"Be the weirdo"

and more honest advice from "The Fairy Godmother" of media

It was 2011 when I first discovered Ed2010. I had just finished graduate school in Chicago and moved to NYC, and I didn’t have a clue how to find writing work.

So I was thrilled when a friend tipped me off to this site for writing jobs and career advice. Turns out the founder, Chandra Turner, also made that storied migration from the midwest to The Big Apple, just before launching Ed2010—in 1996! And she’s still at it, helping writers find jobs, matching them with brands, and training content teams.

So it was very cool to finally connect a face and a voice to this site I’ve been turning to for so long.

Over the past two decades, Chandra has made a name for herself as someone who connects people. Her flair for matchmaking earned her the nickname the “Fairy Godmother of Media.” And in chatting with her for this interview, it was clear why she’s so good at what she does. Chandra tells it like it is. She’s an industry veteran who doesn’t sugarcoat anything—and she’s somehow still excited and optimistic about journalism and the media industry. I love that.

And she has some excellent advice to offer on how to make an impression on recruiters, hiring managers, editors, and anyone else you might want to write for.

So. Let’s get to it. Writers, meet Chandra!

Chandra Turner on Being Real and Weird in Your Job Search

Britany: How did you become Ed2010 aka the Fairy Godmother aka “The Talent Fairy”?

Chandra: Ed 2010 was the original career website that I founded way back in 1996. I was a young whipper snapper then, having just graduated from college. I grew up in Indiana and then moved out to NYC. I wanted to work in magazines. And I was told from the beginning that if I wanted to be in magazines, I had to know somebody, like your dad has to be President of the company or whatever. And you have to be connected, and you have to go to these schools and all that. It was really intimidating. And I made some friends who felt the same way.

So we created Ed2010, which was at the time kind of a joke—the idea being we would all be editor-in-chief by the year 2010, which was a really long time away.

And here I am, 20-something years later, still running Ed2010. In the meantime I was also working at a variety of different media companies. I did get that job in magazines; I worked at Good Housekeeping, and then Glamour and Cosmo Girl and Cosmo. And then when I became a mom, I worked at Parents magazine. I really had a wonderful career as a magazine editor. But all along I was working on Ed2010 and running workshops and career events. And a lot of that work connected people to their first jobs. As I moved along in my job and my career, I just naturally started connecting people. I’d help them get their second jobs and their third jobs and I connected friends with each other. I became a kind of matchmaker for people in the industry. Somewhere along the way, I got the nickname as the industry’s fairy godmother.

That’s really how Talent Fairy was born. But it wasn't until I left my last job that I was like, alright, I'm finally going to do this. So now Talent Fairy is a boutique, recruiting agency and career coaching service.

That career path from school to writing to editing is kind of the dream. Do you think the way you did it is still possible?

I would not recommend doing it the way that I did now. I had a very goody-two-shoes approach and did everything the way you're “supposed to do it.” You got the internship, then the next year you got the editorial assistant job and then the associate editing role. That's not how it works today. The way that I did it was this old fashioned, legacy approach. But [that path] is actually not that interesting or dynamic. Now I highly recommend people dabble in a lot more things.

Also, the way things are set up now makes it harder. You kind of have to be freelancing on the side, or starting your own podcast, or doing your own subject newsletter. Either because you have to scratch a creative itch, because you're not getting that in your main job, or because you want to gain the skills for whatever job you want to be doing next. So now it's not so much this one-path-fits-all approach.

There are so many different ways to use your skills as a writer, editor, and content creator these days. It makes it a lot more fun.

That’s a very positive way to look at it! So do you think the job landscape is as bad as everyone is saying it is for writers right now?

No. Publishing is exploding right now. And thank God for that, because I'm a recruiter. It was not good this time last year. But it was actually good before but the pandemic. There were a lot of opportunities, especially in content marketing and branded content. Now, that is also the case.

I actually see the legacy publishing companies coming back too, which is kind of a surprise to me. I mean, they're all digital jobs. But there are jobs. I've been approached in the last week alone by two of the largest media companies who are overwhelmed with so many jobs they have to fill. That hasn't been a problem in a long time.

And then on top of the publishing jobs, there are content marketing jobs. And there are an enormous amount of jobs working in the tech space. Pretty much every subject matter that you can think of, there’s a tech company plus an app out there and they need somebody to create that content. They need an expert to do it. And that's a whole field that didn't exist 10 years ago.

