Five days after graduating from Mizzou, Taryn Wood moved to New York City. Her impulsive relocation paid off. She now works as a web producer for Glamour.com. Taryn grew up in St. Louis and received her Bachelor’s degree in magazine design in 2008. She returned to Mizzou the following year for her Master’s. Taryn spoke to Her Campus Mizzou about her experiences in the magazine industry and offered career tips to us collegiettes™.
Her Campus Mizzou: How did you get into journalism?
Taryn Wood: I knew right away that I wanted to do journalism. So, I started working on the Maneater for MOVE. Then my second year, I got involved in the Missourian and eventually Vox when I was a junior. I was a designer at Vox when I was in my capstone, and then I was the art director. I worked on a couple other projects and prototype magazines for capstones. I interned at Missouri Theatre for a semester. I found random ways of getting involved in design on campus.
HCM: How did you know that design was what you wanted to do?
TW: I always knew that I wanted to be in magazines, and I really didn’t enjoy writing. I like editing a lot, but you definitely have to be a writer before you can be an editor. It didn’t seem like a career path I would enjoy as much. Design is more of a niche area. Once you get in, there are a lot of jobs and a lot of ways to go with that. I felt like it would be a good career move, and it was what I enjoyed the most, too.
HCM: What advice would you give to Her Campus Mizzou readers who want to secure internships and stand out when searching for jobs?
TW: Internships are definitely the way to go. There are always a lot of things to do on campus, but internships are the experience that matters to people in the industry. So that’s definitely the number one suggestion. Figure out what type of publication you would want to work for, and then just apply to as many as you can.
HCM: Is that what you did? You worked for People and now Glamour. Those are huge national magazines. How did you get those gigs?
TW: I interned at St. Louis magazine first. It’s almost easier to go to your hometown and intern there freshman summer and sophomore summer at least. Then try to get national magazines your last two years. So those first two summers I was lazier and didn’t apply to any of the larger programs. I took a shot in the dark and applied for the Time Inc. corporate internship program in 2009. I applied way early in November and thought, ‘Oh, there’s no way I’m going to get that.’ I sent them a piece-of-crap application. I got a call in February, and they were like, ‘Do you want to intern at People?’ There was no interview, nothing. They just offered. I don’t really know what happened to give me that position, but it was obviously really great. I met a couple of alumni at People. So making those kind of contacts is really important. Seek out contacts from Mizzou.
HCM: So use the Mizzou Mafia?
TW: Yes. But not the listserv! It’s really hard to get a personal relationship going from that. Just really research. Any time I apply for a job, I do all the research of looking at every single staff member at that magazine and see who went to Mizzou. I e-mail them directly as well.
HCM: What are some skills that you think a magazine designer should have?
TW: Really you just have to be willing to work hard. It sounds really cliché, but just be willing to put in extra effort. One of my coworkers is one of the most outstanding editorial assistants at Glamour. She has the best attitude and is one of the most fun people to work with. I think that’s really what sets her apart.
For designers, specifically, it’s having a diverse portfolio. It’s hard to do early in your career. Just make sure that you as a designer have your own personal style so that employers can see how you would be in the job environment as well.
Be willing to edit your portfolio and make it dynamic. Say you really want to work at a food magazine, and you have a ton of food clips, and those are your best clips. If you’re applying for a job at a tech magazine, you need to be able to substitute in really quickly things that are applicable to a tech magazine. A lot of people aren’t willing to budge on that, but you have to be willing to move things around and get rid of favorites in order to show something different to an employer.
HCM: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on?
TW: Some of my favorite projects were when we did special issues at Vox. We had a lot of advance planning and did more out-of-the-box stuff. At Glamour, some of my favorite stuff that we do is during fashion week. We do a lot of online coverage. The monthly magazine can’t do a lot of fashion coverage because it’s all so old by the time the issue actually comes out. The Web site is what really gets the action from fashion week. We do daily home page changes when normally we wouldn’t. We do daily photo selects from the show the day before. That’s really fun for me to do.
HCM: Does it ever get overwhelming?
TW: My job right now is mostly Web production work and then some design. We’re used to a really quick turnaround. Sometimes we have to put an article out there in 30 minutes, and sometimes it will be done in 15 minutes. It’s not really overwhelming because I’m used to a weekly deadline. I’ve done magazine covers in an hour before. It can be really stressful when there are large PR launches for issues, or we’re launching a new product and have large amounts of work culminating for one day.
HCM: Do you feel like the magazine industry is doing well?
TW: The magazines are fine. They obviously need to evolve, and a lot of them are realizing they have to invest more effort and time and resources into their Web site and digital presence. Pretty much all the major magazines are doing that. It’s not there yet, but it’s not like they’re planning to downsize their departments. Everything is still full speed ahead with the print publication. They’re just evolving with how they treat the Web.
