine Intern Danielle Schivek
Elle Magazine Intern Kara Brass
Vogue Creative Services Intern Joanna Buffum
OK! Magazine Advertising Intern Katie Sanders
Seventeen Magazine Intern

Cara Sprunk has been the Managing Editor of Her Campus since fall 2009. She is a 2010 graduate of Cornell University where she majored in American Studies with a concentration in cultural studies. At Cornell Cara served as the Assistant Editor of Red Letter Daze, the weekend supplement to the Cornell Daily Sun where she also wrote for the news and arts section and blogged about pop culture. In her free time Cara enjoys reading, shopping, going to the movies, exploring and writing.  
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