Pennsylvania State University - Major, Journalism + Minor, French
Shortly after graduating from Penn State this spring, Devin Tomb received the kind of job offer most of us only dream of — editorial assistant at Glamour magazine. She accepted the job and in June began working for the women’s glossy. In her job she gets to do things like pitch articles, answer reader mail, write stories and, oh ya, help work on projects for one of the magazine’s biggest events — the annual Women of the Year Awards. Sounds amazing, right?
When Devin isn’t helping put together your favorite guilty pleasure she can be found taking looong naps on the beach (during the summer and with SPF-30, of course!), booking a flight somewhere exciting, checking out the latest J. Crew catalog, listening to her iPod or making her way through the stack of books on her nightstand. Oh, and she’s a sucker for Häagen-Dazs zesty lemon sorbet, too. Read on to find out what a day in the life of working at one of the country’s biggest women’s magazines is like and to find out how Devin landed her dream job. And don’t be surprised if you see her name on the masthead as editor-in-chief one day…
I think it’s important for women to work together, rather than try and outdo one another.
How did you discover your current job?
My boss gave me the call of a lifetime right before my college graduation.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
It was a long one! I started out as a staff writer at the Indiana Gazette, a local newspaper in my hometown, and I am forever indebted to them because I had absolutely no professional writing experience beforehand. They let me do so many amazing things -- from writing front-page stories to creating my OWN four-page back-to-school supplement for students at the nearby Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I gained enough clips at the Gazette to land an internship at CosmoGIRL! magazine the following summer. (Although the intern before me later said I got the internship because I listed that I took ballet classes on my resume!) Teen magazines are a great place to intern because you are the target audience, so editors really value your opinion. The following summer, I interned at O, The Oprah Magazine, which is where I met my current boss. We developed a great working relationship at O, and she went to Glamour magazine shortly before I graduated from Penn State. I knew we had a genuine connection, so I kept in touch with her, and when she needed an assistant, she thankfully came to me!
Long story short, I started out not knowing anyone in this business, despite everyone telling me I had to have connections to get my foot in the door. But when I met editors who took a genuine interest in me, I kept in touch after my internship was over, and that led me to the (well-decorated) cubicle where I am typing this from.
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
I think my ability to keep a positive attitude at work has really benefited me. Sure, I’ve spent hours making copies and organizing office supplies. But I’ve also published articles in national magazines and have attended celebrity-packed events -- events that I helped plan. If I’d had a bad attitude when I was asked to do things I wasn’t particularly thrilled about, odds are I wouldn’t have been given the exciting assignments that followed.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
FACT: No day is ever the same at Glamour! We’re a few weeks away from Glamour’s Women of the Year event, so at 9:30 a.m. a small team of us have been meeting with the news director to plan for both the magazine and the show. I am in charge of two WOTY-related projects, so these meetings are important for me! The rest of the morning is usually spent with my direct boss, the managing editor. She is in charge of piecing together future issues, so I update lineups for her, which is great because I know every single little thing that’s going in the March issue, five months from now, and if there’s a small change in the January issue, which we’re currently working on, I know about it, too. We have a junior editors meeting soon, so I’ve been dedicating lots of time to brainstorming really strong ideas for it. I also respond to a majority of the 150 reader letters Glamour receives each week. (We answer every single letter!) I love this part of my job because I know howGlamour readers really feel about the content, which is coming in handy as a newbie pitching ideas. My very first byline will appear in the December 2010 issue, so watch out for that! We’re also in the middle of our personal essay contest, so at night I’ve been reading essays in search of the next Joan Didion.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I absolutely love being around creative people. I walk through the art department and you can just feel the energy -- there are a million ideas floating around! And as a long-time magazine lover, I find pure joy in seeing ideas come full circle. I’ll be sitting in a room where editors volley an article idea back and forth, saying why it should be covered and how, and then I’ll watch the headline change on the layout a million times -- each one is tweaked to be a little better, then a little better. And then I’ll get a letter from a reader four months later that says our skin cancer coverage made her stop tanning, or that seeing real women in our fashion pages made her love her body more. It’s these letters that give me a “that’s why we’re here” moment.
What is the most challenging part?
The editors at Glamour are editors at Glamour because they are the BEST. I was just telling someone the other day that I feel like being here gives me the “ivy league” education of magazines. I’m learning the rules at their highest standard, so wherever I go next I will carry that with me.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
Don’t let the office competition get the best of you. Some of my best friends are people I’ve interned with in the past, and I’d be in such a different place if I didn’t have their support. When I’m having a good day or a bad one, they’re the ones who really get it. Plus, I genuinely can’t wait to see where they’ll be 10 or 20 years from now. I know I’m going to dial my friend’s extension one day, and I’ll be talking to the editor-in-chief!
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
This is a highly competitive industry, and I think it’s important for women to work together, rather than try and outdo one another. A fellow editorial assistant said it perfectly: You can’t make a magazine by yourself. It’s a team effort!
Who are your role models?
I have many! As a writer, I love Maureen Dowd. Her writing is witty and intelligent, and she writes about topics that intimidate me. Cindi Leive, Glamour’s editor-in-chief, is where she is today because of hard work (and lots of brilliant ideas). She started out as a writer at Glamour in the 80s, so it’s inspiring for me to start out in the same position she did and watch where she is now. Finally, I look up to anyone who can remain calm during phone calls to tech support.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
Talent always rises. I got that from the executive editor of Men’s Health, and I believe him. To make it original, I add a hint of “do what you love” to this, too. If you’re passionate about something, and you’re willing to put in the time to make yourself good at it, you will be successful. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Develop thick skin. They don’t call it editing for nothing! It’s tough to spend days brainstorming pages of ideas and only get the green light on one, or get your story draft back covered in red marks. But there are so many reasons for why editors change things, and it’s not necessarily because your writing is bad. It could be because your intro sounds too similar to something else in the issue or because the editor wants to head in a different direction with the story line. Take criticism with a smile, because it’s the best way to learn. When you’re the editor-in-chief, then you might have the pressure of writing a knockout headline every single time. Until then, you’re supposed to make mistakes and learn from them.