I am so excited to be starting the 2016 Career Profile series with Elana Fishman, the executive digital editor of one of my favorite magazines, StyleWatch. Elana previously worked at SELF, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, and Lucky, and with Jason Wu. After working as the deputy digital editor of Lucky for almost four years, she got a phone call (and a job offer) from StyleWatch and joined the team.
Elana Fishman, Executive Digital Editor at StyleWatch
How did you end up as the executive digital editor at StyleWatch and The Outfit? What was your career path?
I’m one of those weird forward-thinking types; I decided when I was about thirteen that I was going to move from Florida to New York City for college and then become a fashion writer and editor. I only applied to one school — NYU — and that was that! I knew I needed to start interning as soon as possible, so the summer after my freshman year, I got an internship in the fashion department at SELF. I stayed there through the following fall, and then moved to Teen Vogue which – at the time – was my absolute dream workplace. (Remember, this was circa “The Hills.”) After a semester in the fashion closet, I started interning in the fashion news department — and I stayed there until I graduated in 2009. It was the most incredible experience; I’d cluster my classes so I’d be on campus two or three days a week, and then I’d work two or two and a half days per week at Teen Vogue — writing, scouting girls for the magazine, helping produce shoots, and doing photo research.
I graduated during the height of the recession, unfortunately, which meant that every magazine and publishing company was in the midst of a hiring freeze — so with the help of my then-boss, I got a job as Jason Wu’s assistant. Now, this was just a couple of months after Michelle Obama wore one of Jason’s gowns for the first time (to the inaugural balls!), so it was a crazy time to be at the company. I was technically Jason’s assistant, but since we were working with a team of about seven people, I was also the receptionist, the PR assistant…sometimes even the fit model! It was an amazing experience being part of a fast-growing, buzzy brand and I got to do some really incredible things as part of my job (hand-delivering dresses to Diane Kruger and Zooey Deschanel and helping them prep before red carpet events was a definite highlight!).
After a little over a year with Jason, I was called in to interview at Marie Claire; Nina Garcia was looking for a new assistant. I got the job, and wound up staying at Marie Claire for about a year and a half. Midway through that time, I transferred roles and became the magazine’s credits editor and fashion news assistant — which meant I was doing all the in-book fashion credits and writing several of the front-of-book pages, too. I still wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to, though, so I began freelancing for Fashionista.com; mostly doing event and party reporting, but also covering a bunch of shows during Fashion Week. When Lauren Sherman, the site’s editor-in-chief at the time, was tapped to be the new executive digital editor at Lucky, she created the position of digital fashion news editor and brought me along with her.
I stayed at Lucky for almost four years; by the time I left, I was the deputy digital editor, which meant I was editing, writing, and handling a lot of the day-to-day editorial operations. But when StyleWatch called me last summer and told me they were looking for someone to help relaunch their site and revamp their digital presence, I couldn’t turn it down. I love covering celebrity style more than anything, and StyleWatch does so in this really accessible, wonderfully friendly way.
What are your responsibilities as executive digital editor?
I personally edit and publish every single story that goes live on our site. I also write several features of my own each week, oversee our monthly editorial calendar, and work with our ad side on sponsored content. I also work very closely with our social media editor on everything StyleWatch shares via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.
What makes this job so different from my past positions is that StyleWatch doesn’t yet have its own digital editorial team; everything we post is either written by a print staffer, a member of our blogger community, or myself! We’re very much like a startup in that sense.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
Since I joined StyleWatch, our Facebook following has nearly tripled and our Twitter following has almost quadrupled — so that’s pretty exciting! But working with our print staffers — many of whom had never written a single online story before I came on board —has been the most rewarding, honestly. During my first few weeks on the job, I spent a lot of time teaching them all about SEO, writing a clicky headline, and pitching for the fast-paced web — and they’ve all become so enthusiastic about contributing to the site and having a voice there.
What is your favorite piece you’ve published so far?
StyleWatch’s credits editor, Abby Hepworth, recently put together this great feature about how to decide whether a so-called “investment piece” is truly worth it — and everything you should consider before pulling the trigger. What’s awesome is that all her advice applies whether your chosen splurge is $200 or $2,000; everyone could learn something from it.
