I had the pleasure of returning to my alma mater last night to speak at an event hosted by Columbia University’s fashion society all about entrepreneurship and the industry. It was so much fun and I feel like it was just yesterday (but it was really TWO YEARS AGO?!) that I was thinking about my future, wanting a job in publishing and not knowing if I’d get one or not. Publishing is an insane industry to work in right now, but the more experience you have the better prepared you’ll be to work in it. If I could give advice to my younger self, it’d be to get as many clips published as possible. Here are three ways to expand your portfolio and make sure everyone knows your byline.
Hello and welcome to the wonderful world of typing up anything you want for the whole world to see! When I first started my blog in 2012 it never occurred to me that it would be a chance to expand my professional writing portfolio. When I went to apply to my first editorial internship at NYLON, surely enough they asked for clips of my writing and because of my experience with my blog I was able to give them some. The point of a publication asking to see your clips is less about where they were published (although if it’s a big name company than that’s great!) and more about getting a sense of your writing style and your grasp on grammar and syntax. Definitely let your voice shine through if you choose to self-publish, but keep it professional—check the spelling of names and the use of commas. The little details matter!
2. Contributing to a college publication
No matter what school you go to, there’s always a way to test out your writing skills by becoming an editor for or contributing to one of your college’s publications. There are tons of options to choose from, but you can easily find out what works best for you. Almost every college has a newspaper, so if you’re interested in writing about current events that might be something to look into. I went to Barnard and contributed to a few different publications: Columbia’s fashion magazine Hoot, the Columbia Spectator, the Barnard blog The Nine Ways of Knowing (now called The Barnard Voice), and my personal favorite, The Barnard Bulletin.
What I loved about being able to contribute to each of these was that most of them only required a semester-long commitment, so if I got bored or didn’t enjoy the experience I could always move on to something different. Working for a bunch of different places allowed me to test out different skills from assisting a stylist, to writing blog posts about how I balanced my schedule, to more long-form prose, and I got my byline in a ton of different places.
3. Freelancing for a national publication
If I can pinpoint one specific thing that I wish I’d done more of in college, it’d be this. I went to college in New York City and I was able to do lots of internships as a result, but all of the writing I did at those internships was limited to the semester I worked there. I wish I’d pitched more ideas to big name publications (especially the ones I didn’t get the chance to intern for) just to get the experience of doing so.
If you’d like to know more of my specific advice for how to pitch and get published, I have a whole post about that for you to read. I’ll quickly tell you about two different times I pitched ideas to big publications. The first was for Teen Vogue—I’d met an editor who was an alum of my college at an event and asked her if she had anyone photographing street style for them at the Firefly Music Festival, which I was going to. I laugh about this now because I am not a photographer by any means but I showed her some of my blog photos and she agreed to let me go. You can see the photos and read the post here. The second time I pitched a big publication was when I met an editor from Cosmopolitan at an Ed2010 networking event. She was a sex & relationships editor (which I had basically no experience writing about) but offered to look over some pitches of mine for the print magazine. Even though she didn’t take any of the ones I sent over, her feedback was incredibly helpful and let me know that I was at least on the right track with my ideas. So don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re still in school! Be professional, bring clips, and show you’re prepared to get the job done.
What is your best advice for getting your writing published?
Photograph above by Jessie Alcheh