MOK CAREER CHAT: TURNING INTERNSHIPS INTO OPPORTUNITIES WITH NYLON'S SYDNEY GORE
KRAV CHATS WITH SYDNEY GORE, EDITORIAL ASSISTANT AT NYLON MAGAZINE, ABOUT MAXIMIZING INTERNSHIP RESULTS
Most of us can agree that there is no perfect formula for turning your internship into a job. There's a ton of valuable advice floating around the interwebs, but you can never be sure it'll work. At least in the picture perfect way they say it will. The variables in everyone's professional lives and situations are different based on connections, location, timing and companies. Those variables play a large part in the eventual outcome. So of course, Krav had to speak to someone who is living the whole "internship turned job" life.
Krav, MOK Founder and EIC: When you intern, although you might not get a job, good can still come from the experience. For example, some of the places you’ve interned–Seventeen, The Fader, Pigeons and Planes–you ended up working as a freelance writer. What are some effective ways to stay on the radar of editors after your internship is over?
Sydney, NYLON Editorial Assistant: Going through my internships, I’ve always wanted to have a mentor. Even if it wasn’t someone who I directly worked with, I would always try to branch out and learn more about what everyone at the company was doing. Through that, I developed great mentors with some people who were higher up, that again I wasn’t directly working with, but because I took the time to reach out and get to know them they kept my contact information. Even when I came down to something as simple as cleaning up a resume, I had deputy editors who were helping me and telling which of my pieces I should be sending when I was applying for other internships.
As far as jobs were concerned, obviously I didn't want to work everywhere that I had an internship, but some of my former supervisors moved on to other companies, so with staying in contact with them over the years, they felt comfortable enough referring me to either their own company or to somebody else. It's always weird because I felt like such a pest constantly emailing my former supervisors, but those are the things that really matter. It's great if you can get the freelance clips but I think that it helps when you try to get to know your supervisors as people and they really get to know you, so that they see as more than just someone working in the office.
Krav: You said something really important, you took the initiative to seek mentorship from the editors you were working with. But I've noticed that a lot of people are afraid to approach these people. With them being higher up, it's intimidating. So what's your advice for putting that fear aside?
When I was at Seventeen I worked directly under the Entertainment Editor at the time. She worked under the Director of Special Projects and Entertainment and obviously, that's such an amazing job. I was asked to do little tasks for her sometimes and just by doing that, towards the end of my internship she asked me to meet with her so she could learn more about me and what I was doing. It was really cool that someone I wouldn't normally have access to was willing to take the time and give me advice. She told me to stay in touch with her, and she ended up moving to Refinery 29, where she's now the Vice President of Talent Relations. When I graduated from college, I didn't have a job. I sent over my resume and got a paid internship at Refinery, she was already familiar with me.
Sending an email doesn't hurt, the worst thing that can happen is they won't reply. Early on–Twitter was still pretty new in those days–I started using it as a sophomore in high school and I did not treat it professionally. I literally signed up for it to creepily follow the bands that was obsessed with.
Krav: Me too! (we laugh)
Sydney: Now, I use it for more networking. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to balance the personal and professional. But there were a ton of journalists that I followed, and I would randomly tweet at them and express my admiration for them. Then I'd ask for their email, so I could get advice. They were all open and friendly about it. Now I get people tweeting me and asking me the same thing, it's pretty surreal.
Krav: I definitely identify with that, that's how I got my internship at NYLON last year. I tweeted at Dani years ago (2012) and I kept in contact with her. I advocate for that process. It can work! – Kind of jumping around a little bit, when you're interning there's also other interns. I've had internships where there were ten other people, sometimes two. And they're all vying for the same job that you might want. How did you stick out?
Sydney: In the beginning I feel like it's always give and take. Obviously, you want to be the best version of yourself and you want to come off as a professional. I also interned at NYLON too before I worked here, as you know. And so, in the editorial department there were usually four of us in at the same time. A lot of what we did on a day-to-day basis was looking for news stories and writing posts. That [writing posts] was always the hardest, since there were so many of us, not all of us got the chance to write every day. That's when it got competitive. So even if you were given a simple assignment, you'd make it the best post it could possibly be. I got to a point where I wanted to have my own stories and features. I started pitching them and the deputy editor at the time was really receptive. Show how dedicated and committed you are, that you can complete whatever task you're given. Of course, you want to do the bigger things or pitch your own but, you have to prove you can handle the little tasks first.
Krav: You interned at NYLON and that led to your position now. What do you think was the main factor that helped you specifically get the job, opposed to other people?
Sydney: To be perfectly honest, I think it was a timing thing. I just graduated from college, so I was looking for jobs. I didn't get approached about it until, about August when I was wrapping up my Refinery internship and my fellowship at The FADER. I didn't want to take a job unless I could really see myself working at a company. I ended up getting an email from my former supervisor who got promoted, and her position was available. When you're looking for jobs as actively and as persistently as I was, it's draining and soul crushing to get no replies or interviews. You sort of feel like a failure. With NYLON I was reached out to, and I appreciated that so much. The one place that I would have loved to work came to me.
Krav: Now, you manage interns, so you understand both sides. You touched on this in the other question a little bit, but in a productive way, in a way that's not overpowering. . . how can a student make their mark to be considered for jobs? Is it putting in extra work? Expand on that.
Sydney: Editors appreciate interns that follow directions. If you're told to do very specific things, follow directions as much as possible. If you don't, it's frustrating and to have to go back and explain things, editors don't really have time. That's crucial. I appreciate when my interns will go above and beyond, being proactive is a valuable trait. I always encourage my interns to pitch ideas. We can assign you things, but you're going to get as much out of an internship as you put in. So even if your ideas don't get approved by editors, it doesn't mean it's a bad idea. But at least it shows that you're thinking.
It's so weird because I graduated school a year ago and I can't believe that, that much time has gone by.
Krav: And you're in the position you're in now. It's a big shift.
Sydney: Yeah, it's definitely a big shift. It's so different. You don't realize. As an intern, you're coming in 10-6 and that's it. But, when you have a real full-time job, you're working off the clock too. It's very real.
Krav: I've always tried to prepare myself for that over the years and I don't think you can prepare yourself enough for it. You yourself have had all of these internships too and it's still very different going from intern to employee. And NYLON is a smaller magazine, so you do a little more.
Sydney: It can be overwhelming but it's exciting. I don't feel like the traditional Editorial Assistant. I actually get to do a lot of my own content. I've been launching a bunch of series on my own and that's really empowering. I don't think I'd be able to do that anywhere else. The platform is so recognized and my work reaches a lot of people.