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Career Advice for Aspiring Media Professionals From 3 Who Are Killing the Game

As the end of the semester nears amid the chaos of finals, I can’t help but reflect on the last four months. From an educational standpoint, I cannot wait for this semester to finally be over. But from a professional standpoint, I have had the best semester of my college career, hands down. What really made the difference was an on-campus organization called the Florida Magazine Student Association. I got the chance to become president, and all kinds of doors opened for me. Among them was the opportunity to interview inspiring media professionals through Q&A style video calls for our general body meetings. In these interviews, we learn all kinds of invaluable information about working in the magazine industry and media as a whole. Here are three pieces of advice and industry insight from some of my favorite interviews of the semester for every aspiring media professional and my takeaways. 

Gena Kaufman, Director of Social Media at Vogue: Don’t let the haters get in the way.

According to Kaufman, the most difficult part of working in social media is the pressure and of course, the ‘mean people.’ When a story breaks, everyone has to jump on it immediately. But this can make it difficult to disconnect at times. In an ever-changing industry in the digital-age, it’s a 24/7 job. There will always be people who take issue with your brand, what you stand for or anything that may encompass. People usually take issue with Vogue’s stance on politics, according to Kaufman.

“People hate when we [Vogue] comment on politics. But anyone who understands it knows that fashion is a part of culture, and culture is a part of politics,” said Kaufman. “We have to walk the line of what’s appropriate for our brand and what’s not. But I don’t think you can work in women’s media in this climate and not comment on politics.”

But despite the hate, Vogue carries on. A publication can’t censor itself because of the fear of readers or followers disagreeing. In media, there will always be a following. For every person that takes issue with your words, there will be someone to support it. Just like Vogue, you have to keep going and do what you were supposed to do.

Bernie Zilio, TooFab Editor & TMZ regular: Showcase your personality in all that you do.

When Zilio was a junior in college studying telecommunications at the University of Florida, she applied for an internship at TMZ. It was between her and another candidate, and ultimately TMZ went with the other candidate because she was already stationed in California. But Zilio kept in touch. She did not let the rejection get to her and kept in touch with them until she graduated nearly a year later. She applied again and got it. After her internship she became a production assistant. Once she was there, it was standard assistant work –– grabbing coffee, running errands and the works. She worked endlessly until a position at TooFab, a sister-company of TMZ, opened up. She got the position but didn’t leave the TMZ office for long. She was then offered a position to be a regular on TMZ, the show.

Zilio believes it was not only hard work and accomplishments on paper that got her to where she is not, but her persistence and personality.

“Your personality goes a very long way,” Zilio said. “In this industry, GPA doesn’t necessarily matter as much. It’s about showing who you are.”

They loved her, not just her work. Zilio says that the biggest things you could do for yourself are show passion, authenticity and dedication. These things are what will separate you from any other applicant, regardless of position.

Kristina Rodulfo, Senior Beauty Editor at Elle.com: Prove why you’re the one for the job.

There are no original ideas in beauty, according to Rodulfo. That’s why when it comes to pitching, if you want your work to sell you have to prove why you are the one that will do it best.

“If it’s a story that I or my staff could have done, then any of us should write it,” Rodulfo says, about pitches she receives. When pitching, you have to ask yourself three questions.

  • Why now?
  • How has it been done before?
  • What makes this special?

But I think this could be said about nearly anything in media. In the digital age, nearly everything has been done before, and is already online to prove it. The same could be said about you in your career. What makes you special for this job? Why should you be the one to do it? You have to prove that you are the best person to complete the work, whether pitching, applying for a job or doing anything in this day and age.

No matter what career you hope to go into, the advice from these three women will apply. You will always have to prove yourself. You will always have to show why you’re the best one for the job. You will always have to show what makes you different. You must work toward your goals without fear of what may stop you on the way.

Carolina is a third-year journalism major at the University of Florida. After graduation, she plans to reunite with her one true love— New York City. NYC bound, Carolina hopes to, one day, work for one of Hearst’s many magazine publications (*cough, cough* ELLE or Cosmo. She’s honestly not picky; she just wants to be employed) as a Social Media Director. In her rare free time, you can either find her in second-home and first love, Orlando, Florida, or running around town looking for something to write about. 
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