Meaghan O’Connor Teaches Us How to Follow Our Dreams

 

At an Ed2010-sponsored event last Sunday, Meaghan O’Connor, executive assistant to the editor-in-chief at Seventeen Magazine, came to speak with Hofstra students about how she got her dream job.

O’Connor went to college in Michigan, majoring in communications and English, and dreaming of moving to New York to work in the magazine industry.  She started out interning at the online magazine College Lifestyles and some small local lifestyle magazines in Michigan before scoring her big internship at Food Network Magazine.

After graduating, O’Connor quickly got an interview for her job as Ann Shoket’s assistant through connections and a kickass interview. Now she organizes the editor-in-chief’s schedule, handles the Seventeen interns, runs the Seventeen Ambassadors program, and even has her first byline being published in the upcoming May issue of the magazine.

Are you dying to know how Meaghan did it? Here are some of her best pieces of advice:

1. “Writing clips mean so much more than anything else.”

O’Connor explained that even if you are only able to get small internships, make the most of them. Find websites to write for and make sure to update your own site with links to articles that you’ve had published. She stated that a link to your website is an awesome extra thing to send to employers in a follow-up email.

2. “Connections are really important.”

The young professional found her position through connections. “I hate the word networking,” O’Connor said. “It scares me!” As scary as networking events can be, it is still important to make connections in whatever way you can. Meaghan tried to get coffee with as many junior level editors as possible. She also used social media for networking.

3. “Develop relationships and find a mentor.”

Meaghan found her mentor in Tammy Tibbetts, the founder of the national organization, She's the First. Meaghan started a chapter of the organization at her university, and through that she met and grew closer with Tibbetts. She stressed the importance of keeping close with your connections. If you check in with them every once in awhile, make sure to keep your emails five sentences or shorter. Any longer, and you will be lost in an inbox!

4. “You are your best advocate – be your brand. Own it.”

When Meaghan interviewed for her current position, she stayed true to herself. When asked the generic question, “tell me about yourself,” Meaghan went slightly off-script and spoke about her younger sisters and how she knows what teenage girls are into through them. A personal detail like that could be what scores you the big job. Employers want someone who is true to herself without coming across as arrogant. She says to know your personal brand and be direct about wanting the position.

5. “Independence is important.”

Meaghan arrived to her Seventeen interview with two suitcases and less than $1000 in her bank account. While she was taking a risk, she knew what she wanted and she had to be independent to get it. While her first apartment wasn’t her favorite, she learned to be flexible and eventually found an apartment that she really liked. Now she budgets her money just like she budgets her time – very carefully. Meaghan spoke candidly about her budget, including actual figures for her paycheck, rent, and other expenses. With her careful budgeting, she is able to live on the Upper West Side and still save six to seven hundred dollars a month, even on an entry-level paycheck.

6. “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

O’Connor works nearly 12 hours a day in Hearst tower so she emphasizes not taking yourself too seriously while at work. The magazine business is a fun business. She said, “We aren’t doctors – we can afford to have some fun.”

And possibly her best advice of all…

7. “Kick butt!”

The most important thing to get out of Meaghan’s presentation was to follow your dreams, no matter how hard they may seem to achieve. She opened up her presentation with an important quote that stuck with me. It read, “The only thing keeping you from following your dreams is your own self-doubt.” Keep this in mind, dreamers, and go out there and get the job you want!