INSPIRED: Kat Perriam

For those of us who dream of a career in journalism, the prospect of getting a job in the industry can feel a bit daunting.

Luckily for you, we managed to speak to Kat Perriam, who works as Team Assistant at Cosmopolitan magazine (which is distributed in more than 100 countries around the world, and has been in constant publication since 1886). Here Kat tells us how she broke into the field, what her job entails and the perks of working for one of the world’s favourite mags.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

At the moment I’m ploughing a lot of time into my work, but I’m a complete night owl and will be out and about most evenings. I love music, food and fashion, and have a great group of friends. Living in east London (just near my favourite hang-out, Brick Lane) means I’m perfectly placed to immerse myself in everything that I love whilst still being central enough for work.

What did you study at college/uni?

It surprises a lot of people to know that I didn’t actually go to university. My grades were always really good at school and college, but university never appealed to me. I saw it as a three-year hindrance if anything. When I left college I already knew that I wanted to write, and a bit of research lead me to find that a lot of journalists further their degree with a year-long post-grad with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I could walk out of college and into a job, so I applied for the NCTJ Magazine Journalism course, knowing that everyone else applying would have a degree already. After various entry exams and interviews, I wasn’t initially given a place on the course – after all, the course was intended for post-grads who already had a degree under their belts and here was me, fresh out of college. I kept in contact with the entry board, even returning for another face-to-face meeting, and in the end my determination paid off when somebody dropped out, leaving a very last minute place for me to fill. Every person on the course already had a degree, but I wouldn’t say that it put me at a disadvantage, if anything it just made me work harder.

What made you want to work in journalism? Has it always been your dream?

I’m not really sure what inspired me to want to work in media from such a young age, I just know that I’ve always had a passion for writing and I’m really inquisitive. I like to challenge people’s views, so working in journalism will put you in a perfect place to do this.

Why magazines?

It always amazes me the amount of content newspapers can produce and turn around in a matter of hours, but this type of journalism doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. Magazines guided me through growing up and answered all the questions I was too afraid to ask, and they still do today – I really like that about them.

How did your career start out?

I remember sending endless emails to various editors when I was still at school asking for work experience and suggesting story ideas. It wasn’t until I studied my NCTJ course that I landed work experience at Men’s Health. After a two-week stint, I was asked to come back to cover the Editorial Assistant position when she went on holiday, and this continued for each holiday she took. By this point I knew the team relatively well, so when the Style Editor needed someone to help him compile a special fashion issue I ended up sticking around for a good few months, but this time it was paid. I then headed to Instyle magazine for more work experience. After a few months there I was kept on a paid freelance basis for a short while to help the Fashion Assistant with her crazy workload. In between this I was still emailing anyone I could, and always on the lookout for the opportunity to write. When I had some spare time, I assisted an established fashion stylist on various photoshoots, as well as assisting another writer with research for a book he was compiling at the time and writing reviews (for free) for local magazines and websites where I could. As well as this, I also covered some holiday on the business desk at The Telegraph and quickly learnt that this ‘business desk environment’ was definitely not the place for me.

It was really hard working for little, or no money when I didn’t have any financial backing behind me and I took out a loan to help me along. I know that this isn’t always the best option, but at least I know now that my debt helped me get to where I am today, so it’s less painful paying it off.

What does your job entail?

I’ve been at Cosmopolitan for just over three years. My job is ultimately a support role, but it means that I get to work across all aspects of the magazine. No two days are ever the same; one day I could be working on our Fashion Awards or our celeb-studded Ultimate Women of the Year Awards, the next I’ll be assisting the promotions team sampling products or collating some of Cosmo’s amazing PR coverage. I’ve also recently started writing the Cosmo Girl About Town blog on the website too, all about life at Cosmo towers and what we get up to when we go out.

In my rare spare time I also write for a couple of websites and online magazines to keep me occupied, and generally just because I enjoy writing and having work published. I rarely have much down-time, but I’m not really one to enjoy sitting still for too long anyway.

What’s the best bit about working in magazines?

There’s something really magical about working in magazine’s, especially Cosmo, which celebrates it’s 40th birthday next year. It can be easy to forget how much influence it has, and it’s crazy to think that something that starts as an idea being batted around in the office can end up in the magazine being read by hundreds of thousands of women.

There are of course lots of other perks that come with the job, too; there’s a constant stream of beauty products, fashion, cakes, and chocolate being sent into the office, which is fab. I also recently got to go on a snowboarding trip to Austria to review for the magazine, which was definitely a massive bonus.

And the worst?

It’s a really tough market at the moment. When the credit crunch hit, all magazines were affected; some made redundancies and pay cuts, and the job market dried up, especially for entry-level roles. It is definitely improving now, but it’s very competitive. It’s because of this that many people are having to intern and work for free for longer before they find a job. It’s really hard financially but is worth it in the end, I promise!

What advice would you give to someone trying to break into magazines?

You’ve got to be determined, driven and focused. It’s one thing to get work experience, but when you’re there you need to make your stamp to make sure you’re remembered when you leave. You wouldn’t believe the amount of interns we have in who hide away in the corner; I just want to shake them because if you want it – and I mean really want it – then you have to grab the opportunity with both hands.

I guess in a nutshell, my advice would be this – be ambitious, work hard and give your all. Make good, lasting impressions and always go above and beyond what is expected of you. It’s a tough market, so just strive to be the best at any opportunity you’re given.

Read Kat’s Cosmo Girl About Town and follow her on Twitter: @KatPerriam.

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