Whether you want to be a scientist, a stylist, a writer, a professional juggler or you have no idea yet, there’s something cathartic in hearing about the multitude of winding paths. That’s why Man Repeller is launching a new series wherein various team members answer your career questions — anything from how they got to where they are to what they wish they’d done differently or what they still hope to do one day. There’s always a lesson to be learned somewhere, a helpful takeaway (even if it occurs to you later), or at the very least, relief in knowing that it’s more than okay if you’re still figuring it out. First up, Amelia Diamond, Head of Creative. Below, she answers nine of the questions recently posed to her on Instagram.
What did you major in in college and did you do any internships?
I was a journalism/mass communication major at Saint Bonaventure University with a minor in visual arts. I loved it but, ironically, by the time I graduated I wanted nothing to do with writing.
I had four internships: One at StyleCaster.com, which I found out about through a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. I went in as a fashion intern (with no prior experience, which was fine given the initial responsibilities), then switched over to the editorial team, and eventually transitioned onto business development team (and worked on music sourcing and licensing). It’s worth noting that to request a department switch at an internship is murky territory, but you are there to learn, so if you find yourself curious or more interested in another department, talk to your intern manager about other areas where you could be of help on top of your prior commitments. Use your best judgement in terms of what feels appropriate.
I also interned simultaneously at Shumaq, a small clothing label, through that same friend-of-a-friend connection.
I later interned at a fashion PR company Black Frame, which I applied to via Ed2010.com, and got the internship because the hiring manager found my “background” in music interesting; I was editor-in-chief of my school’s campus radio “zine,” and one of my responsibilities at StyleCaster was to secure songs for the website’s videos. Goes to show that you just never know what’s useful on your resume, you don’t have to have identical resumes to everyone you’re ostensibly competing against, and there’s always a way to spin what you’ve learned into useful application for something entirely different.
Finally, I interned at Vogue. I was a fashion assistant first, then became a fashion market intern where I learned about the fashion logistics of photoshoots, which ended up helping me greatly in my first full time job in PR. I got to Vogue thanks to a recommendation made by a former boss at Black Frame. Best way to do this: be open and communicative with your manager about your intended trajectory, goals and end dates so that you don’t catch anyone by surprise. This helps establish the inevitable future conversation where you ask for recommendations and support in your next steps.
I was very, very lucky that my parents supported me through these unpaid internships. One day I would like to repay my parents by buying my dad a pool and my mom a fancy trip to Italy. And a pet lamb.
Was this the career path you expected/had in mind in college? If not, could you explain the journey of getting to where you are now?
No. I wanted to go into advertising for a while, and was very sick of writing by the time I graduated. Also, you should know that I graduated without a job and was terrified. I felt like I was floundering, like I’d never figure it out, like I wasn’t good enough. I was embarrassed to talk to friends who’d started working right away.
If you’re in the same boat, repeat this over and over: There is NO one right path, and while “things happen for a reason” (my favorite thing to say even though it’s admittedly much easier to tell others than myself), you have to seek out opportunities like a truffle pig, be open to the weird openings, and have really honest talks with yourself, constantly, about where you are, where you want to be, and why you want to be in those places. Your first internship does not have to have a fancy name attached it. Your first job does not have to be your dream job. You do not have to make Forbes 30 Under 30, ever.
My first two jobs (the first of which I finally landed thanks to a former boss at Vogue who recommended me) were in public relations, and they were crucial in terms of “fashion world” experience, time-logging within the industry, and contact building. They also taught me that I did not want to do PR!
…And that I was starting to feel the writing bug again.
From there I went to New York Magazine where I sort of had three jobs at once: I was the fashion market assistant, the fashion editor of the twice-yearly New York Weddings, which included styling the cover story — a rare opportunity for sure — and a sometimes-contributor to The Cut where I put together small fashion market stories. The bits of copy I got to do for these reminded me just how “at home” I felt while writing, but the caliber of talent at New York Magazine and The Cut intimidated me to no end. I had zero idea how anyone generated ideas all the time like they did there, and I thought it laughable that I could write anything worth publishing, so I mostly kept quiet about my growing writing aspirations. It was like having a secret talent that you suspect might not actually be that impressive, but really wanting someone to dare you to perform it.
That someone ended up being Leandra. She and I were friends before I started working at Man Repeller, and she brought me on (alongside Charlotte Fassler and Kate Barnett) as the first full-time writer besides her. Here I am, five years later.
Do you feel like a “grown-up” yet? What does it mean to you to feel like an adult? Is it important to you?
Absolutely not, although I have grown up considerably. I had two wild growth spurts as a human: 22 to 26, and 27 to 29. Both of those two chunks feel like different people from the person I am currently typing this at age 30.
