Friday, December 23, 2011


Well, this is it. My last post for Dream Job TK. It's been nearly five years, and it's been a trip.

Before I sign off, I'd like to share two things I've learned so far in my magazine editing career. Now, they're not the only things that matter, and they may not even be the most important, but you can't forget them in the pursuit of your dream job:

1. Trust your gut.
If you find yourself asking yourself whether your next career move is the right one for you, maybe it's not.

Excited and giddy about the possibilities of a new gig or assignment? Can't wait to tell everyone? Can you picture yourself doing the job? Jump right in.

Debating the merits of the offer over and over? Making a pros and cons list? Asking everyone you know if you should take it? You might be looking for permission or validation because something in your gut is telling you that it's not for you.

2. Make friends.
Some people might call this networking, but that word doesn't express the true nature of the relationships you can build in this industry. It's a community filled with wonderful people. Get to know them and they will help you over and over again in your career. You will find confidantes, mentors and many, many very good friends, and even some excellent acquaintances. When you're stuck in your career or have an editing problem to solve, nothing is more valuable than having someone (or a few someones) who know what it's like to be an editor to talk to about it.

Thank you all so much for reading Dream Job TK, and for your comments and questions over the years. It truly has been an honour sharing with you.

Wishing each and every one of you all the best in your careers. I hope you find your Dream Job.

PS – The Dream Job TK archives will remain online for you peruse anytime you need a little career advice. And you can find me online on Twitter @vangerwen or at my website,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reading List, Dec. 19

A weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor. 

"Why We Teach Journalism to Specialists, Instead of the Other Way Around" by Robert Steiner on MediaShift. A different type of J-school, where you're an expert in your field first, then learn the fundamentals of journalism.

"How to Quit Your Job" by Alison Green on U.S. News.  You probably know that you can't do it via text message, but here are some other tips.

"5 Ways To Spot A Bad Boss In An Interview" by Stephanie Taylor Christensen on Forbes. Even if it's your dream job, work could become a living hell with a horrible boss. Some warning signs.

• "10 tips for journalists who want to be better presenters" by Tom Huang on Poynter. If you've been asked to speak at a conference or be a speaker at an event, read this first.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Good Way to Prepare for Job Interviews

So you got a job interview (congratulations!) — now what? How do you prepare yourself so you make a good impression?

There are lots of ways, but do this one thing and you should be ready for most questions that come up: Read over the job description and think of examples in your career that demonstrate those skills and qualities.

It's one thing to say that you posses a certain qualification; it's another, better thing to prove you have the skills by relaying a story that supports the claim. Even if you're not asked a direct "give me an example of when..." question, having a stockpile of particular stories makes it easier for you to answer questions and volunteer examples from your career.

It also forces you to think about what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate, and will help you focus your answers so you're less likely to ramble on about irrelevant topics.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reading List, Dec. 12

A weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor. 

"Top Tips for Attending your Office Holiday Party" by Miranda Wulf on Unlimited. Yes, you should go to your work party.

"Productivity Tie-Breaker: How Will You Feel Afterwards?" by Mark McGuinness on The 99%. A little tip to help you make headway on those long-term projects so they don't turn into last-minute emergencies.

"Key Questions to Ask to Find Key Staff" by Harvey Schachter on Report on Business. The four key qualities to look for in a new hire, plus the interview questions to ask to see if they have them.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Dream Job TK Coming to an End

It is with mixed feelings that I announce the closing of the Dream Job TK blog.

After long consideration, I have decided that it is time for me to move on to other things. I will continue to blog up until Christmas, but will not post again after the New Year. The entire archives of Dream Job TK, dating back to 2007, will remain available at

If you have any burning questions about working in magazines, email me now [vangerwen at gmail dot com] or leave a comment before Dec. 16, and I'll do my best to answer them before I sign off.

Until then.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reading List, Nov. 28

A weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor. 

"Women Journalists Confront Harassment, Sexism When Using Social Media" by Jeff Sonderman on Poynter. Ladies, you don't need to grin and bear those nasty, or even slightly uncomfortable comments left on your online work. Take action.

