Nice Work If You Can Get It: Style Editor

Do you kids remember the ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ interview series that I ran last year? All full of interesting people with cool jobs? (Visual Effects Artist for Weta! Photographer! Dancer!) Well, it’s been a while since I’ve encountered someone with a job so cool that I felt moved to write about. But! Then I ran into Melissa Colgan at my friend Laura’s purse launch and, well, don’t we all want to be style editors? At least just a little bit? I asked her about how she got this sweet gig and the ins and outs of the magazine world. You can read more on her adorable blog Tulle and Plume or her column for Mpls St. Paul magazine, Style Parlor.What’s your official job title?Editor, Shop + Style for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine; Fashion Editor for Mpls.St. Paul Weddings Magazine, and Editor for Mpls.St.Paul Shops Magazine

What’s your average day like?
I really don’t have an average day, which I absolutely love. On any given day I could be in my office editing copy and working with the art department on layouts; producing and styling a photo shoot; scouting or pulling items for a photo shoot, attending industry and fashion events; interviewing store owners or designers, or writing. But is thing is always sure: my days are always full and I am often working up until light s out. Mine is not a 9-to-5 career.

How’d you get such a sweet gig?
I studied journalism at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and had a few random internships in communications, fashion, and retail before interning at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine my senior year. I was asked to stay on over the summer to help with a special project, and was offered a job.

What are the benefits of the job?
I love that I get to write and produce stories on all of my favorite subjects—fashion, design, décor, retail, beauty, and wellness. I never get bored and the story well never runs dry. I also am a person who is big on connections. I love meeting new people, especially other creatives who are passionate about what they are doing and are tops in their field. But most of all I love telling stories. Whether it be through words or images or both.

Any drawbacks?
The hours can be grueling and exhausting and the pay is definitely not great. But I am hoping that the old adage to “do what you love and the money will come,” will hold true.

Any advice for others looking to sit behind an editor’s desk someday?
Be open to all possibilities. I am really early in my career and I am quite open to where things might take me. The world, especially the publishing world, is changing so rapidly that you must be malleable and adaptable to change and new ideas. And always have your eyes open . . . inspiration for a photo shoot or a story can come from the most unexpected places.

And anyone starting out in this industry must be willing to start at the very bottom. I cannot tall you how many interns or assistants scoff at certain tasks. The thing is, those tasks never go away. I will still get on the floor at a photo shoot and fix a hem on a dress, tape the bottom of a pair of shoes, or go grab a coffee for my boss. Doing the small things well and with a good attitude will take you far.

Are professional writers out there? Questions for Melissa?

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  1. Jen

    Hi Melissa! It sounds like you worked hard and got extremely lucky — good for you!

    I am a freelance newspaper reporter, who also majored in journalism. I've figured out that while I love my part-time newspaper gig, I no longer want to be a beat reporter full-time. I'm looking to get into more of feature/magazine style writing. Any advice on how to break into the industry? How's the health of the magazine industry? With print media seemingly on the out, are people hiring or contracting freelance work?

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Moi

    I may be a Pollyanna here, but I really feel like print media will never completely go away. But the way in which we obtain and view it could drastically change.

    The last two years were rough for most all magazines, but ours and many others that weathered the storm are coming out of the recession leaner but stronger. I just finished having a coffee with a freelancer that I assigned a couple of stories to last month, and a couple of stories to again this month. I don't have a huge freelance budget, but after a year and a half with no freelance budget, my bosses are starting to give me a little bit of money again.

    I think the best way to break into the industry is by asking an editor that you are interested in working with out to coffee. Everyone I've ever hired I've met or known first, I don't bite on unsolicited pitches unless I am familiar with the writer or stylist.

    Good luck!!
    Melissa Colgan


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