So, who applied to the posting, anyways?
One week, several Tim Hortons coffees, and many .doc files later, we had managed to read through every cover letter and résumé sent to us via Craigslist. The end result: 209 applications for our basic editorial assistant position, paying $12-13 per hour (about $25,000 to $27,000 per year). We saw applications from all walks of life: from current students to recent grads to folks with over 10 years of admin experience.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” says Catheryn Kendall, the director of human resources for St. Joseph Media in Toronto, a magazine publisher whose titles include Toronto Life, FASHION, Weddingbells, MARIAGE Québec, Canadian Family, Quill & Quire, Ottawa Magazine, Where magazines, and Torontoist.com.
Kendall says that it’s not uncommon to receive up to 300 résumés for an entry-level position at one of St. Joseph’s magazines. From there, she says, they typically narrow down the pile to 20 applications for the hiring manager to look at. Hiring managers typically like to interview three or four candidates in a first-round interview, though if there’s been a great response, they may interview five to six.
The idea of narrowing down our incredible pool of applicants down to 20, let alone one, sounds ridiculously daunting. Even if you cut out the 27 applicants (13 per cent) with less than a year of related-experience, that still leaves us with 182 experienced applicants. Suddenly it becomes a question of what type of experience is ideal for the job.
Take Meredith Bailey, for example. She recently landed a job as an editorial assistant for Avenue magazine at RedPoint Media in Calgary, Alta. But it wasn’t easy. She had just finished an editorial internship with the same magazine when the position became available: a serendipitous set of circumstances to begin with. But she was still competing with about 400 applicants from around the world.
Bailey’s resume was detailed and comprehensive. Besides her two bachelor’s degrees under her belt (including a journalism degree from the University of King’s College), she had completed an internship at Where: Canadian Rockies, worked as a travel blogger at Le Quebec Maritime, and completed an internship for school credit at Mindful.org.
“That’s really where you learn, more than anything else,” says Bailey, 29, of her internships.
The surprising statistics
To be honest, we were surprised that only 39 of our applicants (19 per cent) had completed one editorial or media-related internship. And only 12 applicants (6 per cent) had completed two internships. And even though I’m not a hiring expert, I’m not sure that I would even consider an applicant who hadn’t completed at least one internship.
“I hate to use the term ‘You have to pay your dues,’ but you really do,” says Kendall.
“It’s an industry where you have to show what you can do. You have to show the quality of your writing or editing or arts or design.”
If you, like Erica Newman, are a recent arts grad, you may have found yourself at a crossroads: even though you know you need more experience in order to be eligible for more opportunities, you’re not sure how to go about it. Should you continue to work in your current position (even if it is unsatisfying and unchallenging), return to school for a more specialized education, or apply for internships in your desired field? If only we had a crystal ball, we would know for sure what route will pay off in the long-term.
Apparently, many of us have banked on furthering our education to give us a boost. According to a study commissioned by TD, roughly 175,000 young Canadians have left the labour force since the recession began. Not surprisingly, many have returned to school to either upgrade their skills or earn another degree. Data from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada showed that the enrollment rate in both undergraduate and graduate university programs was markedly higher between 2008 and 2011 than in previous years, coinciding with the poor job prospects of new grads. And our data from our own experiment has shown us that 52 (25 per cent) of our applicants held a bachelor’s degree and a specialized diploma or certificate in a publishing or media-related field.
Still, it all comes back to real-world experience.
“Take every opportunity to make connections; seek out the opportunities to do the work that may get you noticed,” urges Kendall, who suggests that it may be the quality of your portfolio that gives you an edge over other qualified candidates. “If somebody has taken the time out to get some related-experience on top of their education I do think that gives them an edge.”