Is this the job for you? Job Profile: Magazine Editor
As part of our ongoing quest to match you with your perfect job, we’ll be featuring profiles of Canadians in various professions over the next few months – from plumbers and editors to engineers and acrobats (OK, that last one is a maybe. We don’t have an acrobat yet).
Cara Smusiak is a managing editor at Canadian Family magazine, a position she’s held since June, 2011. Before Canadian Family, Smusiak freelanced full-time, writing and editing for various magazines, newspapers and websites, and copy editing direct mail advertising, RFPs and event programs.
Here, she shares some insight into her what it takes to become an editor and what life on the job is like.
An editor’s salary, according to Payscale.com ranges from $35,000 – $85,000, and positions can be hard to come by and much coveted in Canada.
Is this the ideal gig for you?
At what age did you decide to become an editor and why?
I was in my early twenties when I decided I wanted to be an editor. I was a staff writer at the student newspaper and went on to be a copy editor and letters and opinions editor. I fell in love with writing, editing, grammar and consistency. I think it also fed my desire to always be learning about people, places, things and ideas.
What type of certification/special skills are required?
There’s no standard for certification. Many editors have gone to journalism school, but many also earn a continuing education certificate or college diploma. And there are others who have a natural talent and are able to get a foothold and work their way up without traditional journalism training.
The skills you need to be an editor include strong writing and editing skills, including an understanding of sentence structure, grammar, spelling, story structure and voice (each writer’s tone and style of writing). Editors also have specific writing and editing skills that may include: packaging (i.e., figuring out how to format and structure articles); copy editing (i.e., spotting errors and inconsistencies); structural editing (i.e., organizing copy and clarifying information); fact checking; proofreading; writing display copy; feature writing; and short item writing, among others.
What is a typical day like?
My day always begins with scanning email, responding to anything that needs an immediate reply and sending crucial email first thing in the morning, sometimes before I’m even out of bed. After that, there is no typical. My day could include any combination of researching; interviewing; writing; fact checking; assigning articles; editing; sourcing product; attending product launches and press events; arranging product and recipe testing with families across the country; status, issue-planning or project meetings; managing work flow; and emailing with contributors, PR reps, potential sources, readers… I also manage our internship program, so I oversee interns’ training and work with them on a daily basis. When we’re in production, I oversee our copy editor, keep everyone updated on the status of all articles, and work with our production manager to set deadlines and ensure pages are signed off so they get to the printer on time. If I’m not working late, I also check my email a few times in the evening.
What is the best thing about your job?
Some of the best things about my job are sharing people’s stories; providing families with helpful (and sometimes life-saving) information; and sharing wonderful children’s literature with kids and parents. And, I have to admit, it’s a whole lot of fun corralling kids and holding babies at photo shoots.
What is the worst thing about your job?
The pace can be exhausting at times. (But I’d be bored out of my mind with a run-of-the-mill nine-to-five job.)
Do you always have a job? Do you freelance on the side?
I’m a full-time editor at Canadian Family magazine. I also write book reviews for Quill & Quire as a freelancer. And I volunteer with the non-profit organization Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), co-editing two publications each year.
What would you say the prospects are like for young people looking to get into the profession? Would you recommend it?
No one goes into magazine editing to rake in the dough; you do it because you love it. If you love it, then of course I would recommend it. But there’s no denying it’s a tough market, and entry-level jobs are few and far between. It’s often a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and also being the right fit for the team (even if you don’t have the experience outlined in the job posting). I often tell students and recent graduates to not sweat it if they don’t get an editorial job right away; instead, freelance as much as possible, take a part-time job to help pay the bills if needed, and network, network, network. It’s such a small industry, so the more people you know and have worked for, the better your chances are of getting your foot in the door — and that’s the first step toward your dream job.