INTERVIEW: Claudia Canavan, online editorial assistant at Esquire

Claudia is an online editorial assistant at Esquire magazine and spoke to Jump for Journalism about studying journalism, unpaid internships and her top tips to excel in this industry:

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in journalism, and why did you?

I’ve always wanted to write, and figured out at school that magazine journalism was the best way to do that for a living, as well as writing about the things that interest me (style, arts, tech, health).

What training did you have and how do you think it helped you?

I did an undergrad degree at the University of Manchester (where I was the fashion editor of the student paper) and then an MA in Magazine Journalism at City University. It helped me immeasurably – it taught me how to write concisely, in an engaging tone, for a specific audience and it gave me a work ethic that I didn’t have before. It was, however, a bloody slog and a serious commitment. It also required me to take out a bank loan to pay for my fees, which I’ll be paying back for 5 years. So not something to do on a whim!

What work experience placements did you do and how did you find them?

I’ve done work placements at The Sunday Times Style, Brides, Mizz, The Harrogate Advertiser, Delicious, Marie Claire and . I also worked for my student paper and wrote for The Manchester Fashion I found them by simply sending off my CV and cover letter to editorial staff by the shedload. If you do enough and send some decent examples of work, someone will invite you in.

What was your first paid role in journalism, and how did you get it?

My first full time paid role was the one I’m in now. I also did some freelance night time sub-editing at The Metro iPad edition, and some freelance work researching and interviewing for a feature in WIRED magazine. I work at Esquire and in my role here, I manage social media accounts, attend editorial meetings, pitch ideas, write ideas, upload content to the CMS and conduct interviews.

What is your opinion on unpaid internships, and how can people excel on these?

Unpaid internships are a minefield. They can provide invaluable experience, mean you make contacts and give you a chance to get bylines. There’s very little chance of getting a job in journalism without a CV full of them. There’s obviously an issue in that a lot of talented people simply cannot afford to live in London (where most placements are) – particularly if they don’t have someone to stay with. As such, a lot of people can’t crack the industry, despite being good at what they do. It’s not something I have a proposed solution to, but it is worrying.

Have you got any advice for those wanting to break into the industry, but struggling to stand out?

 To excel on placements:
  • Be enthusiastic. Ask if there’s anything you can do. Introduce yourself with a smile on your face. Join in with office chat.
  • Try and do whatever jobs you get given quickly and well – people will notice and be impressed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it shows you care.
  • But gauge the mood. If everyone is on deadline and frantically typing, it’s not time to ask about weekend plans.
  • People underestimate how important it is to just be a happy, easy person to be around. That’s the type of person people want in their office.
 To stand out:
  • Write as much as you can.
  • If you’re limited by finances from interning, offer to write for free for local papers, websites etc.
  • Start a blog and keep it updated.
  • Be active on Twitter, and tweet about stuff that is relevant to the type of journalism you want to get into.
  • Write, write write as much as you can.

Thank you!


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