A Shot at Networking

When I accepted the editorial intern position at Grid magazine, Philadelphia’s monthly magazine on sustainability, I never thought I would be running around the city carrying bags of clothing and accessories, helping choose outfits for models, or jumping from location to location to assist the coordination of photo shoots—basically doing the kind of glamorous work I would expect of a Vogue fashion assistant. It was late October, and Grid magazine was already prepping for its December issue. The editorial team wanted to emphasize shopping locally in the annual holiday gift guide. For the first time, the December edition of Grid would feature a photo spread of various local, sustainability-conscious products and businesses throughout the Philadelphia area. Since this was a significant production, I was asked to assist the art director for the three-day photo shoot.

We hopped from Old City to Passyunk to University City to Northern Liberties, to shoot at various local boutiques, groceries, and plant shops. For the fashion shoot, one of the models was Grid’s food freelancer. As the team was preparing the set design, the freelancer and I talked about how she got into food writing after majoring in feminist studies at Bryn Mawr College, and about the difficulties of succeeding in the food journalism industry. In my Internship in Communications course, we are encouraged to reach out to professionals for informational interviews. When casually speaking to the freelancer, I realized that I should take advantage of my access to these people working in the magazine industry. I thought to myself, “I’m going to do what my professors have constantly been jabbing about: expand my network.”

Over the next few days I spoke with various people in the journalism and sustainability industry. Another model talked to me about how she and her friends used a crowdfunding campaign to print the first edition of their Philadelphia bicycle magazine. I mentioned that I had learned about her magazine while promoting it on Grid’s Twitter account. She smiled and recommended I write for the magazine if I was interested in bicycle culture.

I chatted with the photographer about his gigs working for Philadelphia magazine and taking photographs for the music publications of Red Flag Media, the publisher of Grid. He began to provide insight on the work culture within various Philadelphia publications, contrasting the flexibility of working on Grid shoots with the structured environment he encounters doing Philadelphia magazine spreads.

Each time I talked to a new person, I remembered the elevator pitches my classmates and I had prepared in our Internship in Communications course. I never gave the exact pitch I had given during class, but the assignment did guide me in briefly explaining who I was, my role at Grid, and my career goals. Talking to freelancers at the photo shoot provided insights into the experience and work ethic needed to be a freelancer in the magazine industry. Their testimonials about living and working in Philadelphia have also convinced me to consider staying in this city after I graduate.

I had always thought I would return to my hometown in North Jersey and find work in New York City, the heart of the media industry. But the growing millennial population, up-and-coming neighborhoods, as well as the cheaper cost of living are persuading me to consider finding my first job here in the Philly area. Helping out on the photo shoot was probably the most valuable experience I’ve had so far while working with Grid magazine. I never would have guessed that I would gain such valuable information and connections just by lending a hand on a photo shoot.