It’s not very often that invites like ‘who wants to come and see Glamour editor Jo Elvin speak at a women’s lunch event?’ pop into my inbox, so when this one got circulated by one of the girls at work I immediately jumped at the chance to attend.
‘Women at One’ is a lunch series which enables the women of Guernsey to get together to socialise and network over some lunch, whilst also listening to the inspiring stores of guest speakers from around the UK including magazine editors, CEOs and founders of women’s Leadership Academies.
The November lunch was particularly popular as it was hosted by long-running editor of Glamour Magazine, Jo Elvin. Now whilst I am not an avid Glamour reader, I thought this would still be a fantastic chance to hear first hand how someone like Jo got to where she is today and what pearls of wisdom she had to bestow upon the rest of us (I also wanted to hear if she had any embarrassing celeb stories, which she definitely did!).
Australian-born Elvin started her magazine career doing work experience at girls magazine Dolly, where was offered a full time job before moving to the slightly older Cleo. As well as working in magazines Elvin also had a brief stint as an Aussie cliche (her words, not mine!) when she worked as a publicist on Neighbours, and no, not during the Jason and Kylie years. She then took the huge decision to move to the UK with dreams of making it big in the UK magazine industry.
As careers go, Elvin’s has been one of working incredibly hard, always using her initiative and putting everything into every job she’s undertaken, including taking the several knock backs she encountered on arriving in the UK. In fact she recalled a story of sitting in a greasy spoon in Notting Hill back in the early nineties and thinking it was maybe time to cut her losses and go back to Australia and even seeing a Quantas plane flying overhead – surely an even bigger sign?! It was at this low point that she was offered a job at Sugar magazine, and has since gone from strength to strength having been editor of women’s magazine Glamour, which she describes as being ‘glossy with grit‘, for over a decade.
Attributing her success to her Aussie determination and never wanting to give up, some of the highlights of her career include drinking a Vodka and tonic with Tony Blair on board a private plane and being papped with Terri Hatcher in the Hollywood Hills. But the life of a magazine isn’t all glitz and glamour as Jo also recalled a time at an awards ceremony when she was drafted in to hold up a certain female celebs dress whilst she went to the loo as it was so tight she couldn’t do it herself!
So what’s her advice for a successful career? Firstly she advocates internships, but more to demonstrate the hard work you’re willing to put in, and if you’re looking to get into fashion that doesn’t mean only interning at fashion magazines. All experience counts, and in fact one of the current Glamour staff had never worked on a fashion magazine when she applied and was working on a car magazine, but the fact that she has immersed herself so fully into the world of cars really impressed Jo who decided to give her a chance, which she says absolutely paid off.
My personal favourite piece of advice Jo gave was straight to the point – ‘say yes and then figure it out later.’
Unfortunately we had a meeting to get back to at work so were unable to stay for questions after lunch which was pretty disappointing as I had wanted to find out Jo’s opinions on bloggers and whether they’re having a positive or negative effect on the magazine industry. But we did have just enough time to scoff the amazing cheesecake that came for dessert, although I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t have eaten the whole thing so quickly as I felt super sick on the drive back to the office!
All in all though this was a great event, Jo was incredibly warm and funny and although I’m sure she’s a totally formidable woman in the office her career stories and advice helped many of us around the table to understand the most important areas to focus on to really impress the people around you to drive your career forward.
Thanks to Jo and the organisers of Women at One for such a great afternoon out with the girls!