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks by Bethany Keeley. Check out the sidebar for additional amusing blogs.

"How Do You Deal With Having to Fire Someone?" by Alison Green on Ask a Manager. Getting fired is no fun, but neither is having to fire someone, and there's usually a lot less advice about it. Here's a little.

"Famous Magazines' First Covers" by Judy Berman on Flavorwire.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Editor Profile: Dick Snyder, Totem & CityBites


WHO: Dick Snyder, editorial director, Totem; president, CityBites Media Inc.; editor, CityBites; freelancer.
WENT TO SCHOOL FOR: Jazz Guitar Performance, Concordia University; Journalism, Ryerson University
Summer intern (“Paid, thankfully.”), Saint John Evening Times Globe. “I was a general assignment reporter covering the city and region, everything from City Hall to a performance of The Polka Dot Door at the local theater. This was a fantastic job, because the prime mandate was to fill pages. There were three of us Toronto-based recent grads, all churning out anywhere from two to five stories a day. Battling for the front page!”
Editor, The Eyeopener. “Before the final school year was out, I ran for editor of Ryerson’s independent student newspaper. This was to be a cushion in case I wasn’t offered to stay on at the Times Globe. In fact, I was offered a permanent job, which left me the decision: Do I stay in Saint John and work my way up through a small newspaper, or do I go back to Toronto, work at The Eyeopener, and work on obtaining my dream job — a summer internship at The Globe and Mail. I rang Colin McKenzie, who was then deputy editor at the Globe to ask his advice. He said come back to Toronto, work like hell, and apply for the Globe’s summer internship.”
Summer intern, The Globe and Mail. “A coveted position on the Globe’s summer intern squad! I started as a copy editor on the foreign news desk. Then, I was a copy editor on the ‘universal desk,’ where a pool of copy editors dealt with copy from all departments. Then I was taught layout on the arcane proprietary layout system, and did layout for foreign and local news, and occasionally the front page. At the end of the summer, I was offered the only full-time job available for summer interns. Lesson: make yourself indispensable by learning every skill imaginable, with enthusiasm.” 
“Just an observation on editing and media: When I joined Totem (which was called Redwood at the time, back in 1999), branded or custom content were dirty words. But I’m proud to work with a company that pioneered and defined branded content, which we now see all around us, especially in new media platforms. There used to be a great divide between conventional journalists and the term we coined at Totem, “marketing journalists.” I always considered these two disciplines as two sides of the same coin. Marketing journalism isn’t that different from the kind of service journalism we learned in school, and put in practice in the lifestyle sections of conventional magazines and newspapers. Now, service journalism is everywhere, to wildly divergent standards of quality, mind you. The modern editor and journalist needs to be able to function in so many arenas, from print and digital media, to conventional and branded vehicles, to social and sharing tools. The ‘equipment’ of journalism is changing and will keep changing, but the basic skill sets remain. Tell a great story, make it riveting, package it up nice and never forget about your reader. The reader is the most important person, even more important than the editor.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reading List, Nov. 21

A weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor.

"Make a Great Resume First Impression: 6 Best Tips" by Sheryl Coonan on YouTern's The Savvy Intern blog. It takes only seconds for an editor to toss your resumé in the No pile; these tricks will reduce the likelihood that that will happen.

"5 Keys to Successful Informational Interviews" by Tim Tyrell-Smith on Tim's Strategy. Informational interviews are a valuable job-serch and networking tool. Before asking for one, read this piece.

"Manners Matter" by Meg Montford on Abilities Enhanced. Think sending thank you notes is old-school? That's why they get you noticed. This piece shares seven points in your job hunt when sending thanks is a good idea.

My Favourite Magazine series on SPD. Art and photo directors talk about, well, their favourite magazines.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

Reading List, Nov. 7

A weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor.

• "The Alot is Better Than You at Everything" by Allie on Hyperbole and a Half. Funny grammar stuff for all you grammar nerds (who I'm assuming is all of you who read this blog).

