We had a lovely chat with frankie magazine editor Sophie Kalagas, about study, work experience, and the everyday goings-on at the frankie office (including her frequented secret – now not-so-secret – snack drawer). She shares the most succinct and solid internship advice and stresses the importance of a healthy work-life balance, e.g. not connecting work emails to your phone! Lastly, of course, we talk about all things cat-related.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I did the Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) at RMIT University in Melbourne. The course takes you through different facets of the communications industry, including public relations, media, journalism and marketing. Despite majoring in PR, I soon realised it wasn’t for me – editing and writing was much more up my alley. When I finished my degree, I did a tonne of work experience at mags like Marie Claire, Shop Til You Drop, Lifelounge Magazine, Girlfriend and ACCLAIM. These placements helped me build experience and make contacts, and when a job came up editing a new website at Lifelounge, I interviewed and got the role. That was my first full-time position. (And my only one, before frankie!)
What does a typical working day include for you right now? I’m not sure that there is such thing as a ‘typical’ working day! As a bi-monthly publication, we run in two-month cycles, and my tasks change depending on where we’re at in that rotation. Generally, my days are a mishmash of hunting for content, commissioning contributors and subjects, chasing said contributors and subjects for copy, writing, interviewing, sub-editing, proofreading, reviewing layouts and talking strategy with our ad and marketing teams. I also spend a fair bit of time in the black hole that is my inbox, rustling through my secret snack drawer, and drinking copious amounts of tea.
Whats your take on internships? Applying for internships was the best thing I did. Getting into an office and learning how a magazine actually works is so valuable – you may discover a job that you had no idea existed! Plus, you’ll meet people who could wind up being great mentors or contacts. There’s no better way to really understand an industry than by watching it in action. Having said that, if the internship is unpaid, it’s important not to let anyone take advantage of you and your work. Only stay as long as you’re getting something out of it. You’re there to learn, observe, and hopefully be a bit hands-on – not solely to do the photocopying and coffee runs.
What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate? As a teeny-tiny team, we sadly don’t have job openings very often. When they do come up, though, we look for editorial types with a strong grasp of language (creative writing, flow, punctuation – the whole shebang); keen writing skills; an eagle eye when it comes to spotting typos, inconsistencies, funny little design issues, and anything else proofing-related; a creative brain, with a penchant for problem-solving; a curiosity for other people and the world around them; and generally just a rad, low-key, friendly personality. They also have to be a team player – as I mentioned, our team is pretty small, so we’re always pitching in across ‘departments’ to help each other out. Oh, and being super-organised helps. Editorial jobs require a LOT of juggling!
What have been your highlights since you started out? Aside from landing an editorial role at frankie (my favourite magazine since way back), my highlights have mostly involved all the amazing people I’ve met along the way. There have been pinch-myself moments with big names like Carrie Brownstein and John Waters, but to be honest, it’s the regular folk who’ve made the biggest impressions. Some of my closest friends have come out of interviews and collaborations, and just being surrounded by inspiration and creativity every day is the best. Other highlights: getting to spend my days working with words (massive word nerd over here); watching people we feature go on to achieve big things; and seeing my first issue as editor out on the shelves.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 1. Don’t rush. In an editorial role, this is so important. It’s also something I’ve had to continually remind myself over the past few years! When you have deadlines and a million things to tick off your to-do list, it’s tempting to race through and get it all done as fast as possible, but that’s when little errors and oversights slip in. Slow down. Read each word/sentence/headline carefully. Take your time. Be thorough.
2. It’s OK to say no. We’re often told to ‘say yes to more opportunities!’, and while that can definitely lead to some pretty awesome experiences, it doesn’t mean you should never say no. Sometimes taking on too much – or tasks you’re not comfortable with – can have a detrimental effect and lead to unnecessary stress. I’ve learnt to really weigh up the pros and cons before committing to anything.
3. Work to live, don’t live to work. Similarly, even if you’re super-committed to a job you love, work shouldn’t take over your life completely. Over the years I’ve realised the importance of taking a step back and putting my job into perspective. I’ve made little changes to my habits, like not taking my computer home unless I have something urgent to work on, and not connecting work emails to my phone, and they’ve made a world of difference. Being passionate about your job doesn’t have to compromise a healthy work-life balance.
4. Regular folk are often more interesting than celebrities. I mentioned it briefly above, but I’ll say it again: nine times out of 10, famous people aren’t as interesting as you might expect. The truly fascinating stories often come from the people you’ve never heard of – just Regular Joes getting about with some crazy experiences and lessons under their belts. I’ve learnt to keep an ear open at all times – you never know who you’ll meet, or where!
5. Cat mania is eternal. If we ran a site made up solely of cat-related photos/DIY projects/stories etc, we’d have the most successful site on the web. No questions.