Thursday, July 31, 2008

reader's question: is it worth moving to new york?

Q.I'm entering my last year of university and I'm considering my options for after graduation. I'm a Canadian citizen, but I'm quite drawn to moving to New York to try and build a career there, or at the very least score some good internships. Do you think it makes sense to move to New York to try to gain more experience even though there's a strong chance I might end up back in Canada if I can't find an employer willing to sponsor my work visa? Do hiring managers here tend to favour candidates with experience at Canadian publications? It seems like the opportunities available in Canada are a lot more limited than in the States, and since I've only realized quite recently that journalism is the avenue I want to pursue, I feel quite behind.

A.I think moving to New York is a great idea, but I certainly wouldn't do it just because you feel you're behind in your career or that it's something you have to do in order to get anywhere. It is tough to break into magazines in Canada since there are limited options, but the community is small and once you catch that first break, you can advance pretty rapidly. New York does offer more opportunities in terms of sheer numbers, but from what I know of the business down there, it can be just as, if not more, difficult to land that first gig. And climbing the ladder can be vicious.

Moving to New York is an option I'm keeping in the back of my mind, too, but I wouldn't go for what Toronto doesn't have – I'd go for what the NYC does have. There, I would be able to apply to the specific magazines I love, to the titles I dream of working at. Plus, I love the city. It would be an experience in itself, and that's what you should be going for.

As for how that experience will be viewed should you come back to Canada, it's unlikely to harm your career and may even put you ahead of other candidates. If a big-name US magazine is listed on your résumé, at the very least, hiring managers will notice it and perhaps spend a few more seconds looking at your application (always a good thing). Beyond that, the knowledge of how other magazines and other magazine markets and industries function, gives you a broader set of experiences from which to draw on. You'll likely have fresh ideas to bring to the table, which is always valuable in an employee.

Bottom line, move to New York because you want to be there, not because you've given up on Toronto.

Do you have a question about your editorial career? Email me at vangerwen[at]gmail[dot]com.


Briony said...

One huge issue to consider is the legality of interning in the States. From your mention of a work visa, I'd assume that you're not a "dualie". A lot of the big mags require you to be able to receive school credit, so there's the chance that it could only be an American school.

The other issue is that a lot of magazines might chuck your application outright because they don't want the hassle down the road of having to arrange and pay for a work visa (which could even be hard to justify for them, since there are a tonne of other Americans with similar qualifications beating down the door for jobs). When I was poking around for an American internship a few summers ago, I saw American internships that specifically say that only American citizens can apply.

This even includes volunteering! You'd figure that they might like whatever free temporary labor they can get, but it can be easier to just avoid the issue altogether by choosing an American candidate.

There are border issues, too. The border has actually been known to turn volunteers away at the border, so you would maybe have to lie about what you'll be doing in the States or risk being turned away. Internships especially sound an awful lot like official work to border guards who each have individual authority to turn you away. (They might also ask you for a J-1 Intern Visa.)

Unless you have a trust fund as well or parents or a partner to support you, you'd also have to get a job for during your internship. You would either have to work under the table, or get a "temporary work visa" to work a service job for that.

What I would do if you're seriously thinking about this is to contemplate consulting an immigration lawyer, and then spending a couple days in New York on informationals with Hearst, Nast HR folks and quiz them about your chances as a Canadian candidate.

Another thing to consider is timing: you mention "gaining experience" in New York. I would gain some experience and some semi-serious chops here before even trying to gain experience there. By browsing the Ed2010 forums, you'll see just how brutally hard and competitive it is to even land a job with a lower-level New York mag, let alone any of the fancies. You often hear of people with somewhat senior positions at regional mags or fancy newspapers having to start back as EAs due to the "paying your dues" feel of the industry.

By getting some beginners and even intermediate experience in Canada, you could then have a shot at an entry-level internship or EA gig if you're extraordinary. But, again, definitely check out all the legal stuff, the publishing houses' stance, and the Ed2010 horror stories to make sure it's what you really want. 'Cause if it is, you need to make sure you're 100% prepped: you'll be dealing with the same hardcore challenges as the extremely-qualified Edsters who recount their often year-long job searches, but with the added obstacle of visas, work permits, and border snafus.

Good luck!

Briony said...

Addendum to my last comment: I remembered that one of the places that doesn't hire Canadians is Vanity Fair, so you could be out of luck with Conde.

And, another way in, maybe would be to go back to school, or, if you're in school, apply for internships then. Or, best yet, apply to an American school and do internships through them. That is how the Degrassi actress got her gig at Teen Vogue.

The legal hurdles are a lot less then, I think, although the international tuition is sky-high.

Contact Corinna if you'd like my info to chat.

Marshneill said...

Thanks for the advice! I've asked Corinna for your contact info so I'll probably e-mail you soon. My plan was actually to enroll in Parson's Fashion Marketing degree and take my classes online so that I can intern during the day. Tuition is quite high, but studying at Parson's is something I've always wanted to do, so I don't mind making the investment.

I've e-mailed some HR reps already and I heard back from one at Brant publications who said that it shouldn't be a problem applying as a Canadian as long as I take care of the visa arrangements myself. I've looked into SWAP's trainee visa, so I might take that route if I don't get into Parson's. I do agree though that being enrolled in a program certainly helps. Career directors at schools like New School, NYU and Columbia seem to have great ties to the magazine industry.

Does Vanity Fair really not hire Canadians? Even though the editor-in-chief is Canadian?
That's surprising!

Anyway, thanks again for your advice. The legal issues and obstacles are definitely worth considering.