By: T.K. Brady
You’ve been an editorial assistant for a while now and you think you’re ready for new challenges. Before setting up a meeting with your editor, make sure you meet these criteria before putting in your request to move on up.
Master the Necessary Skill Sets
“A stellar assistant or associate editor has both print and online experience,” says Pam O’Brien, deputy editor of Shape. You should also be able to report and write any assignment that comes your way. Need more experience in one of these areas? Set up a meeting with a web or section editor to discuss potential assignment opportunities.
Have High-Quality Clips, Not High-Quantity
Got a couple of great feature bylines under your belt, but only a year of experience? You might be ready to take the leap. O’Brien judges assistant and associate editor candidates on the work they produce, not how many years they’ve served as an editorial assistant. That said, if you feel like you need more experience, “try taking on a gift guide or longer stories for section editors,” says Mallory Creveling, a fitness and health writer. This way you’ll score the clips that prove you’re ready for the next step.
Your editor needs to trust you in order to give you more responsibility. “I’m looking for someone to take instruction and then move forward without hand-holding,” says Mary Kaye Shilling, deputy editor of Newsweek. She’ll also expect you to channel your inner Olivia Pope and handle it, when problems arise.
Get Editing Experience
You’re ready to make the jump to an associate editor position if you’ve done some editing. “There is no way of telling if someone can edit without seeing the actual work,” Shilling says. If you’ve only handled writing assignments, O’Brien suggests asking your supervisor if you can try your hand at editing a front-of-book page.
Show Off Your Positive Personality
When asked what traits make an editorial assistant worthy of a promotion, Shilling says: “Confidence without arrogance. The ability to handle stress with grace.” O’Brien is looking for someone who “is motivated, energetic, enthusiastic and hard working.” Basically, model the behavior of a top-level editor you admire. Chances are, those qualities are what got her there.
Take on More Work
To make a case for why you deserve a promotion, you’ll need to show you’ve taken on more assignments—both print and digital—since your start date. “Make a list of everything you did when you were first hired and the responsibilities you have taken on since,” advises Kelsey Castañon, senior beauty writer at Refinery29. The more detailed your list, the better. Keep in mind, the more work you’ve added to your plate, the more seriously your editor will consider your promotion.
If you’ve tried all these and you’re still not moving up the ladder, keep in mind that your editor may be working with a limited head count and can’t create a new role to move you into, even if she does want to promote you, O’Brien says. So don’t be afraid to look outside your current publication for a new position. “Change is great—it’s exciting to write for a new audience and to see how other teams work,” Creveling says. It never hurts to start sending out job apps even while you angle for a new spot at your current mag.
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