Let’s play a drinking game. I want you to flick through a stack of journalism student resumes. Every time you spot “blogger” listed in their experience section you take a swig. Apart from being a sure fire way to get wildly boozed, it’s going to lessen the pain of realising that standing out in the crowd means more than writing a blog. So, it was lucky for us that Zoe Foster Blake agreed to share with us her infinite wisdom and advice.
We chatted to Zoe about how she does it all, and how you can too.
Zoe assures us that that when she hit the blogging scene, bloggers were considered ‘cretins’ in the publishing industry, but maybe, she adds, that this was the perfect time to become one. This is the first of five times during the interview where Zoe contributes some of her success to ‘timing’, whether it be her ability to win over Mia Freeman with the “cut of her gib”, or her ability to write conversationally at a time when no one else was, or her ability to build an online empire. So secondly, while Zoe is certainly attuned to where her success is built, her aura of un complication shows you that she is most of all, modest.
On her early days as a blogger:
When asked where her drive and ambition came from, Zoe is not too sure, she grew up with her nose in books, magazines and comedy. Her ability to write across so many unaligned platforms (one day she is writing a review for a skin cream, the next her opinion on dating) is really the proof that Zoe is just a true lover of words.
For her, the writing itself is more important than the subject she writes about, “[using language] to toy with the reader, giggling and enjoying myself along the way” is the true flame for Zoe.
On how to get your foot in the door:
Zoe started her career in the magazine industry working at small publications, and her advice, not to look down on starting small.
At 21 Zoe was the Deputy Editor of a publication, organising everything from competitions, shoots and content plans. A less intimidating approach to entering the industry, Zoe advises grads to lower their expectations for early work, really sink your teeth in, and grow your skill set in one area then leverage it to open the next door.
Zoe worked hard in her 20s, and advocates it for all.
Now in her early 30s she has built herself the dream job, and with that comes the freedom to enjoy other aspects of her life without that ‘where am I going’ cloud hanging over.
Time to find the job of your dreams?
On how to sell yourself to employers:
While in her words “highly unqualified”, Zoe saw a job open up at Dolly magazine, then headed by Mia Freeman, and applied. This is Zoe’s second pearl of wisdom for the young and ambitious, know your audience when applying for a role. Headed by a cheeky, fictitious quote by Rupert Murdoch , Zoe wrote her resume in the tone of a 14 year old girl. “You need to think about the brand you are applying for and their audience – it seems logical to me”.
Zoe is regularly approached for career advice, and when it comes to getting noticed via a resume she recounts how many intern applications she would receive at Cosmo or Harpers that looked as if they were prepared for a law firm, “If you are applying for a creative job – you think creative. If you are looking to work in advertising, maybe sell yourself as you would a product review; if you are applying for a job at a wine company, send your application in on a wine bottle label. So, while working in the magazine industry where you have two seconds to sell a magazine cover to a buyer, you need to do the same for yourself”.
While Zoe did not get the job she applied for, she did get noticed by Mia Freeman who invited Zoe into the office for a chat”. Mia liked the cut of her jib, saying that when an applicable role came up she would give Zoe a call. A few months later Zoe (23) became the Beauty Editor of Cosmopolitan.
On how to stand out as a candidate:
Zoe was once a strong advocate for leveraging the blogisphere to get noticed, “a blog is a living breathing CV”, but acknowledges that competition today means to succeed, you need authority. “You need creditability to be noticed, anyone can buy a beauty product and review it online”.
In 2005 Zoe was the Beauty Editor of Cosmo making her blog a natural extension, “I was able to build a community because I had experience; but if you don’t, you need to go for individuality”.
Zoe recommends that by specialising in a particular niche you will create your own authority.
Zoe has created a new tone for beauty writing.
She is not the step-mother telling you to pluck your brows or else, “you’ll only be invited to the party for the food”, but rather, your conversationally cool big sister
Tonight I did something I wouldn’t normally do. It was weird, but Zoe told me to do it. I exfoliated my lips, Zoe Poo Poos Paw Paw and while I sit here typing looking at three red tubes sitting in my bin with exfoliated lips I wonder how she made me do it.
She wasn’t a wanker about it, you know, ‘When I was in ‘Par–E’ the first time last year I found this new product, and when I went back the second time last year (Par–E is beautiful in the fall) it was a best seller”, but rather, she made me laugh. I normally don’t get into the beauty routine advice, but the lady has a way with words and before I knew it I was taking the top layer of skin off my lips.
How to be a good writer:
You are immediately impressed by Zoe’s vocabulary, how could someone fit so many intelligent words, so seamlessly into conversation without sounding like a wanker? In retrospect I almost wish I had of conducted the interview under a fake name, something with zero vowels in it and watched her try pronounce it just to test if her language skills were really that good.
Zoe explains that, “just because there is more noise, doesn’t mean you get an excuse not to stand out”. For her, she is at her best when she has just read something incredibly witty, and it puts her in a mind set where she can get her point across without sounding too, “get
your point across-y”, and for Zoe – this is her niche.
Zoe has always found new ways to be different, her book Air Kisses is the perfect example. At a time where fashion was stealing the limelight, Zoe wrote a fictional novel bringing the glamour and scandal of the beauty world front and centre. She had the content while working as the Beauty Editor at Cosmo, and she had the discipline. Put those two ingredients together, add a summer living in Bondi and her first novel was born.
So when Zoe says, “have a loose goal and love what you do” – it becomes clear that you need to swallow a good hard tablespoon of concrete and work hard at what you love doing to see it succeed.