Magazine

Claire Sibbick

ELLE magazine’s sub-editor Claire, speaks of her transition from Bath Spa University to the working world, and the reality of a career in fashion.

A degree isn’t enough to obtain your desired career, that’s what students and graduates have come to learn all over the world. Sure, it’s a strong foundation but we are/were constantly encouraged to give ourselves the upper hand against our peers, who will one day turn into our competitors. Searching for alternative experience seems now more than ever the most important aspect alongside higher education, and universities across the UK have recognised this, including my own. Several months ago I attended Industry Insight Week, put together by the careers department at Bath Spa University. During this week there was a lot on offer for students to engage with and learn from, and it was from attending one particular talk entitled: Introduction to careers in Publishing & Journalism, that I was introduced to Claire.

Claire’s talk was one that I will always value in years to come. For a long while, when I first decided that I wanted to submerge myself in the world of fashion, I was fooled by the Devil Wears Prada concept – as I like to call it. My head was completely clouded by Anne Hathaway going to a-list events, keeping designer garments at no cost, jetting off to Paris, living the city girl dream! I quite happily latched on to the belief that working for a fashion publication was all glitz and glamour, and while we were sat in the crowded auditorium it was reassuring to hear girls in the row behind me reiterating the same thoughts of their younger selves. I knew I had to shake off my naivety, so I turned to documentaries hoping to gain an understanding of how things are truly run in the industry, without the elevated fiction of Hollywood. Watching The September Issue made me think about things differently; suddenly it wasn’t about the radical perks of the job, it was about the seriousness and stress of compiling one of the world’s top fashion magazines, led by the iconic Anna Wintour. By this point I was marginally cleared from associating the idea of working in the industry to a lavish lifestyle. Although, it wasn’t until Claire’s talk that I was fully convinced.

Claire, in no shape or form, was negative about her role at ELLE – naturally she loves what she does, but the trait I admired her most for was her honesty. She told us the reality of working within the industry, and even her thoughts on the future of magazine publishing. I wasn’t put off from what I aspire to do after Claire’s talk, but I felt I was now solidly grounded with no delusions in my mind. Read Claire’s journey from Bath Spa University student to ELLE employee below.

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heart_bullet_pointHow has studying for a degree benefited your future working life?

I use InDesign every day at work now, so learning how to use it was invaluable. Being able to think critically has been useful, as well as the obvious time management skills.

heart_bullet_pointDo you have any words of wisdom for current students?

Just because you do one subject, doesn’t mean you can only do a certain type of job. At ELLE, we have a designer who did a Politics degree and a fashion assistant who studied Law. Oh, and do ask for help if you’re struggling at uni; there are people who can give great advice and support.

heart_bullet_pointWhat was your first job after university, and how quick was the transition?

My first job after university was at the International Bar Association (IBA) – a membership organisation for legal professionals. I was the editorial assistant there, before being promoted to junior sub-editor. I was extremely fortunate to get the job at the IBA just a month after I graduated. The transition went well, although I may be viewing it through the rose-tinted glasses that hindsight brings!

heart_bullet_pointDid you do any work experience while at university? Has that had an effect on applying for potential positions?

I worked at Costa as assistant manager until the end of second year – and, even though it wasn’t directly relevant experience, I think being able to hold down any job looks good on your CV if you haven’t got much experience in your chosen field. During third year I also did a two-week stint at Perfect Wedding magazine in Bristol. I think knowing a bit more about the magazine publishing process subconsciously helped when applying for roles in future.

heart_bullet_pointWhat was the interview process like?

The interview process for ELLE was relatively simple, because it was a junior role. I had an interview with two people, both from within the editorial team, which explained the role and asked about my current role. Then I had two editing tests to take home – one was a layout, which was riddled with mistakes and had to be cut to fit; the other was some raw copy, which I had to write three heads and sells (subheadings) for.

heart_bullet_pointHas working at Elle had an impact on your self-image?

No, I don’t think so. I appreciate that people have certain preconceptions, but my office isn’t like The Devil Wears Prada. I work with a lot of creative people who express their personality through what they wear, and I think that’s great – no one pushes their own style on to others in the office. But I do think I’ve become more aware of fashion and the designer labels that are made with my shape in mind (for example, Roland Mouret and Vivienne Westwood), compared to a more athletic body type.

Also, the mentality at ELLE is definitely ‘fit not thin’. We have a few (optional) fitness activities – a weekly running club, yoga classes and more. We use the hashtag #ELLEfit for all our content around health and exercise. On a more superficial level, I’m allowed pink hair here!

heart_bullet_pointWhat’s it really like working in the magazine industry?

Hard work. It’s not well-paid so you really have to love what you do. I do, and fortunately I work with great people, so that helps – if you’re having a bad day there’s usually someone to chat to while you make a cup of tea.

heart_bullet_pointHow’s life living in London compared to Bath?

I loved living in Bath, but I love London as well. When I lived in Bath, all of my friends lived there, so it was a great little community. A bit of a bubble, I suppose. Now I have such a varied pool of friends, and there’s always somewhere new to eat at or a pop-up bar to try. I love the diversity of London too. It’s hard to compare because Bath was such a different stage of my life – it was a great transition city for me, having grown up in a small town in south Somerset.

heart_bullet_pointWhat is your biggest achievement at Elle?

Aside from being promoted, probably having a travel feature in the magazine about a holiday to Sicily. I never expected it to get such prominence on a double page when I wrote it.

heart_bullet_pointWhat are some of the highlights of your job?

I’ve had some really great opportunities while I’ve been at ELLE. Aside from all-team events like the ELLE Style Awards (this year guests included Rebel Wilson, Taylor Swift, Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Saunders all attended), I’ve had a few personal highlights.

I’ve interviewed some of the cast from Orange Is The New Black, Jessie J and Lynsey Addario (an inspiring photojournalist). I was also lucky enough to attend the Brits after-parties two years in a row.

Day-to-day, I really enjoy the debates that arise in the office around current affairs, and it’s amazing to have a diverse group of women (and one man!) to discuss things with. I enjoy having my perspectives challenged.

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Twitter: @Clairesibbick