"Ten Career Lessons from the Top of the Masthead" by Victoria Pynchon on Forbes. Advice culled from the life of Jill Abramson, the first woman executive editor of the New York Times.

"How International Students Can Land U.S. Internships" by Gennifer Delman on Ed2010. Covers the basics of getting a visa.

"Is Your Resume a Mirror or a Window? Success in 3 Steps" by Mark Babbitt on YouTern's Savvy Intern blog. A decent exercise for improving your resumé.

"Advertising Companies Fret Over a Digital Talent Gap" by Tanzina Vega in the New York Times. It's not just in advertising; there's a lack of people with digital skills in magazines too. If your talent lies in this area, you could be in high demand.

"14 Punctuation Marks That You Never Knew Existed" by Jack Shepherd on BuzzFeed. Actually, you probably know a few of them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Take Care of Your Relationship with Your Mentor

A friendly reminder: If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor in your life, don't forget to treat their time and advice as the gifts they are.
  • Always say thank you – then say it again. This person is giving you valuable information free of charge. He is volunteering his time. Even if it's not a big deal to him, it should be a big deal to you. Make sure your mentor knows that you appreciate it.
  • Don't demand too much from your mentor. We are all busy. Don't take up too much of your mentor's time and don't try to dictate the terms. Work around her schedule and be conscious of how much you are asking of her. 
A mentor's generosity can quickly turn sour if he starts to feel as if he's not appreciated or is being taken advantage of. If that happens, you'll lose the benefits that a mentor provides and a valuable champion for your career.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Editor Profile: Beckie Fox, Garden Making


WHO: Beckie Fox, editor-in-chief and co-owner, Garden Making

WENT TO SCHOOL FOR: Journalism, Michigan State University

FIRST MAGAZINE JOB: Freelance copy editor, Canadian Living (in the early ’80s). “Editing craft and food stories is good training for the step-by-step and how-to stories integral to any type of service journalism. Before that, I was an editor at a community newspaper in Etobicoke, Ont.”

SUBSCRIBES TO: Fine Gardening, Gardens Illustrated, Organic Gardening, Garden Design, The English Garden, Horticulture Magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, The New Yorker, Country Living, House Beautiful, Martha Stewart Living, Maclean’s, Better Homes and Gardens, Canadian House & Home, The Walrus, Saltscapes, Vines. “There are probably about a dozen others I occasionally buy on the newsstand. The magazines I still miss are Gourmet and House & Garden.”



  • The ability to deliver content your readers want.
  • The intuition to deliver content your readers didn’t know they wanted.
  • Having a solid partnership with an art director who understands the stories you’re conveying to your readers.
  • Respectful relationships with freelance writers, editors and photographers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading List, Oct. 24

weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor.

"How to Manage a Perfectionist" by Amy Gallo on Harvard Business Review. If you have a perfectionist on your team, their attention to detail may slow down everyone else. Some good suggestions here. (It's also a good read if you're a perfectionist yourself."

"Treat Your Employees like Neighbors" by Art Markman on Harvard Business review. If you create a community within your company and everyone pitches in, your employees and your magazine will do better.

"What Every Magazine Media Company Needs: A Chief Dream Officer" by Samir Husni on Mr. Magazine. Chief Dream Officer = my dream job. Anyone want to hire me?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading List, Oct. 17

weekly roundup of job-hunting tips, career advice and interesting articles relevant to the magazine industry and being an editor.

"Why Tina Brown, Chris Anderson, David Remnick and Others Are Upbeat Despite Media Tumult" by Matthew Creamer on  AdAge. Finally, people are starting to talk positively and recognize opportunities, instead of whining about the death of print.

"FOLIO:'s 2011 13 Under 30." For those thinking they'll be 50 before they get to be editor, here are 13 young folks in top positions to inspire you.

"How to Bounce Back From a Big Mistake" by John Caddell on The 99%. You're going to make mistakes; how you handle them is what matters.