Feeling like an adult, to me, means “have your shit together.” Some days I do, most weeks I don’t. Yes, it’s important to me, and I compare myself to others constantly. It can be torturous or motivating depending on the hour.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
I had the worst bout of writer’s block I’ve had in a while last week, and I’m still in the middle of it. It’s not only infuriating, it can have a terrible effect on your confidence, concentration and mood. The first thing you have to do is ask someone you love to remind you that this is a phase, that it will go away — and that it will return again in the future! But that that’s okay, because it’s part of the process. You have to “forgive yourself,” put in quotes because that sentence makes me feel like Dr. Phil.
You also have to push through it. If you’re on deadline for work, write an outline of what you are trying to say, with a thesis, supporting points, and a conclusion — just like in school. Then fill in the blanks and ask a trusted editor to read. It won’t be your best thing you’ve ever written, but at least you got it off your desk. Pretending you’re texting or emailing a friend is another way out of it because it helps you just SAY WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY when your brain is like: Let’s overthink and overanalyze this.
If you’re blocked on a personal project, write what actually is in your head, even if it’s, “There is nothing in my head. This is stupid. Why am I writing this.” Keep going. Keep going, still! You’ll get something. I learned that trick from The Artist’s Way, which I highly recommend to literally every human on this planet, regardless of creative aspirations.
What is your go-to snack in the MR headquarters?
I usually want something chocolate, but wind up eating whatever free/for-all thing is on the kitchen counter. However, you have to be careful at Man Repeller that you are not accidentally eating a prop before it’s been shot!
When I work from home, I eat a lot of Bagel Chips and peanut M&Ms. Pad Thai as I write this.
How did you learn to have confidence in yourself (your ideas, your decisions, etc.) at work?
Cheesy answer: I am lucky in that I’m surrounded by people at work and outside work who encourage my ideas and support my decisions. They also challenge me to think about my ideas and decisions in a way that helps me grow and learn.
But also: I have a habit of focusing on the one bad thing (where work is concerned, but also in life!) rather than all the good stuff that happened, all the accomplishments and successes that accumulate over time and are easy to forget. So when I am really down or freaking out or convinced that any moment now, someone will realize they made a massive mistake in hiring me to do XYZ, I try to imagine that am a proud parent…of myself, and I brag to myself about myself. Sometimes I do this in my head, sometimes I write it down, sometimes out loud if I am sure I’m alone.
Also, weird thing to say, but a paycheck helps: no one gives money away out of the goodness of their heart. They pay you because they need your skillset. If you’re not feeling confident about what you’re accomplishing, talk to your manager, because she might have some encouraging words/solutions, then remind yourself that someone is paying you for your skills, that you learned, that you’re able to perform.
How does a young writer get their first byline? Tips for pitching stories to editors?
There were a lot of questions in this vein, and there’s no one “right answer” because there’s a million ways to go about this depending on where you’re pitching, but a short version:
Make a website for yourself. Compile all your published links, if you have them, organized by category: Personal Essay, Reporting, Beauty, etc.
Now, whether or not you’ve been published already, this is important: Upload two to three (to start) clips that adequately show your voice and your technical writing skills — no matter if you wrote them for yourself and no one else. I would rather read something unpublished that gives me a sense of your style and technique than something published but indistinguishable from another writer. Make it clear these are your most “you.”
When you’re pitching stories to editors:
– Email the proper editor. Pitching a culture story? Figure out who the culture editor is and email her directly.
– Keep the email short, your pitch clear and well-thought out.
– When pitching, think about: Who am I pitching to (is my pitch relevant to this publication, to this editor?) What is the story I will tell, and what’s my point? Why does this story need to be told? How will I tell it, and in how many estimated words? (Will this be reported out, written as a personal narrative?) When can I have it in by?
– Link out to two clips in the email that are most relevant to the publication, the editor, and the story you’re pitching.
– This is cliché, but despite rejections, keep pitching! Reach out to all sorts of publications until you get your first yes, and then, keep going.
What’s the best career advice you’ve taken?
Best career advice (although I wouldn’t say this applies to a first or second job): Look at your boss, and your boss’s boss. Do you want their jobs? If so, that’s a good thing. If there’s no way in hell you’d want their careers in a few years, then start thinking about the person who does have an appealing job or career to you, and begin researching what she did to get there. Then figure out how to apply that to your life/current situation. Take your vacation days and your sick days. And always ask for help!
Ketchup or mustard?
Mayonnaise! But preferably ketchup, mayo, a mix of the two, and spicy mustard if available.
Photo by Simon Chetrit.