Career Profile: Stephanie Wu, Magazine Journalism

Our very own co-founder at Mochi, Stephanie, graduated from New York University with degrees in journalism, East Asian studies and gender studies. She now works as an Associate Editor at a national magazine in New York, covering travel, food, and culture.

Describe what you do at work on an everyday basis.

It varies every day—some days I am at my computer, writing and talking to publicists, other days I’m picking up items for a photo shoot or assisting on set. Some days I’ll have tons of meetings and lunches and hardly have time to check my email. I love that no day is the same.

Did you know you wanted to be in the magazine industry when you were younger?

Yes. I grew up in Taipei and first fell in love with magazines as a way to stay connected to Western pop culture. In lower school, the most popular magazines were British entertainment magazines, and I was incredibly on top of the UK boy band scene. Since then I’ve always loved magazines for their ability to immerse you in a world and provide new information, whether you’re being introduced to it or have been a part of it for a long time.

What do you love or hate most about your industry?

I love receiving new magazines in the mail and holding in my hands a treasure trove of information. Nothing can beat that feel of holding a tangible product that you spent a month working on. I don’t love that sometimes my industry has a hard time embracing change—whether it’s style bloggers or social media, it can take a long time for print media devotees to come around to accepting new things. It’s a bit ironic when you think about it, since it’s an industry dedicated to covering what’s new.

How did you prepare yourself for a career in journalism/magazines? What steps did you take in high school and college?

I worked on my school newspaper in high school and determined that what I really love is long-form journalism accompanied by gorgeous photos, which is a magazine’s forte. In college, I studied journalism and made sure to intern at as many magazines as I could to build work experience. Several college journalism programs (mine included) tend to focus on newspapers or broadcast reporting, so I really needed that field experience to learn about the world of magazines.

What surprised you most about working for a magazine?

How much everyone does. The days of each editor focusing on a specific section are over—now, all the editors I know wear multiple hats. Not only do they have to write, edit, and stay on top of several beats at one time, but they also have to have a great eye for visuals, know how to produce photo shoots, or cover a specific market (like fashion or home) and new product launches.

What three qualities allow someone to be most successful as an editorial assistant/editor, and why?

1. Resourcefulness—and this is true for any industry. In your entry level job, you’re most likely assisting someone, which means your main duty is to make someone else’s life easier. Do this by finding solutions they didn’t expect or finishing a project before they ask for it. Your boss will be impressed that you took the initiative to save him or her time.

2. Curiosity—both in and out of the office. As a young employee, take every chance you can to learn the newest technologies and basic software that others have mastered so you can catch up quickly. But you’ll also have to be curious in your day-to-day life. New ideas come from being out in the field and meeting people, so you never run out of stories to pitch.

3. Enthusiasm. At a recent journalism lecture, Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, said that he liked to see young employees “hustle,” meaning that they not only understood the urgency of their work, but also that they were enthusiastic enough about what they were doing to get it done quickly and take on more. If you’re not passionate about your job, it shows very obviously in your work.

What kinds of career growth opportunities are available in this field?

Most mastheads are very linear, so you can see a clear path from editorial assistant to assistant editor, section editor, editor, etc. However, with great writing skills, you could also become a freelance writer, or someday work at a website to incorporate your web skills. It all depends on your dream job.