Thursday, December 30, 2010

Archiving Your Career

I'm going through the dual process right now of building a portfolio website for myself, as well as rearranging my office – both of which require me to go through my archives. It seems to be an apt time of year to engage in self-reflective activities, you know, as everyone is in the mood to look back at the year that was.

I have rediscovered that I tend to keep multiple copies (as much as seven!) of each issue that I've worked on. And I'm inclined to think that I'm not the only one.

I'm curious: how do you track and archive your past work? Do you keep every issue? Do you tear out or scan just the stories that you've written? Do you keep a list of everything you've ever worked on? Do you keep only the work of which you are most proud? Do you organize it by subject, year or publication? What about those of you with 20+ years in the biz? Have you changed what you choose to keep?

I'm interested in the nitty-gritty details. Please share!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Less is More, Even on Resumés

You know that old adage Less is More? Well, it stands true even for resumés, as I was reminded by venture capitalist Mark Suster on his blog Both Sides of the Table.

You have only a few seconds to catch the eye of a potential employer as he skims over your resumé; he has a whole pile to get through and isn't likely to spend much longer on your CV unless he sees something interesting. "So the problem is that if you have a few outstanding achievements they get lost in the sea of all the other shite you put in as fillers to make it look like you did a lot more," says Suster. "Many people feel the need to tell the reader everything they worked on rather than the 3 biggest accomplishments. I always advise people to only put the things that had the biggest impact to maximize the chance that they’ll actually be seen."

So the next time you're polishing your resumé, do the job you're good at: edit!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Atlantic's Rules for Making a Good Publication

There are some basics to editing and creating a good magazine that are timeless, and still apply even as magazines are expanding beyond paper. Posted on is a copy of 12 Timeless Rules that have been pinned up in the Atlantic's office for a long time. (Go to the link if the image above is too small.)

Included in the list is a pointer that I think all editors should follow: "Don't over-edit." This is particularly a habit of newer editors, I find, as well as ones who wish they were writers. I over-edited when I first started, in part because I felt as if I had to do something to a manuscript to prove I was doing my job. And sometimes when you struggle with a passage, it helps to erase all your editing marks and start over – you may just be overcomplicating things.

I'm curious to know how many magazines out there have their own version of rules that its editors should follow. Do you have a list pinned up by your desk, or perhaps a mission statement? Do you look at it often, revisit it when you need help making a decision about a story? Let me know in the comments, even perhaps share some of your more favourite rules.

Hat tip to Kevin Spurgaitis (Twitter feed)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Behind the Scenes at an Interior Design Photo Shoot

While those in the art department are usually the ones heading out to photo shoots, spending a day on set is part of the job description for many editors, too. I always enjoy being on a shoot; besides it being a chance to get away from your desk, the amount of work that goes into getting that perfect shot still fascinates me. If you're interested in how photographers get the perfect interior shot and why sometimes they need to curl up in a sink or climb onto the roof, check out HGTV's Design Happens blog. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fill-in-the-blank Rejection Letter

I think every editor would love to use a rejection letter like this at times:
Via @graphicologycom

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What It's Like to be a Beauty Editor

For all those beauty editor hopefuls out there, there's an excellent post on that dishes on what the job is really like. Here are a few highlights, but I strongly urge you to read the full post, plus comments:

Being a beauty editor is about the writing. "One of the biggest misconceptions about beauty editing as a job is that you need to be a beauty expert to break in. ... Beauty editors are editors first, and beauty experts second."

Writing about beauty products is not as easy as it looks. "If you think it’s easy being able to write about the 23rd mascara launch of the year in a fresh, engaging, compelling way, think again."

If you're an intern, drop the attitude. "It really can make or break you as an intern. I cannot stress enough that you should treat your internship as a JOB: show up on time, be polite and professional, and most importantly, be proactive in asking your editor what you can do to make her life easier."

Hat tip to Kat Tancock.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson Applies for a Job

As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.

– From a letter of application submitted by Hunter S. Thompson to the Vancouver Sun. Read Thompson's entire application letter in the Ottawa Citizen

Via @FlyontheWall_10.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ask Them to Stay

Managers, this one's for you:

If an employee gives you his resignation notice and you don't want him to leave, ask him to stay. Ask him what you could do to get him to stay. He may not be 100 percent set on leaving.

Judging from numerous conversations I've had with colleagues, I think a lot of people leave a job not because they hate it but because they're bored, feel under-utilized or just want a change. If you think they're a valuable member of the team and not worth losing, maybe you can offer them that change or new challenge that they need.

