What was your first entry-level job or internship in your field and how did you get it?
Lara Parker: That’s a hard question because I didn’t actually have internships for writing. I started out in communications and public relations, so my first internship was with a tech company doing social media and writing blogs, so I guess that kind of works. It was a really fun company, but I was writing about things that were hard to get excited about because it was tech-related. I can’t even remember the terms at this point—that’s how long it’s been and how much it’s stuck with me. I was writing a lot of blog posts and I would always try to insert humor and make it funny. That’s when I started being like, hey, writing can be fun. So when I graduated from college, I was waiting to go to grad school—I had been accepted to a school in London—and I was having some health issues so I was just kind of at home for nine months, and I was working as a PR assistant at an agency but in my free time, I was freelancing and blogging.
How did you figure out you wanted to do something different, like write for BuzzFeed?
LP: I was spending a lot of my time reading BuzzFeed and I used to post on the community page at work. I was like, “This is really bad, I shouldn’t be doing this at work,” and it dawned on me that oh, BuzzFeed’s a company—why don’t I work there?
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
LP: Now as an editor at BuzzFeed, I manage three writers, so my typical day a lot of the time is looking at posts and giving feedback, coming up with new ways to talk about things, trying to brainstorm. I can’t say every day is the same thing because there’s always some crazy thing happening on the Internet, but it’s just being on Twitter a lot and seeing what people are talking about, checking Facebook and thinking about ways to talk about things. A lot of it is just having conversations with my co-workers—like, oh this thing bothers you too? Maybe this is a post-type thing. It’s not as exciting as it seems!
What is the best part of your job?
LP: It has to be the people I work with. I work with incredibly smart, talented people. It makes it really fun to bounce ideas off of each other, and just being able to talk to each other about things that I care about—it’s fun. And I like being on the Internet all the time.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
LP: I wish I would’ve known how vicious people can be—and by people, generally I mean people that read and comment on your articles. Everyone always says not to read the comments on your articles, but when you’re not a writer, that’s easy to say. When you’ve written the article and it’s about something that’s happened to you or is attached to you personally, reading something that may not seem super mean to someone else can affect you in a whole different way. It’s just good practice to take it with a grain of salt and just kind of avoid that in a lot of ways.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
LP: My old internship boss and dear friend, Breena Fain. She taught me how to see my worth, how to make others see it, and how to ask for what I deserve. It’s incredibly important for women to know how to do these things in any career field, but especially media.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
LP: Honestly, not being able to see my worth. It’s a big, big mistake when you allow others to determine your worth. You cannot rely on others to determine how you feel about yourself. You have to find that within, and you have to always be on your own side. I wasn’t for a long time. And I wish I could go back and change that. But all I can do is be better now. I repeat: Always be on your own side.
What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?
LP: There was a moment when I was back home in Indiana, which is where I grew up. I was in Target there, and at BuzzFeed, I write a lot about Target because I love it. I mean, who doesn’t? I was in a video actually about thoughts every woman has at Target. It went all over Facebook. So, I was in this Target at home that I had always gone to in high school and college, and this girl recognized me and was like, “Hey! You’re the girl from the BuzzFeed Target video.” I was like, “Yes, I am!” It was just this moment where I was like, “Holy shit.” Not only is someone recognizing me, but it was in my home, this place I always go back to. It was super surreal.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
LP: There’s this quote that I always go back to, and it’s kind of lame because it’s on Pinterest or whatever, but it’s, “If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.” It’s kind of cliche that everyone’s always like, “Follow your dreams!” and I hate adding to that cliché, but also I really, truly believe that. That doesn’t mean if you want to be a movie star, starring in some 20 million dollar blockbuster that you’re going to see it tomorrow—but take steps every day to get on the right path to your dreams. Like, if you want to be a writer at BuzzFeed, start by freelancing, writing on the community page, start following the writers and seeing what they do—that type of stuff. Doing something small every day—that’s how you get closer to your dreams even if your dream is still really far away.