Since I'm often asked about it, I thought I'd share some of the story of how I got to where I am, and a few of the decisions I've made along the way.
I got hooked on magazines in my second year of art school, where I was the editor of the student magazine – an arts and literary type of affair. Two months into the two-year gig, I contemplated transferring to the publishing program at Simon Fraser, but after talking to the program director there, realized how few credits I would be able to transfer and that switching would set me back by a year. With plans to instead do a master's, I finished my BFA.
Of course, by the time I was done school, I didn't really want to do a whole other degree, so I started looking into alternatives. The two main contenders were Centennial and Ryerson's continuing ed certificate, back in my hometown. I went with the latter because I was eager to get my career going and liked the idea of being able to work and do an internship during the day while attending a few classes at night.
So I did an internship (at Flare), held a few odd jobs and built up my portfolio writing for small publications and community papers.
I eventually landed at Oxygen, where I worked for a little more than two years, first as copy editor, then as copy chief. I wanted to get out of the copy department, though, and try to find work as an editor. I was having no luck, and then a contract position came up at Style at Home. The position was as copy editor to cover a seven-month leave, and although I would be moving to take the same position I was already in, it was the right move for me. This is how I looked at it: By accepting the job, I would know when I had to start looking for work again, since I would be filling was a limited-time contract. That deadline would give me the push I needed to really dedicate myself to the hunt, since it can be very difficult to look for a job while working full time.
It was the best move I made. Toward the end of my contract, but still a few months away from the final days and as I was just thinking about starting up my job search, two senior editor positions opened up within a week of each other. When there's no major upheaval at the top, this type of occurrence is unusual, and it was my chance to make the switch from copy to edit.
I didn't let the fact that the majority of my experience was in copy get in the way, nor did I take for granted that the editor and executive editor already knew me: I put together the best application package I could. Reference letters, story ideas, sample writings, clippings – I put in everything. And obviously it paid off, because I got the job.
So, I guess the lesson you can take away from my experience is that it is possible to make the switch from one type of job into another, as long as you can show that you're capable of doing the work. And also, put everything you have into applying for a job.
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.