All it might take to get an employee to stay might be to put him in charge of a new section, have him edit different types of stories or let him get more involved in web editorial. Maybe a small raise or title change (if merited), or a few extra vacation days will do it.

It takes money and energy to hire and train new employees, so why not put some energy into fighting to keep the ones you have?

Likewise, employees: Consider having a conversation with your boss about what would make you happier in your job before you decide to jump ship.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anna Wintour on Fashion Blogs & the Internet

Like any evolution in the industry, they force you to become better at what you do. Vogue’s in-depth articles and beautiful fashion stories, along with coverage of the arts within a fashion context, is not something that exists in the same way on blogs. They force us to dig deeper for stories, but we’re not competitors; we serve different markets. ...

Every medium serves a great purpose to reach our readers. It’s not about forcing how we choose to present our stories into the same mold. It’s about seeing how our readers interact with each medium, and what we feel each medium has to offer the reader.
— Anna Wintour on how fashion blogs have affected magazine content and whether photography and fashion editorials can exist on the Internet, in an interview with Opening Ceremony.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

how not to write a resignation letter

When quitting a job that one hates, it can be tempting to write a nasty resignation letter. This one, posted on Why We Need HR, listed off a slew of offences committed by the company.

My decision to leave the company was not made in haste. There are many contributing factors that have led to my resignation. ...
Our publications are so inflated with brochures that no reader would realistically read it in its entirety. But that seems to be okay with everyone. In fact, it’s a running joke that no one reads the magazines. As a writer, you can imagine why this is inherently offensive. ...
It often puzzled me why an Editor in Chief wouldn’t get on board with a passion for quality, but it is apparent, Lisa, that your editing skills are quite basic (e.g. missing commas, uncertainty of semicolon and em-dash rules). As for management, you have not demonstrated leadership; you have shown what it is to be a ‘yes’ person. ...
The letter also includes grievances of harassment:
The lack of boundaries within the company is staggering. Policies are wholly ineffective when the president is the guiltiest and the least accountable to following them. I’m referring to you, Brutus, and your continued belief that the office is your personal playground. Unsolicited comments about women’s attire, sexual innuendos, unwelcome touching, and invasion of personal space are a few examples. ...

To be clear, when I said I believed in Magazine C, I wasn’t lying. I still believe that the magazine has potential, especially in light of the digital age. The difference is I no longer believe it will result in anything valuable under the current business model and the current management. ...
My resignation is effective today. I know two weeks is a standard professional courtesy, but I don’t feel the need to extend something that wasn’t offered to me. ... 

As much as you may want to write a letter like this, I very strongly urge you to think very long and very hard before you do.

The Canadian publishing industry is incredibly small, and you never know who your boss knows. Burning a bridge like this could result in many other burned bridges. Beware that you may be cutting yourself off from future opportunities.

It also can have some unforseen consequences. As the author of the blog learned, some of her ex-coworkers were starting to feel the heat.

For issues such as harassment, seek legal avenues such a labour board complaints. Write that nasty resignation letter if you must; just think twice before you submit it to your boss.

Monday, July 26, 2010

you have to stand out

If you make it to the interview stage in your job hunt (congratulations!), one of your biggest challenges is going to be standing out from the other candidates (in a good way, of course). Because the horrible truth is, if the interviewer can't remember much about you, you're going to get a "thanks but no thanks."

So how do you stand out?

That's a hard question to answer, but here are some general principles:
  • Be personable. (Smile!)
  • Be confidant. (A firm handshake, eye contact, no mumbling.)
  • Talk about yourself. (Seriously. I have interviewed people who barely talk.)
  • Show genuine interest. (Again, eye contact.)
  • Ask questions. (You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you; this is your chance to determine if this is in fact the job you want. Oh, and it shows that you're interested.)
Any other tips?

Monday, July 19, 2010

do you put twitter on your resumé?

On a standard resumé, you list your phone number, mailing address and email address, but you might want to consider also including your blog, website and Twitter handle too. Depending on what job you're applying to – say web editor – it's becoming more important to  demonstrate your knowledge of social media and other web tools.

Use with caution, though. If you regularly tweet about things you wouldn't want an employer to know about you, don't include it. If your blog is about cute kittens, it might not be relevant. But if it strengthens your case for being an in-the-know editor, it might be a good idea.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

$6 bought Alec Brownstein a shot at his dream job

On the hunt for his dream job, copywriter Alec Brownstein purchased the names of his favourite creative directors on Google AdWords.
Whenever someone ran a search for one of the creative directors' names, the following message appeared at the top of the page: "Hey, [creative director's name]: Goooogling [sic] yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too" with a link to Brownstein's website,
According to, the $6 campaign netted calls from all but one of the creative directors Brownstein targeted, two job offers, and two advertising awards.

