The next question I usually get: How did you land a job reading the news and hanging out on the internet? The short answer is timing and luck. But really, I was interested in (OK, obsessed with) BuzzFeed, had contacts there when I applied, and was an internet-obsessed grammar nerd. After an edit test and a phone interview that consisted mostly of talking about dogs, I had my first editing internship, which has evolved over the last five years into the job I have now: copy chief at BuzzFeed.
The core skills I used during that first summer, at what was then a weird internet company that also did news, are the ones that I still use every day. Those skills are what I tell students and young editors are most important when they’re looking for copy editing jobs online. No matter how lovely, funny, and obsessed with the internet you are, if you can’t ace an edit test, you’re not getting a copy editing job. Maybe you edited your college newspaper (I did!), had a journalism internship, or diagram sentences in your free time — it’s all relevant.
In addition to editing, your communication and people skills should be top notch: You’ll probably be emailing and chatting with most of your (possibly remote) colleagues, which must be done clearly, collaboratively, and tactfully. You should have a voracious appetite for reading and, of course, details.
After that, your toolbox should include some internet and tech literacy. Learn your way around social media, a CMS, Slack, and maybe some basic HTML and SEO. If you don’t know this stuff, don’t freak. Most people seeking entry-level positions underestimate learning on the job. The desire to learn is most important!
Next up: your personal brand. Yes, it sounds silly, but the brand you build for yourself online will allow potential employers to see your personality beyond a résumé and cover letter. Craft your profiles around your passions and post about what you know and love. Emulate the editors and organizations you respect. Supplement your experiences (or lack thereof) with an active Twitter page, blog, or newsletter. (Might I suggest BuzzFeed’s own Quibbles & Bits for inspiration?)
Now, start thinking: Whose job do you want? Where do they work? Do you want to work for a 24-hour news organization? On content that’s features-focused? Research will help answer these questions and prepare you to ask even more once you start networking (and, eventually, interviewing).
Yep, networking. It’s literally no one’s favorite thing, but it’s just socializing and building connections with people you want to work with. Be sincere — show off that personality you’ve built into your brand. Use the networks you probably already spend your time on: Twitter, LinkedIn, and ACES. Most of all, be prepared with specific asks, especially if you’re reaching out to a stranger via email or DM. My least favorite ask is “Tell me about BuzzFeed.” Asking me what went into the decision to publicize our style guide? Now we’re talkin’.
Most of all, stay organized and don’t stress — job hunting is a marathon, not a sprint. To get that dream job, remember: Work on your skills, build your brand, do your research, network with the people you admire, and be yourself. Good luck out there!
For more on getting your dream job on the web, including tailoring your résumé and cover letter, prepping for a copy test, and acing your interview, look for Megan and BuzzFeed’s Deputy Copy Chief, Dru Moorhouse, at ACES 2018 in Chicago.
Megan Paolone is the copy chief at BuzzFeed and BuzzFeed News. She manages a team of seven editors in London, New York, and Los Angeles to edit content for the site and its platforms. As BuzzFeed's second full-time copy editor, she helped create and publish the BuzzFeed Style Guide. She's based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @meganpaolone.