We don’t know about you, but we used to fantasize about our dream jobs as children. And–for many of us–those dream roles included glossy magazines, mile-high skyscraper offices, and writing in a big, shiny city. Ever wonder what it takes to work at some of the top publications on the planet? To find out, we sat down with editors at Hearst, and asked them how they landed their dream jobs in the fast-paced and ever-changing publishing landscape. Today, we’re speaking to Madison Feller, a staff writer at world-renowned ELLE.com. Below, she tells us how she got her coveted position, step by step.

What does your role entail? 

I currently work for ELLE.com as a staff writer, where I cover politics, news, and culture. This could include anything from creating ELLE’s own voter registration page for the 2018 midterm elections to interviewing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to working on videos about climate change. When I’m not at work, I’m probably out training for the Broad Street Run or looking for zucchini bread at any of the coffee shops near my apartment.

What was your first job out of college? How did you get it?

Right out of college, I worked as an editorial intern at Cosmopolitan.com. I had a previous connection to Hearst (I was an intern at Seventeen before, and I believe my boss put in a good word for me), but this was my first time applying for a digital team. I got the internship, and then toward the end of my three months, the editorial assistant at Cosmo.com was promoted, and they asked me to interview for the role. I got it and ended up staying for about a year.

What was your college major?

I studied magazine writing at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, and it’s where I first learned how to report and edit. But I don’t think you need to go to journalism school to be an editor. Part of being a journalist, especially if you’re on a specific beat, is having knowledge about a topic and being able to communicate your ideas in a clear way. While I do think it’s nice to know some of the nitty gritty details of editing, a lot of it you can learn on the job.

What internships did you do prior to your first job?

At school, I was the fashion columnist for our university magazine, a public safety and health reporter at the student-staffed city newspaper, and the online editor at the student-staffed city magazine. I also interned at Levo League, Seventeen magazine, and Cosmopolitan.com during the summers.

How did you land your current job?

After about a year of working at Cosmopolitan.com, I started looking for another role where I could hopefully write a bit more, and I saw that ELLE.com was looking for an assistant editor. The former managing editor at Cosmopolitan.com was friends with the executive editor at ELLE.com, so I reached out and asked if she knew anything about the job. She helped me set up that first meeting with the ELLE.com team, and a few months (and interviews) later, I found out I got it! Then after about six months as an assistant editor, I was moved into my current role.

What is the best/worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint one piece of bad advice, but along the way, I’ve had a lot of people tell me not to do the very things that got me to where I am. Almost everyone I know went to school in Pennsylvania (where I’m from) or somewhere close by, so I had a lot of people question why I wanted to go to school in Missouri. Then, I had even more people question why I was “risking” majoring in magazine writing, let alone journalism. But I truly don’t know what job I would have if I hadn’t done those things. In the end, you have to go with your gut. (But also someone suggested I minor in computer science as a back-up plan. That was actually a great piece of advice and one I highly recommend, if only because computer science is so much fun!)

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