Interview: Nicola Donovan

Nicola Donovan has interned at CLEO, Total Girl, Madison and InStyle. Wow, that's quite a list! Here she shares her secrets on how to get started as an intern and get that vital foot in the door to the magazine realm.

She's also just set up a new blog. Say hello.

1. Tell us about yourself and why you’d like to become a journalist.

My name is Nicola and I’m 19 years old. I’m currently an intern at CLEO magazine and have previously interned at Total Girl, Madison and InStyle. I’m also studying a media and communications degree.

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a journalist. After finishing my Higher School Certificate, I still had no idea what I wanted to be. I figured since English was my best subject, and media and communications is such a broad degree with a lot of different paths stemming from it, I would give it a go. I absolutely love it and feel so lucky to now know exactly what I want to do! As for my interest in magazine journalism, well the ever-growing pile of glossies bursting from my cupboard speaks for itself.

2. How did you first become an intern? Did you apply to many different magazines?

I firstly applied to a bunch of different magazines begging for work experience. I didn’t necessarily see it as a career path at the time, just more of a dream that I wanted fulfilled. Anyway, I scored a week at Total Girl magazine. Although it wasn’t my first choice, I’m so grateful for the opportunity and haven’t looked back once. After my week at Total Girl HQ (part of Pacific Magazines), I was offered the position of editorial intern, a post I stayed in for the following 8 months.

I was offered my InStyle magazine internship through a contact I made while working at Total Girl. It’s true what they say, networking and connections are really important! I started off knowing nobody in the industry and slowly, through work experience, my contact book has grown. After three months in the fashion world, I decided to go back to what I know – features and beauty.

What happened next was incredibly perfect timing mixed with a huge amount of luck. I had sent an email to CLEO magazine asking for an internship before I started at InStyle. Thankfully, they held onto my email and as soon as a spot became available, they called me in for an interview – on the last day of my InStyle internship! I couldn’t believe it.

3. What was your first day of interning like?

My first day of interning was everything I could have hoped. I had already met the team through my previous week of work experience, so it was nowhere near as nerve-wracking as my first day of work experience. They were all so friendly, and made me feel welcome straight away.

It’s an experience I am so grateful to have had. I have learnt so much through interning and disagree strongly when it comes up in conversation as ‘free slavery’.  I was made to feel like part of the team and was given so many amazing opportunities. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been taken advantage of while undertaking an internship.

4. What does a typical day involve?

I know it’s been said again and again, but there really is no typical day. Each magazine I have interned at has been so vastly different. CLEO and Total Girl have completely different age groups for a start, and Instyle is a fashion magazine. Each publication had different needs I helped attend to.

At Total Girl, I was lucky enough to have my writing published in the magazine. So I could be doing anything from working on my content for the next issue to interviewing Delta Goodrem. At InStyle, I was stationed mainly in the fashion cupboard, but also occasionally assisted the fashion writer and beauty editor. As for CLEO, I help the editorial team with anything they may need, while also looking out for the ‘workie’ (aka the work experience person) for that particular week.

5. How would you describe your fashion and beauty style?

To be honest, I am a lot more into beauty than fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a soft spot for shopping and love the occasional spree, but if given the choice, I would have my pick of beauty products over clothes any day.

My fashion style mostly reflects my mood. And I prefer to be in clothes that I’m comfortable in than the latest trends. If there’s a trend that I like I’ll definitely still try it out, but if it doesn’t suit me I won’t wear it just to ‘fit in’.

As for beauty, I have an extensive skin care routine and more products than my make-up bag can hold. I was the former beauty writer for a website called Style Bungalow, so I picked up a lot of tips and tricks from that position. I like to experiment with my make-up and am a sucker for nail art.

6. What are your career goals for the future?

Short term, I plan to finish my uni degree while also working as a part-time journalist at a publishing company called Bella Media (a position that I have recently just been offered and couldn’t be more stoked about!). I also wish to continue interning whenever I get the chance, like in uni summer holidays.  I’ll also keep working on my new blog –

Long term, I’d like to be working at a monthly magazine in either the features or beauty department. I then hope to climb the career ladder until I land comfortably in the editor’s chair. Got to be in it to win it, right?

7. What advice would you give to others applying for magazine internships?

Accept work experience at absolutely any publication that will accept you! Once you have that first bit of work experience out of the way, you will find it so much easier to move onto more opportunities. For example, one of my favourite writers, Emma Markezic, a monthly columnist for Cosmo, got her first job at a craft magazine. She then worked her way to what she loved writing about from there, which is a lot different from craft (well in Cosmo anyway). 

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