University of Missouri - Bachelor's Degree in Journalism + Multicultural Studies Minor
At age 24, Jessica Matteson was a college grad still working as an intern; underemployed and underpaid. She could have settled for a job at the local newspaper or moved up the ladder at her job at the mall, but she promised herself she'd stick it out and wait until the right job came along.
Jessica's glad she waited. Today, she's a copy editor for TransWorld Media, where she oversees edits to seven sports magazines, from surfing and snowboarding to skateboarding, BMX, UFC, motocross and business. The variation keeps her job fresh and the once unfamiliar realm of sports has now become second nature.
To those still searching for the right job rather than the right now job, Jessica says, "Good things take time and effort. Hang in there and keep making contacts and knocking down doors."
Pick your battles.
How did you discover your current job?
As a 24-year-old who was still just an intern, I made a promise to myself that I would find the job that was right for me and that I wouldn’t give up until I found it. I scoured job postings daily and reached out to anyone and everyone. I found my job on mediabistro.com, a wonderful resource for those in the journalism field.
What does your typical job schedule and day look like?
Right now I oversee edits to seven magazines. There are three stages in which I look at the text for the publications. This means that I read a lot of copy throughout the day! First, I look at the text in a Word document format, then a design layout, and finally a printout of the magazine page. This gives me three chances to catch mistakes. I correct everything including spelling, grammar, punctuation and factual mistakes. The dictionary and Google are my best friends when I’m at work.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Sports, a realm that was once so unfamiliar to me, has now become like second nature. I’m able to rattle off terms such as “heelflip,” “riptide” and “guillotine choke” without missing a beat. It’s definitely a job where I can guarantee I'll learn something new every day.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
My eyes are the last to look at the magazines and make any editorial changes before they are shipped to the printer. I literally have had nightmares about commas and quotations. You can never feel 100 percent certain that you didn’t overlook something.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
Luckily, the only sacrifice I’ve made is leaving my dog at home while I’m at work. Only pet parents will understand when I say that I miss my pup like crazy when I’m at work and that I’d rather go home to cuddle with him than out for happy hour at the end of the workday.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Pick your battles. The publishing business is such a creative one. From writers to designers, photographers and even copy editors, we all want to put in our two cents. And at the end of the day, it’s such subjective work that no one is truly right or wrong.
Who are your role models?
Cathie Black, former president of Hearst Magazines, is certainly a motivator. After attending a seminar where she explained how she paved her own path in the cutthroat world of publishing, I was convinced I could do just the same. Giuliana Rancic, entertainment host, is by far the most fearless and inspiring woman. I bawled like a baby while watching her touching E! True Hollywood Story. This woman just doesn’t give up.
What are some of the rules you live by?
“Remember who you are.” This one has a lot of meaning behind it. My mom started saying this to me long, long ago to remind me to make good decisions. I use this in a much broader sense now. Not only do I remind myself of who I am, but who I want to be, what I want to accomplish and how I will do that.
What qualities does someone need to be a successful copy editor?
You truly have to have a love for the written word. A copy editor should find vocabulary, synonyms and grammar fascinating. Being a good speller and wordsmith is great, but you have to be able to read something over and over again with a fresh pair of eyes and be able to latch on to each word. Catching and correcting mistakes should be a thrill -- it certainly is for me!
What advice do you have for women who want to work in the magazine industry?
It’s an interesting time in media right now. Print is still alive, but it seems to be hanging on for dear life. Women who want to work in the magazine industry need to have a passion for print, but they also need to be aware of and skilled in digital and mobile media. Being trained in all aspects of journalism -- print, digital, mobile, broadcast etc. -- is essential these days. Get a Twitter, start a blog, design a website, create an app and have a voice.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Although I love being a copy editor, I would eventually like to harness my creativity and work behind the scenes at one of our magazines as a creative director or managing editor. Ever since a capstone project in college where I created a magazine from scratch, I’ve wanted to tap into the artistry of dreaming up magazines.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to give some encouragement to the women who are post-college and still either interning or unemployed. Better than anyone, I know the feeling of being overworked and unpaid. I could have easily taken a job at the local newspaper or moved up the ranks at my job at the mall, but I stuck it out and held out for the right job to come along. And boy, I’m glad I did. I promise that you'll find your dream job. Good things take time and effort. Hang in there and keep making contacts and knocking down doors.