After school, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney Uni because I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted to do. But a year and a half into the BA, I realised it hadn’t given me career direction. So I deferred for a year, got a full-time job in a café so I could save to travel, then went to Japan for three months. That gave me a lot of time to think, and I realised that writing was what I loved. (Which leads me to… Tip 1: If you don’t know where you’re going, get outside your regular universe; you’ll gain more insight into yourself.)
I transferred to a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Journalism) at UTS, but Term 1 wasn’t beginning for a while, so I started temping as a receptionist. The first place I temped at just happened to be at Text Pacific, a magazine publishing company (a custom magazine company, meaning they created magazines on behalf of companies).
When one of the permanent receptionists there left, they hired me. I’d landed in the thick of magazine publishing, even before my degree began. (Tip 2: ‘Getting a foot in the door’ really is the most important first step in a competitive industry.) On reception, you meet everyone in the company, so I let editors know I was keen for any work experience they could throw my way. They were all crazy busy, so they gave me actual writing tasks, and I became a published writer. (Tip 3: There’s no such thing as ‘too enthusiastic’ – putting your hand up for everything will get you noticed.)
Uni began. And the magazine editors were happy with the work I was doing for them, so the company let me ditch reception and I became a full-time Staff Writer and Sub-Editor, working mainly on Virgin Blue’s inflight magazine ‘Voyeur’, and ‘Weight Watchers Magazine’. (Tip 4: If you’re aiming to work in a big media company, start in a small one where you’re much more likely to get hired.) Work seemed more important than uni, so I only enrolled in subjects part-time. (Tip 5: Don’t be in a rush to finish your degree. Who cares if you’re an old fart by the time you graduate? But do finish the degree – most media jobs require you to have one.)
I was moving up the ranks at Text Pacific fast – I’d become an Assistant Editor. But then a Sub-Editor job came up at ‘Women’s Health’ magazine, which was about to launch in Australia. (Tip 6: ALWAYS keep an eye out on seek.com.au.) I thought it’d be awesome to work on the launch of a magazine, so even though I was powering upwards at Text Pacific, I applied. A former Text Pacific Editor just happened to be hired at ‘Women’s Health’, so she gave me the thumbs up, and suddenly I was working at Pacific Magazines on an exciting new title. (Tip 7: The media industry really is about ‘who you know’, so be nice and helpful to everyone – you never know who might end up your boss.)
I loved working on ‘Women’s Health’ – I went from being Sub-Editor, to Senior Sub-Editor, to Features Writer, then Senior Features Writer. I could hardly imagine working anywhere else, so I stayed for seven years. But then I started feeling the seven-year itch. I wasn’t learning anything new, so I was bored. (Tip 8: Start looking for new jobs BEFORE you start getting really restless in a job, so you end on a high note.)
I started job-searching, and decided to try the other side: Marketing & Communications. Now, among other things, I’m dealing with journalists instead of working as one. I’m at a not-for-profit where I do something different every day, from speech writing to marketing strategy, pitching media releases to media, the Annual Report; plus I still interview people and write stories. (Tip 9: A total change of career can be really rejuvenating. And suddenly your CV will be so much more interesting to future employers.) Even though my magazine skills have been really transferable, I’m learning so much, and that, I’ve decided, is what keeps you enthusiastic about work.