How I Became A Photo Editor
Never in a million years would I have imagined being a Photo Editor. It's not one of those jobs that children aspire to be when they grow up and definitely not a job you'd find during any of the college Career Fairs.
Four months after graduating from The George Washington University's Master of Arts in New Media Photojournalism program in May 2021, I secured a position as the Assistant Photo Editor for Washingtonian Magazine in Washington, D.C.
After months of searching on countless job search engines, to no prevail, I began to lose hope. I had just earned my MASTER'S DEGREE, so where was the job that solidified my expertise?!
With bills piling up and student loans knocking at my door, I was beginning to get even more frustrated with my job searching process. When I began to lose all hope, the chair of my NMPJ department at GWU forwarded an email from the Director of Photography at Washingtonian mag.
Usually, anytime I had seen job posting emails from the chair of the department I would ignore them as the majority of them never intrigued me.
Something about this forwarded email kept calling to me. I opened and closed this email three times until finally, I said f*ck it and decided to submit my application. I instantly became excited as I read the responsibilities and requirements. I felt this was the position I never knew I was looking for. Since my senior year of high school I had been doing the exact work that the job described on their careers page. "This HAS to be it!" I thought.
Two days after submitting my application, the DP reached out to me and said I'd be an excellent candidate for the position based on my experience and offered me an interview. This got me even more excited as all the other jobs I had applied to months before seemed like a force simply to get money, knowing I wouldn't be happy working for those organizations and wouldn't have been working a job in my field.
With this newfound excitement, I decided to prepare myself for the interview days in advance by accomplishing these tasks:
Determining why I wanted this job and how it aligned with my future career goals
Researching what the roles and responsibilities of a Photo Editor entail outside of the publication I applied for
Sharpening my interview skills
Reviewing my portfolio and reminding myself of my expertise and experience
Taking a deep breath, saying a prayer, and not overthinking it
Looking back on my experience, I remembered a lot of what I always gravitated towards was print publications as opposed to the digital and broadcast side of journalism. My senior year of high school, I created, photographed, designed, and edited the school's yearbook solo-dolo; likewise, my final semester of my master's program I photo and copy-edited my cohort's zine.
Back then, I didn't realize the gravity of what I was doing and how it would set the foundation for the job I would hold years down the line.
I never enjoyed being in front of someone else's camera telling other people's stories. I always knew I was meant to be behind the scenes allowing others to tell their own stories while I found ways for them to take advantage of my platform. I wanted to be a documentary storyteller who produced long-form narratives with meaning and a positive impact.
After remembering my why, I decided to attend YouTube University to research who, what, and how an Assistant/Photo Editor does what they do in their role and the impact it makes on society as a whole.
Do Your Research, You Won't Regret It
Research never hurt anyone. It only makes you aware of the people, places, and things around you and allows you to make informed decisions on what you want to do with your life.
After viewing the panel discussion What Do Photo Editors Even Do? by Adorama + The Photo Brigade, I knew that becoming a Photo Editor was a step in the right direction for my longterm career goals.
I began learning more about the publication for which I was applying, what their publication would teach me, how my experience and expertise would benefit their mission, and looking for any and every project I had completed in the past that would contribute to me becoming an incomparable candidate for this position. I didn't want to just be excellent, I needed to stand out.
After my initial interview, I progressed through the next several rounds of interviews. During these interviews, I remained authentic in being myself, honored my past experiences, and verbalized my openness to future challenges which would help get me to the position and career I want to have in the future.
I am currently seven months into my role as the Assistant Photo Editor at Washingtonian Magazine. I love what I do and wake up eager every day to do what I love. As I learn from some of the best in the editorial business, I will continue to sharpen my skills to one day scale to the role of Photo/Art Director.
Many jobs will come and go, maybe a couple hundred rejections too; whatever you do, don't give up on your dreams, goals, or belief in yourself. The right job will find you at the right time. When that moment comes, you'll be glad all the other jobs said "no".