Like many of you, Seventeen was my favorite magazine growing up. I would anxiously await getting a new copy in the mail. I’d learn everything from navigating fashion and dating to navigating health and wellness and beauty. Last week, I went to the Intern Queen Party because a colleague was speaking on a panel. I learned career advice from people at fantastic companies such as Chanel, Alison Brod PR, Ann Taylor, and Seventeen! Meaghan O’Connor, the executive assistant to the editor in chief at Seventeen, represented Seventeen at the panel. She had such fantastic advice about networking, getting a coveted job or internship, developing a personal brand, and staying in touch with professional contacts. I reached out to her and was thrilled that she agreed to be featured for a career profile! I know that you’ll love her advice just as much as I do!
You have what many people would consider to be a dream job. How did you end up at Seventeen? What was your career path?
It’s my dream job, too! I still pinch myself when I think about how it happened, and have to keep reminding myself how many people would kill to be in my shoes! One day, I was graduating college at Michigan, and the next, I was booking a one way ticket to New York to interview. I always tell people it was an awesome mix of really good timing, really good luck, and really hard work. The job just happened to open up just as I was finishing school, and by then I had built up an arsenal of experiences on my resume that showed not only an interest in magazine writing, but a true passion for teen mentorship as well. I had multiple internships while in college, a few online women’s magazines and then a marketing internship at Food Network Magazine, and I also volunteered with several non-profits relating to youth and women/girls. As a college junior, I helped co-found a campus chapter of the national non-profit, She’s the First, and also volunteered as a YoungLife leader, spending time with high school girls and giving them a safe space to be themselves and talk through tough issues. I think the fact that my resume was so well-rounded, as well as my unique and aggressive follow-up, helped land me my job!
What are your roles and responsibilities at Seventeen? What is a typical work day like for you?
That’s a tough question to answer, because no day is ever the same! I have multiple responsibilities at Seventeen, and I’m constantly rotating between all of them — it’s definitely a balancing act! First and foremost, I’m the Assistant to the Editor in Chief, Ann Shoket. That means keeping her organized, prepping for meetings, scheduling meetings, and keeping her on track and on schedule every day. If she gets behind, everyone else does too, so that’s a really important piece of my job. I also coordinate with the different editorial departments to ensure they get her feedback on time. When I’m not doing that, I assist our features editors with story ideas, pitches, and big picture thinking. My interest and editorial focus is in health, food, and fitness, so that’s the story research I enjoy most. I also supervise our HUGE team of features interns every semester. I’m in charge of finding, hiring, and ensuring they have a positive work experience during their time here. And lastly, I interact with readers! Whether on social media, reading their emails, or talking to them through in-person focus groups, I ensure that our staff is constantly connected to our reader—because at the end of the day, that’s one of the most important things. And definitely something our EIC values!
You were in a sorority in college. I have written a lot about the post grad benefits of sorority membership. How has being in a sorority helped your career? Did you learn important leadership skills that you use today?
I’m an Alpha Chi Omega and I’m so proud of it! If I’m being honest, I don’t think I ever saw myself as a fit for Greek life. (My high school friends definitely didn’t either!) I was the quiet, smart, over-achiever in high school… the girl with a tight-knit group of friends but definitely not the “life of the party” by any means. But going through recruitment freshman year, and then later choosing an incredible house, definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone. I owe a lot of the leadership and relationship-building skills I have now—and use almost every day—to my experience with Alpha Chi Omega. I’m probably one of the biggest advocates you’ll ever meet for Greek life, it was such a crucial part of my college experience and instantly opened up my social and professional network to thousands of incredible women across the entire country!
What is your favorite thing about working at Seventeen? What has been your favorite moment so far?
Seventeen created a Girl Power Movement! You must be so proud of the movement! What does Girl Power mean to you?
I’m so excited to be working at Seventeen at a time we’re re-defining what GIRL POWER means to teen girls all across the world. GIRL POWER to me is never giving up, sticking up for your ideas and opinions, always asking questions and forging your own path. I’m so inspired by all of the women in my life who’ve chased their dreams, started companies, founded non-profits… the list goes on and on. It’s so awesome to know that teen girls are more motivated and influential than ever before! And I’m so honored to get the chance to speak to that message and help them chase their own dreams.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career?
I tell my interns every semester how important it is for them to start building their own personal brands. Whether on social media, their blog, their LinkedIn profile, or even just their resume… it’s so important to differentiate yourself from everyone else, especially when you want to work in media or journalism. For me, that means focusing on Instagram and my personal blog. I think it’s hard to be a successful and recognizable magazine editor these days without being up-to-date on major social platforms. It comes as part of the job description! (You can follow me at @megtoconnor!).
What is on your desk right now?
Oh, fun question! Let’s see… I’m super organized (and kind of a neat freak), so I have a filing system in the corner where I keep important memos and documents. The pinboard behind my computer is full of photos of friends and family, inspirational quotes, a letter from the President of Hearst Magazines celebrating my one-year anniversary, and little thank you notes and snail mail I’ve gotten from friends and prior interns that are really special to me. I also have a full color spectrum of sharpies (I’m obsessed), a Kate Spade Saturday coffee mug that my mom bought for me, Estée Lauder perfume, and my Kate Spade day planner (I prefer everything in print!). There’s usually always some sort of treat, too. Today it’s a Georgetown cupcake! And last but not least… plenty of magazines! I keep a few year’s worth of Seventeen next to me at all times!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Take criticism in stride; do your best to listen and learn from it… but then move on! It’s hard to be the youngest person on staff. A lot of times, just by nature of lack of experience, it means getting negative feedback on your performance and not much praise. One of my mentors told me that criticism can be great if turned into a learning experience, but it can also be our biggest enemy. Instead of holding a grudge for something someone might have said to you, take it, learn from it, and then come into work the next day ready to kick-butt again!