What skills do you think are most important for people looking for those jobs in tech?

I think they really want the storytelling skills. They're not hiring you because you have experience in tech. They're hiring you because you know how to tell a story and you know how to talk to an audience. And a lot of people who have grown up, so to speak, working for brands, or even just in college journalism—you already know how to talk to people in a very authentic way. And we take that for granted. Most people don't have that. I mean, I'm married to a physicist. He can't even write an email.

Everybody wants to be authentic. They want to connect in this authentic emotional way that is going to change behavior, or cause reaction—usually to buy something or subscribe or increase engagement. With old-fashioned marketing, or advertising, we can see right through it, right? It doesn't feel real. And so, what are we skilled at as people who can write and edit? We’re skilled at being authentically connected, and being able to create that kind of connection with a reader, rather than writing marketing copy.

You look at applicants for so many different types of writing jobs. Generally speaking, what's the first thing you look for? Is it the resume, the LinkedIn profile, the social media profile? Where do you go first?

I immediately want to see if they have subject matter expertise.

Also, this is true for everyone even if they don’t admit it, but I look for brands and publications I recognize. Oh, that person is published in the New York Times? Then they must work at this higher level. Or they worked for this brand I know who has a high bar for content? Then I know they do good work.

But mostly, it’s the question of do they have the experience? And do they have the subject matter expertise? Because everybody wants to hire a specialist.

What's one tip you have on how to improve that first impression on someone like you?

Don't fake it. I mean, really just be who you are. I just got finished writing a blog post about why you should apply for fewer jobs. Most people are afraid to embrace a specialty because they're afraid they're going to count themselves out of other opportunities. But the reality is, nobody's going to want you if you're a generalist—or it's going to be really boring. There are some examples where it works. But it's really important to have something that you're good at writing about or enthusiastic about. It makes you better at it, you know?

What is the hardest rejection you’ve ever faced in your career?

So I was working at Cosmo, and I actually didn't like Cosmo so much. I didn't like my boss. I loved the editor-in-chief. But she hired me when the executive editor was on a two-week vacation. I came in right after she got back, and she didn't like me. So she made my life a living hell. Also I was a raging feminist at the time, and Cosmo probably wasn’t the best fit for me.

In any case, I wanted to work at Jane. They were just so cool and irreverent and doing all this cool stuff—Cosmo was too mainstream to do the kind of stuff they were doing at Jane. So I interviewed with Jane Pratt, and we like, fell in love with each other. I'm sure she doesn't remember me now. But she basically offered me the job. I did an edit test. And really, I knew I did really well on it. I'm so excited, and I’m waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. And I didn't get the job.

It ended up going to somebody internally—they promoted him and gave him the job. And I was absolutely crushed. Part of the reason I was so crushed, is up to that point, I had I pretty much gotten everything I wanted. All the jobs that I wanted, I'd gotten. And I was becoming a little big for my britches. I had to learn I wouldn’t always get everything I wanted. And that's okay.

I kept my job at Cosmo for another year, and then I went on to work another job that I liked a lot more. It worked out. It always works out eventually. It's just really hard in the moment. Eventually you can look back on it and think, well, I'm glad I went through that, even though it was hell.

What do you wish more writers knew about what hiring managers are really looking for?

Don't be afraid to geek out on things. Frequently my coaching clients say things like, I don't want you to think that I'm a weirdo, because I know and read everything about this one thing. But [hiring managers] want people who are obsessed with their stuff—that's what makes you highly qualified! So be the weirdo. And reach out. And you know, don't be afraid.

As for pitching, you should really get to know the publication and what their audience is like.

With brands, it’s important to really be a fan of the brand. And understand the brand, the mission. Spend your time doing that rather than pitching your own ideas. Engage that editor somehow in what they're doing. Show them that you understand what they’re doing—maybe you're just complimenting them on some big project they executed. And then you can get in on the conversation about what they're all about. And then maybe you can create something similar to it and have a conversation with them about building something new that you would be excited about.

It's really hard to get into the brain of an editor or a brand. So, you know, that's just one way of doing it. And I think that kind of connection is really important.

Yeah. Be the weirdo.

That’s all for today, friends. A huge thank you to Chandra for sharing her wisdom and advice.

You can follow The Talent Fairy on Twitter, and check out Ed2010 for job listings, career coaching, and lots of great advice on being a working writer.

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