Examining your sexual past, sharing a bedroom with a complete stranger for ten days and jumping on a 30-seater plane to Orkney in search of a better life. Sound like the pilot episode of a Brit-based Girls? Nope. Just an average day at work for Cosmopolitan UK’s Jennifer Savin…
PPA New Talent nominee for New Consumer Magazine Journalist of the Year, Jennifer Savin, is as entertaining on email as she is on social media. A quick-witted, approachable and sassy AF individual, it’s clear to see why she’s smashing her role at the UK’s best young women’s magazine, Cosmopolitan.
So there’s no denying your job is a desirable one that many would love to get their hands on! Did you go to University before jumping on the journalism career ladder, and do you think it’s important to get a degree?
Yeah, I studied Media and English Literature at the University of Brighton (when I wasn’t sticking to the floor in Revenge or grinding on guys with neck tattoos in Audio).
I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to get a degree, but it does make it a lot easier. Work experience is what will actually score you a job in journalism though.
The magazine industry is renowned for internships. Did you intern prior to landing your role at Cosmopolitan?
I did, all over and for as many titles as I possibly could. I started off with local newspapers and small-scale music magazines, but always had my eye on the glossies.
I got my first placement at a mainstream publication after attending a panel event hosted by Go Think Big, at the end I went over to Closer’s editorial assistant and harassed her into taking my CV (hey Neeru, thanks for giving me a shot). I’d also ask everybody I met – from people at house parties to my mum’s work mates – if they knew anybody in journalism and if so, please could I have their email address to ask for advice? I ended up getting some great tips and contacts that way.
What advice would you give to people looking to intern?
Fill your brain with so many great ideas that there’s no room to have a bad attitude. Also, it’s imperative you know the magazine you’re interning for inside-out; people can spot it a mile off if you haven’t done your homework. Even if your placement is at Trout Monthly and you’re deadly allergic to fish, you need to arrive knowing exactly what the readers of that title are interested in, the regular pages, the tone etc.
So after all that hard working interning, how did you find yourself working at Cosmopolitan?
My friend Izzy linked me to the yearlong Features Intern role online, which I was adamant I wouldn’t apply for as I wasn’t qualified enough – something I think women are far guiltier of thinking than men, actually. She swayed me by saying “If you don’t get it, I’ll buy you a glass of wine. But you have to at least try.”
I spent 20 hours on my application and three months later – after two interviews, several more writing tasks and a week of freelancing in the office – got the job. Ten months after that I was promoted to Junior Writer, which was an incredibly fortunate consequence of being in the right place at the right time.
So, talk us through a typical day in your role at Cosmopolitan…
I get to my desk at 9:30AM, take a shot of ginger and eat some avocado on toast while catching up on emails because I’m super basic. I like to take time each morning to catch up on the news and add to my on-going list of features ideas too, before either cracking on with writing or taking in marks from my senior editor or director. All of our work is seen by at least two people before it goes through to the subs department (affectionately known as ‘the grammar police’), so there’s a lot of back and forth – even on pieces that are only 150 words.
If I’m working on an in-depth report or 6-page feature, then I’ll spend most of the afternoon with my headphones on (hip hop, R&B or house, always) transcribing or smashing that out. Otherwise I’ll be in meetings, pitching ideas, arranging interviews, chatting to experts or case studies, looking for stories or maybe on set at a shoot. A couple of times a week I’ll spend my evenings at an event or meeting PRs for a drink. I’m sure there’s loads of other stuff I do but I can’t think of it right now…
What’s the best thing about your job?
So many things – getting to talk to interesting people from all walks of life, or maybe the thrill of seeing your byline on a feature you’ve worked really hard on. It’s also the first job I’ve had where I’ve never been bored, not even for a day.
After university I worked in a law firm for a year and it was so dull I used to fantasize about sticking pins in my eyeballs on the daily, just to spice things up. I’ve never had that at Cosmopolitan – our team is great and I’m lucky enough to be paid to do what I love more than anything else in the world, writing (and occasionally hitting on celebrities). I’m Kris Jenner levels of blessed.
And the worst?
About ten minutes before I do an interview – regardless of who it’s with – I get a flush of panic go through me. What if it goes to shit? What if I forget how to talk? WHAT IF THEY HATE ME? But after a couple of deep breaths it’s usually all good again.
What’s the hardest feature you’ve ever written?
Probably my first long form feature looking at the issue of consent. I ended up examining my own sexual past a lot while writing it which I didn’t expect to happen. Also, because it was my first feature every piece of constructive feedback felt super personal and that takes some getting used to. Water off a duck’s back now though.
And the most rewarding?
Either the feature I wrote on ‘hutching up’ which involved me sharing a bedroom with a complete stranger for ten days (I love doing the gonzo pieces), or the one about happiness and my experiences of anxiety. For that I moved to Orkney for the week (it’s supposed to be the happiest place in the UK) to sample a new way of life and compare the city to a more rural setup. Sometimes I also write things that don’t involve me moving out of my house. Sometimes.
What’s your advice for anyone looking to get into magazine journalism?
Write as much as you possibly can, keep up with the news, constantly seek out new and exciting ideas, read loads and network at every opportunity. Pitch, pitch, pitch. It’s so funny the amount of people who say they want to be a writer or think they could be, but they’ve not actually written anything. It’s like me saying I want to be a Pilates instructor without having been to a single class.
What quote do you live by?
Either ‘Very little in life is off limits, but draw the line at being unkind’ as spoken by RuPaul Charles, or ‘Keep ya head up’ à la Tupac. Anything other than those bollocks Marilyn Monroe quotes floating about on Instagram.
Which women inspire you?
My grandma, Babs: She’s so maternal, hilarious and brilliant (and looks cracking for 82). I think some of the strongest women are those who aren’t afraid to be emotionally open and make you feel loved, be it by telling you directly or bringing you toast in the morning – Babs does both.
Farrah Storr: I wasn’t sure whether or not to say Farrah as she’s my editor and it sounds a bit slimy to say your boss, but truthfully she’s somebody who inspires me to work hard every day. She’s had an incredible career and taught me so much, in such a short space of time – from how to turn a tiny newspaper clipping into a full-blown report by coming at it from a different angle, to what takes a feature from being good to incredible.
Michelle Obama: I know it’s obvious but she took on a role on that she didn’t especially ask for and completely made it her own. Plus, she’s not afraid of an elbow-length glove and I respect that.
What’s your favourite thing about being a woman?
Being able to make friends with everybody in da club toilets.
And your least favourite?
I know it’s a personal choice so really I can only blame myself, but having to wax. Swear I’m half woman, half carpet showroom and that shit involves a lot of upkeep.
Any other words of wisdom for us Jenni?
If you’re running late, are really hungover or generally think you look like garbage, studies* have shown that wearing red lipstick can improve the situation by around 57%. (*research conducted by me… on myself)
Thanks to Jenni for taking time out of her next big gonzo adventure to chat with us.