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.
Sam: You started as a blogger, can you tell me about that?
Zoe: When I started blogging, bloggers were considered ‘cretins’ in the publishing industry, but maybe that was perfect time to become one!
Sam’s Footnotes: 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.
Sam: Where does your drive and ambition come from? You wrote a book while you were working full time…
Zoe: I can’t really pin point it. I grew up with my nose in books, magazines and comedy. I love words and reading. For me, the writing itself is more important than the subject I write about. I love using language to toy with the reader and I find myself giggling and enjoying myself along the way. I really just love the work and the challenge of constructing piece of work.
Sam: How did you get your foot in the door in the magazine world?
Zoe: I started in the magazine industry working at small publications and my advice is to really not to look down on starting small. When I was 21 I was the Deputy Editor of a publication and I was doing everything from organising everything from competitions, shoots and content plans. Starting at a small organisation gives you a lot of opportunity for future growth. My advice to grads is to lower your 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.
I worked really hard in my 20s, and while there is no right or wrong, it worked for me. It meant that when I hit my 30s I had the freedom to enjoy other aspects of my life without that ‘where am I going’ cloud hanging over.
Sam:How can people sell themselves to employers?
Zoe: I was highly unqualified when I saw a open up at Dolly magazine, which was then headed by Mia Freeman; but I applied anyway. I headed my resume with a fictitious quote by Rupert Murdoch and also wrote [the 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.
I am regularly approached for career advice, and when it comes to getting noticed via a resume I always remember how many intern applications I would receive at Cosmo or Harpers that looked as if they were prepared for a law firm; it’s simple to me – 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.
Sam’s Footnotes: 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.
Sam: How do you advice people to ‘stand out from the crowd’?
Zoe: I used to be a strong advocate for leveraging the blogisphere to get noticed. A blog is a living breathing CV, but today you need to have authority in the space too. You need creditability to be noticed, anyone can buy a beauty product and review it online. When I started my blog in 2005 I was the Beauty Editor of Cosmo making and the 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.
Sam: That’s good advice, ‘if you don’t have credibility go for individuality’ –
Zoe: Yes exactly, pick a particular niche you will create your own authority.
Sam’s Footnotes: In the prepartion for the interview 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.
She started a new tone for beauty writing.
Sam: What writing advice do you have?
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: Just because there is more noise, doesn’t mean you get an excuse not to stand out. For me, I am at my best when I have just read something incredibly witty, and it puts me in a mind set where I can get my point across without sounding too, “get your point across-y,”
I have always tried to find new ways to be different. When fashion was stealing the limelight I wrote Air Kisses [a fictional novel bringing the glamour and scandal of the beauty world front and centre]. I had all of the content from working as the Beauty Editor at Cosmo, traveling a lot an and my boyfriend was traveling a lot and I had some spare time. I mean, it’s not as easy as that – there were days when I had to close my blinds so that I couldn’t see what an amazing day it was outside in Bondi when I was writing.
My advice is to have a loose goal and love what you do.
Sam: I feel like you also need to swallow a good hard tablespoon of concrete and work hard at what you love doing to see it succeed – any maybe you’re just modest.