Student Nannies’ Career College : How to make it…. As an Editor in the VCSE sector (voluntary, charity, social enterprise)

Written by Student Nannies

In the latest in our Career College posts we speak to an Editor in the VCSE Sector, about his career and how he got to where he is now.

Lee Mannion, Editor at Pioneers Post magazine

1.Tell us a bit about your job, what the average day looks like and what’s involved…

I’m the Editor of Pioneers Post magazine. We cover social enterprise, social innovation, responsible business and social investment – basically a lot of stuff that is positive for society and the world. The first task of the day is to try and hack away at the inbox. I always arrive to around 40 and they keep coming through the day. After that it’s getting a story up on the website. We publish one a day online. Then there is the quarterly print magazine – I have to devote some time every day to that too. That’s a day in the office but I’m often out and about. I have to attend and report on events and conferences, edit contributions, interview very different types of people from a business person starting out to chief executives or politicians and I’m increasingly being asked to speak at events. And of course there might always be a meeting, about a partnership with an organisation, brainstorming a film or creative project or trying to work out how we can better communicate with our community and ultimately, make a sustainable business from publishing.

2. How did you get your first job in this industry and what tips would you give to students for routes in?

I first got into a magazine as I was selling stock images into magazines and newspapers. I knew I always wanted to work on the editorial side and would tell my clients that. Eventually one of them had a junior role and got me in after a ten minute interview in a pub. Once you’re in you basically have to be good at what you do, dependable and to a degree, sociable. Your network will build and that should help with future roles.

3. What one piece of advice would you give to someone/a student wishing to forge a career in PR?

I have no idea about that. I have never known why someone would want to work promoting things they probably often don’t feel passionate about. Particular if it’s in consumer PR. Very few of us need more stuff.

4. Who was the one person who had the most influence on your career to date?

Sad to say, but probably a bullying Editor at a national newspaper. Both because it taught me to stand up for myself and because he embodied the values of the organisation I was working for. Which then made me realise I was in the wrong place.

5. Considering all the people you’ve met in your field, what personal attributes are essential for success?

You have to be ready to work hard. There are often nice freebies to be had in journalism (although very few in the field I currently work in) but you won’t survive long enough to get them if you’re not ready to put in the hours. Editorial teams definitely need team players – weak links in the chain don’t last long. It’s a cliche but a ‘can-do’ attitude will help. People who can offer solutions to difficult situations will always be popular. Be positive too. Negativity is not helpful to anyone.

6. What do you wish you’d known (but didn’t) when you first contemplated this career as a student?

I would have done journalism. I knew I liked writing; I just didn’t know I could make money out of it (stupidly).

7. What is the best bit of career advice you ever received?

‘Specialise’ was quite a good one. A journalist that writes about gadgets told me that. Because he’s been doing it a while, he’s become an expert in the field, so I’d be surprised if he was ever out of work. And do what you’re interested in. He loves gadgets, which is why he is able to write so passionately and critically about them.

8. What is your career highlight to date?

Getting a job as an Editor at the age of 43. I had spent many years working as a Photo Editor which I was alright at but had never had the confidence to think I could write, partly because I was around journalists who were very good and had put the hard yards in to get there so I didn’t think I deserved it (and didn’t have the money to get the qualifications to change that).

Not only getting a job that I really craved later in life but also getting a job that very much spoke to my values.

9. What are the best and worst things about your job?

The best things are the opportunities. I get to speak to leaders in their field and have learnt so much from all of them. I get to meet people with brilliant ideas who have genuinely changed people’s lives for the better which is constantly inspiring and humbling. I travel a fair bit for work and, although sometimes arduous, I’m grateful that I don’t go to the same place every day and do the same thing. Different environments can be very stimulating. And I get paid to tell stories – that is a real privilege when media is finding it increasingly hard to justify paying writers in an era where everyone wants to read things on the internet for free. The worst thing is the workload. I sometimes feel I could produce more quality work if I had more time and less responsibilities.

10. What do you think the industry will look like in the next ten years and what skills do you think graduates will need to stay ahead of the game?

The Guardian experiment is interesting – asking people to pay a little something to support the kind of journalism they are producing. Essentially they’re asking their readers if they value the title and want to support it, a bit like patronage. They are also catering to new tastes by offering talks and tuition which I think is in response to the rise of things like Ted talks. Apart from that I think boutique titles will do ok with loyal readers; I’m thinking of magazines like film title Little White Lies and slow news advocate Delayed Gratification.

Graduates will need to be multi skilled and continue to learn throughout their working life. Twenty years ago journalists just needed to be able to produce decent copy on time. Now they need to be able to tweet, take photos and videos, present, be pretty comfortable with tech solutions like Slack and WeTransfer, signpost their work etc. What you can do for money will change quickly and people will need to be adaptable to those opportunities and adjust their skills accordingly.



Lee’s mini CV

2015-2017 Editor for Pioneers Post magazine
2009-2015 Freelance Photo Editor for Daily Mail, The Sun on Sunday, The Independent, The Telegraph and freelance writer for Square Mile, Sunday Times Travel magazine and others.
2006-2009 Deputy Photo Editor at Daily Mail Live magazine
2005-2006 Freelance Photo Editor for Nuts, Look, Empire, Marie Claire magazines
2004 Travelling/working in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Australia, Thailand
1999-2003 Photo Editor, Front magazine