Dialogue with: Meet Magazine Writer and Blogger Sally Kuzemchak
a conversation with a working journalist and how she made it from a college daily paper to a major national newsroom
By Molly Tavoletti, Ohio State
Journalism is arguably the most influential and controversial profession in the world today, but with the decline of print and the low job market, aspiring journalists are realizing that breaking into that profession requires a lot more than just luck.
I had the pleasure of meeting an incredible young journalist, Sally Kuzemchak, when she returned to her Alma Mater last spring to speak to journalism students, like myself, at Ohio State.
Sally graduated with a degree in journalism from Penn State University and then earned her dietitians license at Ohio State University not long after.
Now, as a registered dietitian, freelance writer, and blogger at Real Mom Nutrition, Sally has proven that with the proper skills and a lot of determination, becoming a successful journalist today is not impossible.
Sally and I stayed in contact, and I recently interviewed her to discuss her journey from the college daily paper to the SELF Magazine newsroom and beyond.
When did you know you wanted to be a journalist? What motivated you to pursue such a career?
“I’ve wanted to be a writer since middle school. That’s when I joined the school newspaper and had a wonderful English teacher who instilled a passion for writing in me. I continued to write for school newspapers in high school and then our daily paper in college. I always loved the writing but didn’t like hard news reporting/writing; I preferred doing features and writing in a more narrative format. That’s why magazines appealed to me more than newspapers. I interned at a campus magazine at Penn State, then got an internship at a magazine in New York City after graduation.”
How did you go from a college graduate to the Self newsroom?
“I interned at Country Living magazine in New York City after graduation, a position I got through Penn State (the editor of CL at the time was an alum) then I got a job working at Self in the nutrition department. I got my resume seen because a woman from my hometown who also worked in NYC and that I was in touch with there knew the nutrition editor (this is an example of how networking and mentors are important!). It was a fun and exciting time. As an assistant, I did the usual stuff like making copies, opening mail, and filing papers. But I also tried to write whatever and whenever I could, whether it was just a photo caption or a few lines of text. Because I showed initiative, I was given the chance to write small articles and having those under my belt allowed me to start freelancing a year later.”
How did you set yourself apart in a field that is so hard to break into?
“I think part of my success has been that I’ve always worked very hard–to meet deadlines, to be easy and pleasant to work with, to go above and beyond many times. Two other things that have been critical for me: networking and having mentors.”
You’ve placed a lot of emphasis on finding a mentor. Who are some people who have guided you?
“I’ve always had mentors along the way–whether they were editors at magazines when I was just starting out, freelance writers who had much more experience than I had, or professors that I admired. Look for people who have the kind of job you want to have someday and learn from them. It’s so important to take the time to learn from people who have more wisdom and experience. It’s tempting to think you know everything when you graduate!”
What advice would you give to a college journalism students?
“Don’t expect to have it all right away and be happy for any amount of writing you can do. It’s okay to start small–it’s a great way to learn and get better. No writing job is too small or beneath you.
And don’t be afraid to take risks. I moved to NYC after graduation and was terrified. There were many times I wanted to move back home, but I stuck it out. And I was told that I would need much more experience before I could make a career of freelance writing, but I was able to freelance full time three years out of college and have done it ever since. So if there’s something you really want to do, don’t believe the naysayers!”
While the road to being a successful journalist will be a rocky one, remember Sally’s advice if you are about to take on the journey.
With a stalled economy and suffering job market, it’s believed that being a college graduate entering the job market more difficult that it has ever been. But if the adage is true that “luck happens when preparation meets opportunity” then college grads today are the luckiest people in the world.
Sally has wholeheartedly proven that through a lot of hard work, networking, and resilient determination, achieving your goals is 100% possible.
Thanks so much Sally!
Go check out www.realmomnutrition.com as well as some of Sally’s articles: