Have you the opportunity to work in your college’s magazine? Take it. I’m telling you, as somebody who writes for a living, there is no better place to get started than in the college magazine. Yes, it means you’ll have to do a little bit of extra work, but often it will balance out in the end. Writing is a skill and you’ll practice it. The experience you garner writing for the magazine will help you write for your classes, meaning your essays will be done faster and the quality will be better.
Even if it doesn’t, so what? The advantages still far outstrip the disadvantages. For example:
You’ll get to really express your views
Most people only get to mumble what they think into the bottom of a glass. They don’t get a platform or an audience. And yes, as a writer you might be able to get more opportunities later on, but I promise you they won’t be as free as many college magazines are. They’ll be about making money and keep advertisers happy.
Writing an article disparaging the establishment, calling a political candidate a shaved monkey with the vocabulary to boot, or promoting communist views rarely fit into that. And so you’ll have to temper your tantrums.
The only time you’ll get to vent properly is during college. And it’s also one of the few times other people have the time to listen. So there’s that.
You’ll get to meet people
Working for a magazine is a great way to walk up to people and ask them for a few quotes, to have a cup of coffee, or more. This makes it absolutely fabulous networking tool – something that will pay dividends in the years to come, particularly if you’re trying to get that first job after college.
Even if you don’t meet anybody useful, learning how to talk, interview and digest opinions is a skill that will suit you well throughout your life.
You’ll get important writing experience
Communication is one of the soft skills that fresh graduates most often lack. If you write for the magazine, however, then you won’t, because you’ll have spent a huge amount of time learning to do exactly that. What’s more, you won’t be writing in a bubble, like you so often are when you’re working on an essay, where it’s just you and your research material.
No, you’ll be working with editors, other writers and other people who will have opinions that matter. They’ll be your sounding boards and accommodating their points of view will make you a better writer.
What’s more, the style will be different. You can’t write academic essays in the work place. They aren’t what people are looking for. They’ll be looking for a short, clear and quick communication style that’s easily consumed. Where do you find that style? That’s right, in magazines.
You’ll get to show that you’ve got writing experience
And the benefit to your writing doesn’t end there, either. You see, it’s not just about writing well, it’s about being able to show off how well you write. And with several years of magazine experience under your belt and several published articles that you can show off, that will be far easier to achieve.
Where most people write CVs to show what they’re capable of, writers share their writings. If you don’t have any, well then people will assume you’re not a very good writer.
You’ll learn how to work in a group
When you’re beyond the gates of the ivory tower, you’ll have to learn how to work with other people. That’s harder than you may think – particularly if those people are of different ages and hold very different views from your own (Something that happens in college but is a little less common).
On the college magazine you’ll get to practice those skills. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or the college magazine editor. Everybody needs to be able to talk to everybody else. What’s more, you’ll be able to advertise to anybody who is thinking about hiring you that you’ve practiced those skills. And that will be yet another way that you can demonstrate that you’ve got the soft skills that so many of your contemporaries lack.
You’ll learn how to work toward deadlines
With magazines you can’t ask for extensions. If you miss the deadline, then your article will not be included. Better luck next time. And that is a very useful skill to learn indeed.
What’s more, if you don’t plan correctly for the deadline and have to hurry a piece and as a result, it’s not very good, then you won’t get a bad grade. Instead, everybody will see that you wrote a bad piece. And for me, that was a far more successful mechanism to focus the mind than a bad grade ever was.
As a result, I didn’t learn to meet deadlines through my classes, I learned to meet them because I wanted my hard-hitting journalistic pieces included in this issue and I wanted them to matter and make a difference. And that skill has served me very well indeed.
You’ll have fun
Finally, it will be fun. Your time spent writing, reading, researching, arguing and deciding what will go into the next issue of the college magazine will be something you’ll look back on with enthusiasm and pride. You get to do things, say things, try things that otherwise you might never experimented with.
And no, I’m not talking about drugs. You can try those your entire life. I’m talking about liberalism, idealism and passion for equality that people will scoff at outside of the university, but which still get celebrated while you’re on the inside.
So experiment with those ideas while you still can. The college magazine really is an opportunity that you will not get again. It’s a little bubble that exists on the edge of academia and the real world, where the best of both worlds intersects to create something unique.
Now how could you say no to that?
By Luisa Brenton