After eight, very full-on months of learning and magazine production, my classmates and I still have one final semester of school before finishing the Publishing Program. Right about now is the time where friends and family begin to ask the question: “What are you going to do when you finish?” For some of us, we’ve been asking ourselves that for a few months already, but with graduation quickly approaching, that question pops up a little more frequently. So, I thought it might be good timing to find out what a recent grad grad has been doing with their time, and ask for any advice they may have for future grads. Tammy Nguyen graduated from Langara’s Publishing program in 2012, and has recently landed an internship with Western Living Magazine in Vancouver, BC. She carved out some time in her busy schedule to answer a few questions.
PRM: What were you doing prior to taking the Publishing Program and what led you to taking the program?
TN: After graduating from UBC with my Bachelor of Arts (English Literature) in 2010, I was looking for an entry level position as either a writer or an editor with various magazines and newspapers. Unfortunately during my undergrad, my writing samples consisted mainly of academic papers and essays and when I had meetings and interviews with prospective employers, it was clear that my resume and portfolio was lacking.
I briefly considered pursuing a Master of Arts degree in English Literature or a Master of Publishing but those options weren’t exactly what I was looking for to help augment my B.A.. I had originally heard about the Publishing Program from a former high school classmate of mine, who graduated from the program a few years prior, and she recommended that I apply because the program’s focus on software and magazine production would give me the experience and knowledge I wanted.
PRM: What was your position on PRM? What are/is the most valuable skill(s) you gained from your position?
TN: I was the Production Director during my time with PRM and it was both the greatest and most stressful position I’ve ever held. I don’t remember being under so much pressure in such a limited amount of time but it taught me a lot about how I work and how I lead others.
I learned to keep my head in stressful situations and how to manage a team effectively when you’re starved for time. Most importantly, all the knowledge I gained about Adobe Creative Suite in the semester prior was tested. I got the opportunity to apply all the skills I had and learn more about the software and how it works as Production was checking layouts, editing photos, and the like.
PRM: After completing the Publishing Program, what were your plans? What transpired?
TN: I knew that with both a degree and diploma, I still needed “real-life” experience to round out my resume. I now had marketable skills but I still needed to show that those skills could be applied outside of a school setting. While I was searching for internships, I marketed myself as a freelance graphic designer and landed a few jobs designing brochures, t-shirt logos, and newsletter layouts.
PRM: You’re now working as an intern for Western Living Magazine, what does a typical day look like for you?
TN: My job includes website development and management, social media marketing, and any other tasks that the editors need assistance with. I post on various social media and sharing sites such as DwellingGawker, FoodGawker, NotCot, Pinterest, and Google+ and I also track and analyze Western Living’s online presence with regard to how many likes, followers, and visits we get.
I’ll spend the majority of my day cleaning up code and building web pages for upcoming Online Exclusives or monthly features. Additionally, I’m colour-correcting and touching up photos or creating composite photos used for these web pages. Since I’m the first Online Intern for Western Living, I’m also creating templates to make building these pages easier for the interns that will follow me.
I’ve also been tasked with restructuring the index pages for Western Living so a portion of my time is spent working on a redesign of the site to make it more user-friendly.
PRM: What elements from your Publishing Program/PRM experience helps you with your current position?
TN: All the software skills I’ve learned have become invaluable. I’ve had to use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and DreamWeaver for a whole variety of tasks and the web design and development skills I learned during the program’s third semester was what made me the ideal candidate for this internship.
Additionally, learning how to manage and use the shared server during PRM has been extremely useful as well as Western Living operates on essentially the same system of management and organization.
PRM: What are your plans after you finish your internship?
TN: My hope is to find a position as an online editor or web site developer. I’ve found that I actually really enjoy coding and building content for the web and with my new skills and experience, I feel that I don’t have to limit myself to the publishing industry.
PRM: What advice would you give to this year’s graduating class of the Publishing Program?
TN: Try not to limit or label yourself as one specific thing: illustrator, editor, layout designer, web designer, etc.. Build your resume with a variety of work and experience because prospective employers look for candidates who are multi-talented and skilled.
Whatever you’re doing, build your portfolio and get your work out there whether it’s freelance work, volunteer work, or just random designs. You want to display your style and design sense, so set up a online portfolio or create a portfolio with all you writing samples and/or your designs.
Lastly, finding a job is tough; only a few of your classmates will have a job after you all graduate. Try not to get discouraged if you’re met with lots of rejection and don’t limit yourself to one industry, your skills are needed and desired by varying industries and companies. I know that internships may not seem all that fair or ideal at times but you have to begin somewhere and sometimes it’s the only way to get started.