How She Got There: Elizabeth Wagmeister, Editorial Assistant at TV Guide Magazine

Name: Elizabeth Wagmeister
Age: 23
Job Title and Description: Editorial Assistant at TV Guide Magazine
College/Major: University of California, Santa Barbara/Communication
Website: www.tvguide.com/authors/elizabeth-wagmeister/
Twitter Handle: @TVGMElizabeth

 
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Elizabeth Wagmeister: Though I have both daily and weekly responsibilities, there is no such thing as a typical day. On a weekly basis, I close front-of-book pages, including the table of contents and masthead, and on a daily basis, and assist our President/Editor In-Chief Debra Birnbaum as well as our editorial staff. Every morning begins with our news meeting, but my day never comes to an end without a unique experience. Most of the time, I am in the office working on my pages, writing a highlight, prepping for an online Q&A, creating pitch lists for editors, pulling archives from the library (ads from the 1970's are HILARIOUS), or communicating with network publicists to set up my next story. But other days have me [covering] The Carrie Diaries red carpet, on the phone with a Real Housewife, live-tweeting a panel, or deep-sea fishing with the cast of Wicked Tuna (true story)! I also hire and manage our rotating staff of editorial interns, [and] I supervise their projects to make sure that they are enjoying their work. And yes, I do watch TV at my desk.

What is the best part of your job?

EW: The best part about my job is being able to learn through observation. At TV Guide Magazine, I am surrounded by some of entertainment's most respected journalists, editors, and critics. I feel fortunate to be in a workplace where I can learn so much just by listening and interacting. When I am out on location, I feel the same way. Shadowing my superiors on TV sets, moderating panels, or just mingling with the bigwigs of the industry has taught me how to carry myself when I am presented with these experiences. It’s exciting to be able to take on new opportunities, and I'm lucky that my job presents them all the time.

You had so many internships in college! How do you think your internships helped you snag your job at TV Guide Magazine?

EW: My internships were crucial to snagging my first job. Without the work experience and network of contacts that I built at FOX 11 News, Good Day LA, Santa Barbara Magazine, the Associated Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), UC Santa Barbara's student newspaper, and Her Campus, I would have not been ready to become an EA in this competitive industry. Of course, interning at TV Guide Magazine didn't hurt either! I first joined the TV Guide team as an ASME intern the summer before my senior year. I always knew that I wanted to work in entertainment journalism, but that particular internship made me fall in love with magazine publishing and reporting. Besides gaining resume-boosters and invaluable hands-on experience, internships also enable you to learn what you like and do not like—both are equally important.

You used to be a Campus Correspondent for Her Campus! What are some valuable lessons that you learned while on the HC team?

EW: Working for Her Campus was my first entry into journalism. I launched UC Santa Barbara's branch right when the company was established during my sophomore year (we were one of the first 10 universities on board), and I continued as the Campus Correspondent until my graduation in 2012. I always had a passion for writing, but pushing out content on a daily basis taught me to write to the voice of the reader, work on deadline, and create innovative ideas with a team. I learned to publish content on an online platform, which included posting and formatting all stories. I also gained experience in managing a team, which I believe, helps me coordinate TV Guide Magazine's interns today. In shorter terms: if you're looking for journalism experience in college, work for Her Campus!

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

EW: I always find myself thinking about the future, and wishing that I had a fortuneteller to clue me in on where I may be in 20 years. But I've realized that the most exciting part [of magazines] is the ever-changing nature and dynamic force behind the business. There are so many random opportunities to jump at, and you never know what experience will lead you to the next. If I hadn't worked for Her Campus, I would have never found out about the ASME Summer Internship Program; if I hadn't applied to ASME, I would not have been selected to intern at TV Guide Magazine; and if I didn't intern at TV Guide, I most likely would not have my job today. Your twenties are supposed to be full of uncertainly and exploration (at least that's what I keep telling myself)!

What’s one thing you learned about the entertainment industry by working at TV Guide Magazine?

EW: A journalist's job is to get the story—not to be the story! The entertainment industry is infamous for big egos, but I've seen the complete opposite at TV Guide Magazine. Through example, I am constantly reminded that there is no better way to gain respect (and readers) than by doing your job well, and with a smile. Hard work and a positive attitude will take you far in this industry.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

EW: My mom. Growing up, both of my parents worked full-time, so I learned the importance of having my own career. In my hometown, most of my friends had stay-at-home moms, but I always had an example of a working woman who could do it all—my mom is a top executive in the field of education with a doctorate degree! My mom taught me that while financial independence is important, having your own career (if you choose to do so) gives you so much more than just monetary means—it gives you your own identity, and makes you an all-around impressive and multi-dimensional woman. With this pervasive example, I was taught to have strong work ethic, which I will carry with me forever.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

EW: My mentor and boss, Debra Birnbaum, once said, "Always do the job you were hired for," and I have never forgotten these words. It's a simple statement and concept, but so easy to lose sight of, especially if you are a go-getter. In the magazine industry, there is a lot of opportunity for everyone, including interns and assistants, which is fantastic. However, no matter how awesome your biggest project is, nothing is more important than the tasks that are expected of you. If you were hired to manage administrative tasks, make sure to do that with the utmost quality, and also acknowledge its importance. Your boss will take notice of your attention to detail, and once you've instilled their trust, all of the other opportunities will come your way. Along those lines, make sure that no task is ever too big or too small for you. Never say no.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

EW: Enthusiasm. I do not necessarily believe that a stacked resume is essential to be considered as a potential intern because everyone has to start somewhere, and internships are the place to do that. Applications that stand out to me are personally tailored to TV Guide Magazine (hint: the easiest way to weed out an application is if it's addressed to the wrong magazine), and should also demonstrate the student's interest and knowledge of entertainment. Of course, a sense of professionalism has to come across, but showing your TV know-how and pop culture passion can, and should, be fun.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

EW: I am a 20-something, so I don't know if I should answer this question! But based off of my experience, I've discovered that building strong relationships and keeping in touch with your contacts is key. As cliché as it sounds, networking is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door for an internship or a job, and also helps your working relationships, because everybody knows everybody in this industry. Just because an internship is over doesn't mean your bond with a co-worker has to end. Make a good impression, and they will remember you.

That being said, relationships may help to land an interview, but not the job. You are the only person who can convince a potential boss that you're the best person to hire, which comes down to experience. Always be proactive in finding new opportunities and work experience for yourself. I once interned at a heavy rock radio station at 4:00 a.m. before class in college—I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I worked hard and it taught me that I definitely didn’t want to be a DJ!

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