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How She Got There: Julie Pennell, Lifestyle Journalist & Author


Name: Julie Pennell
Job Title: Lifestyle journalist and author of The Young Wives Club (Emily Bestler Books/ Atria)
College Name/Major: Louisiana Tech University/ Journalism 
Website: juliepennell.com
Twitter Handle: @juliepens
Instagram Handle:@juliepens

What does your current job entail?

Julie Pennell: I'm a full-time freelance writer so I work from home and write lifestyle articles for publications like TODAY.com and Teen Vogue. I also just published my first novel, The Young Wives Club, which is a story about a group of college-aged best friends who lean on each other during the trials and tribulations of their very young marriages. Needless to say, I'm writing all day every day as part of my job, and I couldn't be happier because I'm doing what I love.

Is there such a thing as a typical day?

JP: I wake up in the mornings, brew some coffee, then cuddle up with a blanket on the couch as I work on my first assignment for the day. Then I'll do some yoga, shower, change into real clothes (a very important step when working from home, haha) and write for the rest of the afternoon. Since I'm by myself a lot, I try to make plans with actual human beings as often as I can. Maybe that's having lunch with an editor, co-working with some neighbors, or attending a reading with other authors at night.

What is the best part of your job?

JP: Since I was a little girl, I've always loved writing so I'm happy that I get to do that professionally and get paid for it! I also love the fact that I can make my own schedule. Being a freelancer provides so much flexibility. I can set my own hours and take on projects that I truly want to be working on. 

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

JP: My first job out of college was Special Projects Assistant at Seventeen. This kind of dates me, but I was the one who launched the magazine's Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter pages. I also assisted editors, worked on some big partnerships like America's Next Top Model, and edited a couple of pages in the print magazine. I had interned there in college and made sure to keep in touch with all the editors. Internships pay off!

What words of wisdom (well-known quotes, an anecdote from your boss) do you find most valuable?

JP: "Figure it out." One day when I was an intern at Seventeen, I went to the executive editor and asked her how to do something for a project I was working on for her. She looked at me and said, "Figure it out." At that moment, it clicked. I was totally capable of figuring out the answer but I just wasn't thinking that way. I think everyone who's been an intern has felt like they want to do everything right so you ask a lot (almost too many) questions out of fear. But most of the time, you can save your manager the time and figure it out on your own. Of course, if there's something you truly don't know how to do or something that might get you in trouble if you make a wrong move, then, by all means, ask away! 

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

JP: Holding my final book in my hand. I had wanted to write a novel for so long that it felt like I was looking at a tangible version of a dream.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

JP: I've hired many interns in my past, and the ones I always went with were enthusiastic about the job. If they got excited about running mundane errands or transcribing long interviews, I knew they were going to be a rockstar. And most often, the ones who did those boring tasks with a smile were the ones who ultimately got invited by editors to do the bigger more exciting assignments like red carpet interviews. 

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

JP: Take chances. I moved to New York City two weeks after college graduation with no job, and it was super scary, but I know I probably would have never gotten the job at Seventeen if I had stayed in Louisiana while applying. I also quit my secure full-time job to write The Young Wives Club because I knew I'd never actually do it if I had to go to an office every day. Sometimes these risks you take seem like a crazy idea at the time but they also make you work that much harder to achieve your goals because the stakes are so high. Of course have some money set aside and a backup plan just in case. And if you're not ready to take such a big step, start by just sending in your resume for that job you think there's no way you'd get. Hey, you never know! 

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

JP: I always loved seeing internships on there, but if you don't have that experience yet, school clubs (like newspaper or yearbook) or solo projects (like your awesome fashion blog) really stand out, too. Whatever field you're applying for, try to have something on your resume that shows you're interested in it and are taking the steps to get more experience in it. 

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