Being an ex-English Literature student who can remember that stunned 'what now?' feeling as soon as the graduations robes were off, I thought back to what it felt like to not have anyone tell you how to get that dream job. With that in mind, I decided to ask Grace Timothy about her story and careers advice for aspiring writers. Grace is a writer with an endless CV with titles such as Vogue, Glamour and Vanity Fair under her belt and years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry. Read on as Grace discusses studying, internships, travelling and how it really isn't all about the free handbags.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer, and what made you decide it would be specifically about beauty and fashion?
I loved writing throughout school, but never really saw it as a possible career, for some reason. I wanted to be an actress. It wasn't until I was at university and writing fashion articles for the university paper - simply because I'd been asked to - that I started to think about where I could go next with it. I still auditioned for one drama school, but when I didn't get in and had to wait a year before reapplying, a friend who knew the fashion assistant at The Times said they were looking for interns, so I just went there to see what that might be like. I was hooked after day one. The fashion department also produced a weekly beauty page for the paper, and as I got heavily involved with that I found more of an affinity with the subjects and people within that industry, and now focus wholly on beauty and opinion pieces. I went on to intern and assist at various magazines - both national and regional - and about two years in, I got my first job at Vogue. I feel as though I fell into a career as a writer to a degree, but that it's very lucky I did!
You've written for top tier women's publications such as Vogue and Glamour to name but a few; is it as glamorous as everyone would imagine, or do people not get to see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes?
It's a job that does come with certain perks, but at the end of the day, it's a job and if you were in it for the perks alone, you'd last five minutes. Yes, you are spoilt rotten with press trips abroad, great parties and the odd sample sale, but if you didn't work hard, there'd be no magazine at the end of the day. I'm sure readers don't care about what glamorous things we may or may not get to do - as long as they have something interesting to read. Getting a magazine to print takes all the late nights, research, editing and planning you'd imagine - it's hard work for everyone involved, from the editor and sub-editor to the writer and the intern. When I started at Vogue, friends would constantly ask, 'God, is everyone really bitchy?' and I'd just think, well there isn't time for that! It struck me how insanely clever the editors were rather than how well they dressed or how many free handbags they got.
You started your amazing career as an intern at The Times, do you think internships are the best way to get into the industry?
There's obviously a lot of debate at the moment over work experience and how useful it is. But I believe if you can find something that works for you - whether it's a paid internship, one you can support with a part time job or a short contract - I'd say it's definitely worth it. Not only because you learn so much but because it's your opportunity to prove your worth, and even make a name for yourself if you're in the right place at the right time. Or you might even realise this industry's just not for you after all. I really value the experiences I had - even if I was broke and working all hours to fund it all. The people I interned for were integral to securing my first few jobs and I still count many of them as mentors.
You lived in Florence during your studies, what influenced and motivated you whilst living there?
It was definitely where I discovered the other side of the fashion world, beyond the Topshops and New Looks that I coveted as a teenager - those premium Italian houses like Prada, Ferragamo, Missoni... The higher echelons of the industry, I suppose. Just seeing so many different styles on the streets, plus all those designer stores and the business of fashion happening on your doorstep was mind-blowing.
What's your opinion on the increasing amount of publications moving their content online? Do you think they will always be a place for print magazines?
There will always be a place for print - it undoubtedly has to work harder now and we may lose some titles as time marches on, but something tangible you can flick through and keep forever is still valued, I think. Magazines need to support their print editions with an online presence, as well as embracing the android and iTunes market, and all the various social media platforms available to us now. It's an expensive business but I think it forces us all to work harder - that can only be a good thing! Writers and editors have to multi-task like never before.
And finally, what would be your key piece of advice for anyone wanting to get into the competitive field of writing for magazines?
Do your research on the titles you're applying to, listen to everything you're told once there, work your hardest and do so with good grace - no matter the task in hand. Having been on both sides on the fence - first as an intern then as a staffer working with interns - I can say with absolute confidence that it's those who work diligently and with gusto that get the best jobs afterwards. At the end of the day you want to appear as enthusiastic and committed as possible. And it'll pay off.
You can follow Grace on Twitter here.