How many of us can say that our last haircut was featured in Fitness Magazine?
Victoria Phillips, 25, can say that and a lot more about the experiences she’s had since graduating from the University of Florida in 2011. After landing a job with Food Network right out of college, she left the big city for an even bigger opportunity in Birmingham, Ala. as an Online Editor and Social Media Lead at Hoffman Media.
Victoria gave us the details on how hard work, networking and confidence in her abilities has helped make the first few years of her career a stellar success.
Feather Magazine: When did you know you wanted to work in magazines?
Victoria Phillips: My junior year of high school. Well, sort of. Freshman year of high school I stumbled across our school newspaper, so when sophomore year rolled around, I knew I wanted to be on staff. Junior year, however, I remember picking up Jane magazine—RIP—for the first time. I still remember the cover: Anne Hathaway with a pixie cut and bright pink lips. All of the stories were so well written—the perfect mix of wit, sass and downright silly. I couldn’t put it down, and it was the first true magazine I read cover-to-cover. As a result, I started taking on more at the newspaper, until I was finally co-editor-in-chief my senior year. The rest, as they say, is history.
FM: What work did you do to make sure you got the experience necessary?
VP: I definitely unnecessarily freaked out. Hah. UF’s J-school was great at sending out lots of emails with internship and job opportunities across all levels of media. While it was a wonderful way to learn about new opportunities, it gave me the worst anxiety, like I was already behind because I didn’t have an internship my freshman year. So, freshman spring I took some of my high school newspaper clippings and started interviewing. I can’t even tell you how many times people commented on my age. A lot of students wait until the very last second to get internships before they graduate, and that’s a fatal mistake. Definitely strive for at least two internships (if not more) on your resume by the time graduation rolls around.
Another thing: Some people will tell you to stay at one place forever, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I guess I always chaffed at the idea. I held a different internship every semester and summer, and I think that really helped. I was exposed to so many different personalities, it became much easier to anticipate my boss’ needs when I started working in the real world. Besides, this industry is all about who you know, so why not make life easier and have connections everywhere? You never know where you might end up.
FM: How did you get your job at Food Network?
VP:I say it’s because I knew the right people, but a lot of candidates interviewed for my position, so I’m sure it wasn’t just that. The summer before my senior year, I was part of the American Society of Magazine Editors internship program. ASME picks 24 students from across the nation going into their senior year and places them at various national magazines. I spent the summer with More magazine, and I really carved out a niche for myself in the digital department. So much so, they asked me to stay on as a remote web intern my senior fall. During my job search, I reached out to any and every one I’d met over the summer. Thankfully, when Food Network was looking for a new editorial assistant, they reached out to ASME for recommendations. The director remembered I had a food blog and sent along my information. I flew to New York for an interview and was sent home with an edit test. After days of waiting on pins and needles, the deputy editor reached out to me and actually asked if I’d be interested in a different position: online editorial coordinator. Best first job ever.
FM: How did you make the decision to switch jobs and move down South?
VP: After two years at Food Network, I was getting antsy for a change. I didn’t really mean to start looking for a new job, but a friend who was vacating her position at Self thought I’d be a good fit and told me to apply. That got my job search going. I interviewed with a lot of places—allure.com, about.com, Good Morning America, Refinery29.com—and nothing was coming through. I decided to expand my search nationwide. Once I got it into my head that I’d be OK possibly moving anywhere for a job, the possibilities were endless. It was a tough decision, but ultimately the timing worked out perfectly. All of my family is in the South, and the lure of making more money with a cheap cost of living was too good to pass up. Plus, this new job was a huge step up in responsibility. I moved in January and haven’t looked back.
FM: What are the duties of your current position?
VP: What don’t I do? Hah. Having worked at both large and small companies, I must say, I really enjoy working at a smaller company because I have my hand in everything. Our digital department is really small—like three people small—so I oversee all of the growth, development and SEO for our websites (there are 10 of them, each with their own unique brand and voice). This position is entirely new for Hoffman Media. So new, in fact, that I just took over all of our social media as well. I don’t post for the brands on a day-to-day basis, but I do all of the analytics and best practices reporting, plus constantly assess our social media footprint and engagement. I also do a little back-end web dev, since we’re currently re-launching three of our websites. I also spearhead our publisher’s blog, The Ribbon in My Journal, and I’m in the middle of helping about half of the brands revamp their newsletters. On any given day I could be brainstorming a new marketing plan with the team, creating a new digital ad with our graphic designer, editing content for the site, photoshopping images, researching industry trends, or working with the editors to put together giveaways.
FM: What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
VP: Trying not to compare myself to others—especially females my age. It’s so easy to compare Twitter or Instagram followers and use that as a measurement of self-worth. It isn’t, so stop doing it. It’s really easy to get down on yourself in this industry, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t help anything. In the words of my favorite #GIRLBOSS, “you have to be your own idol.” Push yourself to always be better than the you you were the day before. Also, everything isn’t always going to be sunshine and roses. I know you don’t want to hear this, but hard work is hard. And some days are harder than others. Don’t let it get you down. You always have the chance to do better tomorrow.
FM: What’s been the biggest reward of your career?
VP: Having magazines like yours reach out to me for advice. I love being able to share my knowledge (what little of it I have) with other aspiring journalists and young kick-ass women. If I can help other people, even just a little bit, then it makes my day. I was also pretty stoked when my first full-page feature appeared in Food Network Magazine.
FM: What advice do you have for other people looking to get an awesome job like the ones you’ve had?
VP: Network, network, network. It doesn’t matter if it’s just another lowly intern—you never know where they might be in five years. Also, always, always, always, be kind. I think people forget that one a lot. I’m also still a firm believer in the handwritten thank-you note. People really don’t send them anymore, so it makes you stand out. Totally send a thank you email after you meet with someone, but don’t forget the snail mail, too. It isn’t overkill, promise. KEEP LEARNING. The day you stop is the day you’re done for. I learn something new every day at this job, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I need to keep up-to-date, so I can keep my editors in-the-know. And lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to people you want to learn from, no matter how far-fetched it seems. More often than not, people do want to help.