Meet Samantha Olson; a Her Campus contributor turned editorial assistant for Seventeen magazine. That’s right, the Seventeen. Olson earned her BA in Journalism from the University of Central Florida in 2020 and has since kept busy. As an undergrad, she wrote and edited articles for the UCF chapter of Her Campus. Nowadays, you can find her publishing digital stories on Seventeen’s site and living her best life in NYC. In her spare time, Olson helps oversee Shifter Magazine, a collective space for queer people, people of color, outcasts and rule-breakers.
After interning for Shifter last spring, I had the pleasure of sitting down and catching up with Olson. I asked her all about her journey from college student to certified girl boss. If you want to write for a magazine someday, or if you’d like to hear her story, read on.
why did you decide to join her campus back in 2017?
Samantha Olson: I decided to join Her Campus because I always just wanted to write and be part of a publication. In high school, we didn’t have a school paper or anything. I was part of my yearbook, which is like the closest thing you can get. But once I got to college, I started classes online during the summer. I got a head start in the writing and editorial department because of my mom, actually.
She was looking on the UCF parents page or one of those groups on Facebook, and the Her Campus president at the time, Jillian, posted the applications and my mom saw it. And she was like, “Hey, you should apply for this.” So, I did. And I heard back almost instantly that I got in. It was much, much different back then cause we had way fewer people. I started out as a writer and I worked my way up to become Senior Editor. At the time, we didn’t have an editing team; it was just the editor-in-chief and the senior editor. By the time I was about to graduate, they opened a new position for me because they didn’t want me to not be on the exec team. So I stuck around and I loved every moment of it.
We have to talk about Shifter. For those who don’t know, what is Shifter and how did you become COO?
SO: Shifter is an online magazine that my best friend, Victor, started last year. It’s a project that means a lot to us and our communities and the LGBTQ+ community as well. The publication is a safe haven for the underdogs who always felt like they didn’t belong or those who constantly have to fight harder just to be who they are. At Shifter, you don’t have to fight. We’re here and we see you and we love you for who you are, whether you write or do photography or whatever you do. We welcome any submissions or types of art because we are such believers in people and their craft. Shifter has changed the way I see media in a way because it’s a totally different thing than anything else I’ve been a part of.
I met Victor in the fall of 2018 when he joined Her Campus. One of the first times we hung out was after a Her Campus event, and he just presented me with the idea. It was called “Shape-Shifter” at the time, and he showed me this Instagram feed of different pictures. And he was like, “I really wanna make this a magazine.” But it wasn’t until 2020, in the beginning of quarantine with the COVID pandemic, that it became a reality. He called me one day and asked me, “Do you want to actually do this? ‘Cause I do. And I think now would be like a really good time.” I was like, “Yeah, screw it. I want to do this. I want to be part of this.” So he chose me as a business partner, which I never thought I would ever run a business in my life.
Congrats on your new full-time position at Seventeen! What’s your favorite thing that you’ve done so far?
SO: There’s a lot of good stuff we’ve done that I’m very proud of. And I’ve only been here for such a short amount of time. Right now, I would say my favorite thing was a story I put out during pride month. It was a story about these teens who are part of this organization called The GenderCool Project. And they teamed up with A Kid’s Book About to write children’s books about LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Like what it means to be non-binary or trans. When sensitive topics like gender identity are presented in a fun and engaging way, it’s easier for kids to digest. But it’s so important because these topics touch people’s lives from a young age.
The fact that these teenagers wrote these books as teenagers is the coolest thing in the world. And I just lit up talking about this because I love what they have done. I interviewed two of the authors, Gia and Hunter. Both of them were so sweet. Hunter wrote the book about being non-binary and then Gia wrote the book about being trans. I love hearing from people from our generation. Like we know what we want and we go for it and don’t take no for an answer. These kids are doing what they can, as they are to make change in this world. And that’s probably one of my favorite stories that I’ve ever written.
There’s a whole section on our website called “Voices of Change.” It’s about teenagers who are just doing the thing. I highly recommend that everyone check that out because you’ll leave our site feeling so inspired because of all the amazing things these people do.
What’s your secret for success? What do you think has helped you the most get you to where you are and keep you going?
SO: Oh my God. So not to be like that person, but I don’t think there is a secret to success because it’s different for everyone. But for me, I guess what got me there was just staying true to myself. That’s so corny, but like, it’s so true because if I ever lost sight of myself, I don’t think things would’ve gone the way they have. I wouldn’t have met the people I’ve connected with or connected with them in the ways that I did.
When you tap into your emotions, when you’re writing a piece, ask yourself if you’re proud to put your name on what you’re putting out — even if it’s not necessarily about you. Staying true to yourself and trusting your gut is a big thing, too, because there are some times where you are given these opportunities and you wonder if you should take them. Even the smallest of things like where I should intern was a huge thing for me. I built up my resume and now I’m writing for Seventeen.
“Whatever you’re doing, whatever experience you’re going through right now, you only get what you put into it.”Samantha Olson
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in magazine publishing?
SO: Read a lot. I learned that at Nicolson, UCF’s School of Communication and Media. I literally credit almost everything I know to Professor Brunson. That’s my journalism dad. He taught me to read all the time and the way to do it is to read what you’re interested in doing. Write a lot, too. Write for Her Campus, write in your spare time. Not to quote Hamilton, but “write like you’re running out of time.”
When it comes to breaking into the industry, read a lot, write a lot and don’t be afraid to network. Connect with others, whether it’s on LinkedIn or Twitter. It’s very easy in the editorial world because we all have been there and we all know what it’s like. And it doesn’t have to be people within your publisher or your brand. I follow people who work at Elle and GQ, not just Seventeen. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Whatever you’re doing, whatever experience you’re going through right now, you only get what you put into it. For example, when I was at Her Campus, I put everything into it and I had so much fun while I was doing it. And that’s so important, having fun. So you work, you’re kind to people, you form genuine connections, you read and you write and you study what other people are writing. That’s the best way to do it.
I don’t know about you, but after hearing from Sam, I feel like my dreams are within reach. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up writing for a magazine one day too.