Thursday, July 31, 2008

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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An amusing post on unpaid internships can be found on Christian Lander's What White People Like blog.

In most of the world when a person works long hours without pay, it is referred to as “slavery” or “forced labor.” For white people this process is referred to as an internship and is considered an essential stage in white development.
White people view the internship as their foot into the door to such high-profile low-paying career fields as journalism, film, politics, art, non-profits, and anything associated with a museum.
If all goes according to plan, an internship will end with an offer of a job that pays $24,000 per year and will consist entirely of the same tasks they were recently doing for free.

[Thanks to Marco Ursi for sending the link.]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Q. I am avidly looking for work as I am in a job I absolutely despise and I wonder if you have any advice on how to arrange interviews. I do my best to set them up on my lunch hour, but sometimes that is just not possible. And one can only have so many doctor appointments.

A. Doctor's appointments are a great strategy, but you're right, it will only get you so far. And there aren't that many more options. When you're called in for an interview, ask if it's possible to set it up either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. I was once able to negotiate to have an interview at 5:30 because I politely explained the situation – that I was currently working and would like to be discreet about the fact that I was looking for another job. If you work flex hours and don't start till 10:00, an 8:30 or 9:00 interview might be an option. Taking a vacation day works as well, though it's less likely to tip off alarm bells if you take a Friday or Monday as opposed to another weekday. Other than that, take heart in the fact that most people are pretty oblivious and aren't likely to suspect anything. If you continue to work hard and be cheerful at your current job, "she's looking for a new job" probably won't be the first thought to pop into your boss' head when you take time off or come in a little late.

Monday, July 28, 2008

As you may know, for the past few years I've been coordinating the Toronto chapter of New York-based networking group Ed2010 (ed-twenty-ten). We plan to expand our offerings of workshops, seminars and networking events, and to do so, have brought on two new staff volunteers. Briony Smith is a staff writer at ComputerWorld Canada and joins us as Assistant Toronto Host; Ann Brown is the editor of Design Edge Canada and joins us as Special Events Manager. My title has changed to Canadian Director.

If you're a young editor trying to break into the biz or build your career, become a member of Ed2010 by emailing us at You can learn more about Ed2010 here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yesterday, this question was posed to me: How do you make sure you get credit for your ideas when working in a group or if you're not the one who's presenting to the higher ups? How do you ensure your boss and the editor in chief know that you're a valuable employee?

The first thing to remember is that in any collaborative effort, your job is to work as a team. You have to make your team – and thus the boss – look good. That's your job. And any superior or coworker worth their salt will recognize your contribution.

But, if you feel that you're just not getting recognized for your brilliance, start taking ownership for your ideas. Not in the "That was my idea" kind of way, but in how you present them and in the way you speak about the ideas. Consider presenting your ideas when there are others around; the more people who hear them, the more you'll be known for being the one with all the good ideas. And when discussing the idea or story, use "I" a lot, as in "I thought it was a story our readers really need" or "I knew doing it this way would be helpful."

The other thing you'll want to do is to keep track of everything so that when it comes time for your annual review or time to ask for a raise, you can quantify your contribution to the magazine. It may be delayed recognition, but it's recognition nonetheless.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

About Me
Corinna vanGerwen


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.

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