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How She Got There: Katie Sanders, Contributing Editor at Glamour

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Name: Katie Sanders
Age: 24
Job Title and Description: Contributing Editor, Glamour
College/Major: University of Pennsylvania/urban studies major, journalistic writing minor
Website: http://www.glamour.com/contributors/katie-sanders
Twitter Handle: @katiessanders  (and@glamourtopten, which all awesome college women should follow!)

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Katie Sanders: My main job at Glamour is managing the magazine’s Top 10 College Women Competition, a program that has been recognizing 10 amazing undergraduates every year for the past 57 years. So, a “day in the life” means anything from vetting the thousands of applications we receive to writing content and figuring out what celebrities our winners should meet when we bring them to New York in the spring. I also write for Glamour.com’s Get Inspired section, which might entail me interviewing movers and shakers like TheNew York Times’ Nick Kristof, or recapping a cool Glamour event featuring women who run their own businesses.

What is the best part of your job?

KS: Interacting with amazing college women all day long. When your job is to essentially celebrate the country’s most high-achieving and impactful 20-year-olds, there’s a lot of fun to be had in hearing about what motivates them and what makes them so incredible. Inventors, Olympians, peacemakers, rocket scientists… sometimes girls will tell me about the kick-butt things they’re up to while maintaining 4.0 GPAs, and I’ll think, “What am I doing with my life?” But more often I feel content knowing these women are out there. If they are this brilliant and accomplished at 20, just think what they’ll be doing for the world a few decades from now.

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

KS: I’m a strong believer in internships. If you have the opportunity to experience and contribute to a workplace while you’re still a student, take it! I did, starting when I was a high-school newspaper geek who convinced the editor of my city’s weekly paper to let me spend my vacations in her newsroom. During college, I spent my summers and select semesters interning at different magazines (Seventeen, Philadelphia, Marie Claire… I even talked my way into freelancing gigs at Glamour over winter breaks).

In 2011, I applied to be an American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) intern and lucked out when I got matched at my dream magazine, Vanity Fair. Then, what started off as a pretty typical summer internship took a fortuitous turn for the best; an assistant editor whom I’d played on the Vanity Fair summer softball team with was leaving the magazine and asked me to fill in for him until a replacement was hired. I ended up taking off the first half of my senior year to assist VF’s legendary executive literary editor, Wayne Lawson. When people asked why I was absent from University of Pennsylvania that fall, I told them I was studying abroad at the University of Wayne. Best school ever.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

KS: Regardless of whether you want to work for a magazine’s print edition or the digital side, learn everything. I, along with the rest of the industry, have had to quickly adapt to new–­–and very cool—digital platforms and consumer behaviors. There’s tons of value in honing your digital skills early on (even just through your own Twitter and Tumblr accounts, at first). If you can write a story and build it out, you’ll be much more marketable and useful to an editorial team.

You were a Her Campus writer for several years during college! What were some valuable lessons you learned from being part of the HC team?

KS: Being part of the Her Campus network definitely helped me realize the value of collaborating with talented peers. Some of the people I got to know through Her Campus are now great colleagues and friends. “Networking” is such a buzz term, but there’s something really important and organic about establishing genuine connections with people when they’re in a similar stage as you. Sure, asking a career crush to coffee can definitely be fruitful. But it’s equally rewarding and helpful to see the same friends whose internship applications I used to proofread go on to become writers and editors actually doing the hiring.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

KS: Wayne, the longtime Vanity Fair editor, definitely comes to mind; he gave me the chance to learn from him and his world when I was barely old enough to enjoy all the martinis in it. And there’s also a really special Penn English professor, Kitsi Watterson, whom I apprenticed for throughout college. An author and former news reporter who has covered issues from black liberation to women’s rights to prisoners’ rights, she has taught me how to keep up my interests in social justice and mass incarceration, even when those subjects aren’t necessarily focal points of my daily job.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

KS: I appreciate Katie Couric’s boldness and bravery (in addition to her awesome first name). At this point in her career, she could easily kick back and retire, already having broken plenty of barriers and contributed a lot of great work. But that’s not her style, as evidenced by her favorite mantra, which she shared backstage at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards this November: “A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are built for.” I love that.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

KS: Someone very grounded and aware who really wants to support the workplace and is smart and gracious about knowing how to contribute. Someone who has great ideas of her own but also knows when to execute and support whatever it is my team is working towards. Someone with awesome editorial and interpersonal discretion.

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

KS: Remember that your first job most likely isn’t your last. I know it can be stressful to figure out where to kick off your career, but I’d always advise someone to go to the place with the most potential for growth and development. That doesn’t always mean the sexy company you want to work at 10 years from now. Go kill it somewhere you can get your hands dirty, and then go knocking at the place you aspire to be—armed with a ton of applicable experience. 

 

Also, sort of in line with Couric’s favorite saying, don’t be afraid to do something a little bold, quirky or out of the ordinary (i.e. taking time off to pursue a concrete interest or studying abroad in a country different than the place all your friends are going). Those are the things that make you more knowledgeable and interesting. Or that’s at least what I told myself back in college when I spent a semester researching Scandinavian prisons in freezing Norway while a bunch of my friends were kicking back together in sunny Spain. 


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