Meaghan O’Connor is a 2013 alumna in Communication Studies. Currently, she stands as an Editorial Assistant at Food Network Magazine in New York, NY. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Meaghan landed her dream job as the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at Seventeen Magazine. After a year and a half, Meaghan moved to Food Network Magazine, and assumed her current role as an Editorial Assistant. When she is not at work, Meaghan volunteers with several local non-profits, such as She’s the First and Young Life, and is also an avid blogger, public speaker and half marathon runner.
Q: Tell us a bit about the path you took to get where you are.
Meaghan O’Connor: It’s been a fun few years! I graduated from U of M in 2013 and moved to New York City just four days after walking at the Big House. The day I moved to New York City, with just two suitcases, I had my first big interview for the Assistant to the Editor in Chief role at Seventeen Magazine—my dream job. A few weeks later, I had an interview with the Editor in Chief herself, Ann Shoket, who would later become my first boss. I worked in the Features department at Seventeen, in addition to assisting Ann, and learned so much during my time there. After a year and a half, Ann left the magazine, and a few weeks later an Editorial Assistant position opened at Food Network Magazine (both owned by the same parent company, Hearst Corporation). I knew right away that it was the right next step for me. I’ve been here for almost three months now and work closely with our top editors on various projects and research. I’ve really enjoyed my time at both titles—big, powerful brands with a distinct message and aesthetic—and have learned so much working for some of the most influential editors in the business!
Q: When did you know what field you wanted to go into? What experiences led you there?
MO: I’m pretty sure I was in middle school when I decided that I wanted to be a magazine journalist. I knew pretty early on that I’d pursue something that had to do with writing, but it was then that I really discovered both my love for magazines as well as journalism in general—the opportunity to do something so fun and visual in addition to writing was so exciting to me. I’ve always loved the creativity and visual storytelling you find in magazines, so that’s what initially attracted me to them. That, and my mom always used to tell me I was the queen of school projects. Making fun, well-designed posters and portfolios in middle and high school was always one of my favorite things to do (when I didn’t have my nose buried in a book!). I also saved almost every single one of my copies of Seventeen, so I knew the brand inside and out by the time I graduated from college. While at U of M, I took a ton of English classes in addition to the Comm requirements. That really solidified my desire to break into editorial after graduation.
Q: What UM classes or extracurricular activities did you find particularly helpful in your job field?
MO: For magazines, it’s all about your experience when it comes to landing a full-time job (although I can’t say enough good things about the classes I took through the Comm department!). While on campus, I was the Editor in Chief of the Greek newspaper, The Forum, and also wrote freelance articles for a ton of online women’s lifestyle magazines and blogs. At The Forum, I learned firsthand what an editor does in comparison to what a writer does, as well as how that relationship works when it comes to developing a final story and product. It also gave me great leadership experience and a taste of social media and media marketing as well. I was also part of the founding team that helped launch our Michigan chapter of the national non-profit She’s the First. I took on a marketing role, but really helped with everything from social media to developing a website to brainstorming events and marketing programs. That experience alone taught me what it’s like to build something from the ground up, which is a really incredible creative exercise that pushed and challenged me more than any other project or experience I had at U of M. On top of those activities and experiences, I also completed a variety of magazine internships both in Ann Arbor and NYC. I actually interned at Food Network Magazine in the Marketing department the summer before I graduated. (That’s how I knew I’d love coming back!)
Q: Describe a day-in-the-life at work.
MO: Oh boy! There’s really no typical day. As an Editorial Assistant, I do variety of things. First, I handle and manage all of the administrative duties for our top three editors, the Editor in Chief, Executive Editor and Managing Editor (ie their scheduling, expenses, research, meeting prep, etc.). Second, I assist our Associate Editor and Senior Editors with any research they need another pair of eyes on. Just recently, I was doing a ton of research on some of the best small towns in America with exceptional food and community culture. I could also be researching something like the best candy shops in America or how people across the country say the word “potato.” Lots of random things, haha. Third, I act as a news gatherer and keep a pulse on what’s happening in the food world for our editors. Since they don’t necessarily have time to scour the news every day, I send them the most important links to make sure everyone on staff stays informed. I also include fun social media snapshots from our readers. (They love seeing people cook our recipes and interact with our magazine in real life!) Lastly, I supervise our internship program and coordinate student visits to the office and workshops with editors. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job—I love having and entertaining visitors!
Q: What is one of the best, as well as one of the most challenging, aspects of your work?
MO: Coming up with new ideas! As part of the Features team, I’m responsible for submitting ideas every month. It’s hard to be creative when we’ve already done/covered so much and you have a limited amount of things to talk about. But that opportunity to be and think creatively is also one of the best parts of my job—I spend lots of time on food blogs and Pinterest searching for inspiration!
Q: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had at work?
MO: While I was at Seventeen, we had a last minute need for someone to run downtown for a quick interview with Karlie Kloss. Everyone else was busy that day, so they let me take on the interview myself. I got to visit Karlie at her apartment and ask her a few questions about girl power for our YouTube channel. I was terrified of sounding like an inexperienced journalist (this was my first major interview!), but instead, it was more just like a really fun conversation. Plus, she sent us off with some of her famous Karlie’s Cookies! I’m pretty sure I left her apartment in denial that it even happened. The final video turned out great!
Q: Provide a piece of advice for students working towards internships and full-time opportunities in the communications field.
MO: Think about your story. What unique experiences, passions, desires and goals do YOU have that make you the perfect candidate for the position you’re applying for? What makes you different than anyone else who’s applying? Why are you the best person for the job? Come to any job interview ready to tell a powerful story about who you are and what you’re going to bring to the table. My favorite way to think about it: If you were to show an employer your Instagram bio, what would you want it to say? What story would it tell?