HCM: When did you make the move to New York City? Right after graduation?
TW: I did. I can tell you my stupid decisions that I made before I moved here. Basically, I had been planning to move to New York, but I wasn’t planning on moving right after graduation because A: I had been applying for jobs since November of the year before and B: I told myself I couldn’t move without a job. That would be ridiculous. So, I was offered an unpaid internship at Redbook over the summer. I accepted. This was my excuse to move to New York. I moved up five days after graduation. A job was posted at Real Simple that I wanted, so I went in and interviewed twice during the first week I was here. I had contact with an alumni the last year when I was at People, and he had suggested I check in with this guy at Glamour. I e-mailed him at home and said I was planning to move to New York. And this is all with that unpaid internship, which wouldn’t have supported me at all. I asked if he wanted to have an informational interview. So literally I moved on a Tuesday, went in and met with this guy on a Friday. I just went to meet with him. I didn’t think he had anything open, but he ended up offering me the job on the spot.
HCM: Wow. What was your reaction to that?
TW: It was completely insane. It totally saved my life because my fiancé’s job ended up taking way longer to transfer, and I would have never gotten transferred with my part-time job. We would have been here with no jobs. It would have been a complete mess. I was saved. Again, it’s the whole networking thing and the alumni who saved me.
HCM: What do you say to college students who are about to graduate and want to just move to New York City?
TW: They better have a lot of contacts and a lot of informational interviews set up right for when they get here. They need to have several months’ rent and living expenses saved up if they want to make it. Or they need to be able to get a part-time job within a week, and do that until you can find something. Rent is so expensive, and you won’t be approved for an apartment without a job. My best advice is to just make sure you have a bunch of money saved and can live on very little money. Be really creative with that kind of thing. Try to make a lot of contacts. Ask professors if they know anyone in New York. E-mail those people and say, ‘Hey, I’m moving to New York. Do you have anything open? Can we chat?’ And everyone has friends in New York, too.
HCM: What would you say to someone like me who wants to work at a magazine and has Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn? Should I be blogging or tweeting all the time?
TW: Social media is great. I think that you never know which aspects of social media are going to help you in interviews. Definitely make sure everything is protected. You also need to make sure there’s nothing you’d be embarrassed to show if they ask to see your profile. If you want to be a writer, you definitely need to have a blog. Make sure that you’re just blogging and writing for yourself. Try to gather followers. Tweet links to your blog so you’ll gather a following. You need to make sure it has a specific angle and a nice design. You have to have a gimmick. My friend who writes a food blog does Southern recipes with a health twist, so he angles it that way. Make sure that it’s really targeted and reflective of what you like to write about so it’s not a chore, and you can put up a lot of content.
HCM: What is your favorite part about working in the journalism industry as a magazine designer?
TW: There are so many things. I personally am a designer, but I’m one of those secret editors, too. Being really immersed in the magazine industry is probably my favorite part because I can have my 12 magazine subscriptions, and it’s all research. I can read all these magazines and look at them and really delve into what they’re doing. I’m the most interested in magazine covers; that’s what I wrote my Master’s thesis on. I’m really interested in how magazine covers do. It’s just about being aware of what’s going on in the industry and taking inspiration from all the sources that we have. There’s so much going on. It’s fast-paced and fun.
HCM: Where do you see yourself five or 10 years from now? If you could do anything in the magazine industry, what would that be?
TW: Ideally, in 10 years, I would be at an associate level. Realistically, an associate art director at a national publication here. If it’s a weekly magazine, that’s even better because I prefer the pace of that. Any magazine that’s doing innovative design. A lot of people really want to stick to doing innovative and cutting-edge magazine design, but that’s not necessarily what makes money. Personally, I’m more orientated at doing design that makes money. You can’t just be doing all this great design and there’s no outlet for it. Working at a magazine that’s fiscally successful, and we’re doing good things on the design side, too, would be my perfect situation.
HCM: And then eventually would you want to be the graphics director?
TW: Yes; the creative director or design director. It takes a long time, and a lot of people leaving college, especially leaving Mizzou, feel really entitled and feel like they don’t have to pay their dues. Just give it time. Be patient and really work within the position; you have to make the most out of it. Also, be aware of other opportunities that are out there, so you can make a move if you want to.
HCM: That sounds like great advice. Is there anything else you want Her Campus Mizzou readers to know?
TW: Don’t limit yourself in your job search. You really should be open to a lot of different options, but also be realistic. If you don’t know how to use a cell phone, then don’t apply to a tech magazine. Being really open and agile in your search is one of the most important things.