I also loved our fashion editor Rachel Aschenbrand-Robinson’s recent story on ways to make your wardrobe look more expensive — even if you’re working with a small budget. Rachel’s covered the fast fashion market for years, and she really knows how to make under-$50 buys look like a million bucks.
As for stories I’ve written myself, I’m partial to the first feature I wrote for StyleWatch, in which I predicted which stars might pop up during Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour. I correctly guessed three — Selena Gomez, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West (OK, so two of those encounters happened at award shows and not technically at Taylor’s own concerts, but still). Still kind of bummed that Calvin Harris was a no-show, though.
You’ve written a lot about Taylor Swift. What’s the best career advice we can learn from Taylor?
I definitely feel like I’m earning a reputation for being the industry’s resident Swiftie, but I can’t help it! I just love her music, her style, her work ethic — everything. She’s that rare sort of #girlboss who’s in total control of her career and her image, but isn’t afraid to dance like a dork, either.
My favorite Taylor-ism: “No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.” It’s so true — no matter what industry you’re in, you never, ever forget when someone’s been nice to you. Kindness goes a long way. Also, I’m a full advocate of “shaking it off” — the stress, the self-doubt, the second-guessing oneself — on a regular basis.
How would you describe your personal style? What are a few staples?
As everyone I work with can attest, I live in fit-and-flare skirts and dresses. No pants for me! My style’s pretty feminine and classic, a bit preppy, and definitely polished. I don’t really go for anything too wacky or avante-garde; it’s more about knowing what fits and flatters me most. I buy a lot of my favorite basics (sweaters, turtlenecks, silk dresses) from Aritzia, and I find most of my trendier items at places like Topshop or Zara. I do have a soft spot for really beautiful, classic bags and shoes, though; I’ve been known to splurge on a pair of Rag & Bone ankle boots or a great Prada bag.
You have such a strong social media presence. Your Instagram account and Twitter account are two of my favorite accounts to follow. What advice do you have for building a strong social media following?
Why, thank you! To be completely honest, social media is just something I love; I think it shows when someone’s active on Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram because they feel like they have to be. That said, it can be a huge asset when it comes to establishing your own personal brand, no matter what your job may be. With Instagram, I think it’s all about careful, thoughtful editing (no over-filtering!) and not flooding your followers’ feeds — there’s honestly no need to post three of the exact same selfie, not even if you’re a Kardashian. Generally speaking, I save my best shots for Insta — outfits I’m particularly proud of putting together, puppies, crazy-delicious brunch foods, friend outings, and celeb encounters — and everything else goes on Snapchat. Honestly, a lot of times my Snapchat stories are just shots of whatever I’m currently watching on TV and whatever I’m snacking on while doing so! Twitter’s my favorite social platform, though; I’m a words girl through and through. How else would I share all the terrible puns I come up with on a daily basis?!
What is on your desk right now?
A variety of heavy-duty hand creams, a bunch of back issues of StyleWatch, my iPhone, earbuds (I’m constantly listening to music at my desk), and a Gala apple. I have to have at least one apple a day — I’m addicted. Also, two designer Barbies — a Coach one and an Hervé Léger — and my red lipstick du jour. Right now, I’m all about the Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Coveting someone else’s career, salary, wardrobe, appearance, or relationships won’t improve yours, but it will waste your time and make you miserable. I know it sounds like a cat poster (to quote “The Lego Movie”), but just focus on being the best YOU that you can possibly be.
What advice do you have for other women who hope to become a writer and editor?
Use social media to your advantage! It’s an amazing (and free!) way to network with other people in the industry, share your clips, comment on trending topics, and establish your own personal brand. Of course, be sure you’re using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook responsibly; always assume that your current and future employers and co-workers are keeping tabs on your profiles. Social media’s usually the first thing people check before making a hire — and you wouldn’t staple a bunch of blurry, obviously drunken selfies to your résumé, would you?
Thank you, Elana!
All images are courtesy of Elana Fishman and can be found on her Instagram.