Just goes to show you that a little ingenuity may be all you need to put your name in front of the right people.

Via @elliottkaty.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

resumé tip: include details about the magazines you've worked at

When listing your work history on your resumé, make sure you include enough information about the magazines and other companies that you've worked at. This will help give prospective employers a better sense of the type of experience you have, particularly when they may not be familiar with the publication.

For starters, always list the publisher (where applicable) and city beside the magazine's name. Something like this:
Assistant Editor, Chatelaine (Rogers Media, Toronto), May 2007 – January 2010
You may want to include the publication's website:
Editorial assistant, Alberta Views (Calgary,, October 2008 – Present
You can even go a step further and include a brief description of each magazine/company before listing your accomplishments:
Broken Pencil, which publishes four times a year, is a magazine dedicated to covering zines, independent publishing and underground culture in Canada. 
Or, you could include information about the publication when describing your accomplishments:
• Assigned and edited the front-of-book section of the monthly woodworking publication, ensuring timely, relevant content and a balance of subject matter.
However you decide to do it, you want to make it easy for whoever is looking at your resumé to get a thorough understanding of your experience. Details you might want to include are subject matter, consumer/trade, circulation, region, audience the magazine serves, staff size (especially if you're listing a management position) and/or frequency. Information like this can indicate how similar/dissimilar your experience is to the position you're applying to, and can help explain the type of experience you have and the type of magazine environment you've been exposed to.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone is going to be familiar with the magazines you've worked at, and don't assume everyone is going to Google them to find out. Make it easy for prospective employers to get a sense of where you come from.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

take a step back to find the right career path

A recent article in the New York Times points out that the career ladder doesn't always go straight up. "The idea of a lattice describes modern career growth more aptly," according to one expert. So when might you want to go backwards, or even accept a pay cut?

To move to a bigger company, you may have to accept a lower position. It's not uncommon for an editor-in-chief of a local alternative magazine to take a senior editor or even associate editor position at a larger consumer title.

To move quickly to a higher-level position, try a smaller company, but be prepared for a pay cut. Because smaller magazines usually have smaller budgets to match, they they can't always attract the more seasoned professionals. This means they're often great training grounds for eager young things looking to punch above their weight, or experience level.

To gain new skills for the future, you may need to take a lower position. Are you a senior editor on the print side with the desire to work on the web team but have no on-the-job web editing experience? You'll have a tough go of it if you aim for a senior web editor position, but associate web editor may be within your grasp.

The overall lesson is to take a look at where you want to be down the road and equip yourself with the skills and experience that will get you there.

Related post: When Taking a Step Backwards or Sideways in Your Career is the Right Move

Monday, March 15, 2010

if you don't care about us, why should we care about you?

When someone I'm interviewing mentions this blog, I know s/he did his/her homework. Not only did s/he research the company, s/he also researched me. It shows genuine interest in the job, and respect for the company. But even if I wasn't part of his/her Google search, at the very least I expect interview candidates to read our company website. There's no excuse not to.

Every magazine now has a website. Prepare for an interview by reading it. If you have more time, also read the magazine's Facebook page, blogs and Twitter stream. Think about it this way: If you can't take 20 minutes to read our website, why should I waste 20 minutes talking to you about a job/internship opportunity?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2 little things that will annoy your boss

Regardless of how good you are at your job, there are two tiny things that are going to get on your boss' nerves, potentially leading to a smaller raise than you would like or expect. And if there are other issues with your performance, these aren't going to help you any.

1. lateness

Punctuality is such a minor thing, but many people look at it as an indicator of how seriously you take your job. Tardiness is especially bothersome if others rely on you in order to get their own work done (hello, editorial assistants). A few minutes late here or there isn't likely to be an issue, especially in an industry like publishing, where flex time is common. But even with flex time, coming in at 10:30 is pushing it. And you should always be punctual for meetings. Lateness is often perceived as lack of respect for the job and for your coworkers.

2. personal phone and internet use

A personal phone call here or there is fine. Even checking eBay for the status of your bid isn't a problem. But it is an issue if every time your boss walks by your desk you're doing something other than work. And don't think she doesn't notice you talking in a hushed voice or quickly closing that browser window. If all she sees is you doing your own thing, she's going to wonder if you're getting your work done.

Are there any other faux pas you would add to this list?