How to Succeed in Magazines without Really Trying

When the right intern fills the right spot at the right publication, publishing magic can happen. While interns definitely aren’t expected to be experts in their field (yet), the best ones come equipped with a strong desire to learn.

Christina Jedra, a student at Emerson College, interned at Parents Magazine this summer and shares some salient advice to fellow interns in the ASME Intern Blog.

“I’ve learned an important lesson about magazines: I don’t have to be the expert; I interview the experts,” Jedra writes.

“Working for any magazine is really about applying reporting, writing, and editing skills to the topic at hand — any topic — whether it’s a humorous piece about local turkeys for Boston Magazine or a story about gun safety for The good news: if you’re interning at a magazine, you probably already have those skills!”

Jedra says that this realization helped her approach the unknown topic of parenting the way an investigative journalist would. And it starts, according to Jedra, with understanding your reader.

“Yes, the magazine I intern for is called Parents, but really, we cater to moms, and not just any moms, Millennial moms with young children. In contrast to print, our online reader is more interested in pregnancy and baby coverage.”

Secondly, you have to understand the publication.

“For the most part, magazines have very specific sections and subsections with the same elements published every issue (for example, news items, statistics, polls, book reviews, product round-ups, etc.) Once you understand these archetypes, you’ll be able to recognize a fitting idea when you see one,” Jedra says.

Doing your homework, researching the topic, and digging deep will help you see the world through the lens of your magazine, which in turn leads to pitching ideas that resonate with your editor and your readership.

Finally, Jedra notes it’s important to build a thick skin.

“I’ve learned just as much from my failed ideas as my published ones because I absorbed feedback that I kept in mind for future pitches. Plus, the fact that I pitched ideas at all showed my editors that I really want to be a part of the magazine.”

And while the title of her piece is misleading (as she notes, you really do have to try…a lot…really hard), she offers great advice to anyone—intern or employee—looking to make a career in publishing. Good luck Christina!