Deputy Chief Subeditor at Cosmopolitan Magazine: Louise Conville

Louise Conville is deputy chief subeditor at Cosmopolitan. She has been working as a copywriter, journalist and subeditor since graduating from Dublin City University with a BA in Journalism in 2005. She moved to Sydney in early 2006 and anticipates her Australian citizenship ceremony in early 2012 with much glee. She has researched and had published a number of articles over the years on various topics including parenting, fashion, celebrity, television, food, film, cosmetic surgery, music and more. You can read previous works of hers at inthemix.com.au/profile/louiseconville and residentadvisor.net/profile/louiseconville/contrib
Follow her on Twitter @louiseconville.

Describe yourself in 3 words: Ambitious, determined, self-deprecating.

What is your life motto? I didn’t have one until recently. It comes from a good time, glad rag-wearing octogenarian who’s been on the Manhattan social scene for decades, and it’s this: to get as much of a kick out of everything as you possibly can. That really rings true in my case. I experienced some tough times in my personal life in my early to mid-twenties, and the main lessons I’ve taken from all of that is to put it all behind me and pursue a life filled with good things. Enjoying life and getting a kick out of it is very important to me. I want to have great memories, no regrets.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I was the 14-year-old dreaming of working in glossy magazines, so my eye was on it from thereon in. A couple of months before my high school finals, I told my mum I wanted to study journalism at university. I can remember it so clearly. I was in my school uniform, talking to her from the doorway of the kitchen. She laughed and said, “We’ve had two want-to-be journalists in this house already.” Meaning two of my older siblings had mentioned it before they left school, and didn’t end up pursuing it through third level education. That annoyed me, and made me more determined.

I don’t like being told what I can’t do, in fact, it tends to push me to succeed in order to prove someone wrong (and perhaps that was her plan all along, who knows). I moved on to uni and got a BA (Hons) in Journalism in 2005. I started writing for magazines immediately after graduating, and before then, during uni, for free. I wanted to build up a portfolio. I started becoming successful in 2006. I moved to Sydney from Dublin and my first job here was on the launch issue of a parenting magazine. Shortly after that, I started copywriting for a number of titles, including Vogue, Australian Good Taste and Notebook. In late 2006 I got a job as a subeditor on NW, and in mid-2008 I started working at Cosmo. I don’t like talking about my success in the past tense, though, my journey is still very much underway.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? I suppose once I started along my career path I never really stopped – once I started my degree it was on my mind all of the time. I loved the idea of becoming a journalist, and the passion and motivation just followed. I think about work a lot, and I think about the future of my career a great deal. I enjoy it so much so it means a lot to me to keep on in publishing. It’s a big part of who I am. There’s no career I wanted more than one that involved writing.

Describe how difficult the business really is? I think that’s a very personal thing – it depends on how you react to your workplace. I enjoy my job and most of its aspects so I don’t think I can say this business is difficult. And, certainly, when I put my job in perspective, you know, I’m never on call, and I don’t perform surgery and other tasks that carry so much more weight than my own responsibilities. I love what I do and I can’t say my particular role, or the industry I work in, is hard. Maybe because so far it’s been so good to me. What I can say is perhaps thoughts of the potentially precarious future of print publications do linger in my mind from time to time, but in the same breath, our business is evolving in order to keep up with the trends, so it’s an exciting time. 

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? No one great moment comes to mind. I’m very focused on how I place myself in work so I tend to be careful about the choices I make. My job and career mean a lot to me and is something I hope to be a part of for a very long time. One mistake I’ve had in the past is perhaps to be too much of a pleaser, which came from a lack of confidence I think. I’ve been a mum since 2010 and I really feel that’s helped in my approach to work and how I present myself. I’ve definitely gained a lot of confidence – I’ve finally learned to let the small stuff go. 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? To put myself forward as much as I can – to give good energy in the workplace. No one’s going to hand my career to me on a plate – that’s all up to me. To remember the passion I had when I was a teen, and how my teen self would give my current self a right old kick if I ever became complacent. I believe a positive attitude helps to take me further. 

In your mind, is formal training essential? I feel I needed formal training for the tools required in my line of work. It’s important I have a good grasp of InDesign, for example. Beyond that, I think it’s important to be able to show you’ve got a keen interest in the industry, so anything that’s going to give you an advantage in the particular area you’re interested in is going to give you a leg up.

Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? It’s definitely good to have role models, or people whose careers you admire. It’s easy to get in touch with anyone you think offers good influence, especially with websites like Career Confessions or social media outlets like Twitter. Some influential personalities in publishing have launched their own websites throughout the years, and published books, so there are definitely plenty of ways to pursue mentors without someone necessarily agreeing to take you under their wing. I think that’s often something that happens once you start working in the office. Applying for an internship or work experience is also a good option. 

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? To think about the topics you enjoy writing about or the particular area in publishing you want to work in. If you write, think about what you’re passionate about in life and seek out ways to write about that and get your work published. Building up a portfolio is important – whether or not you’ve been paid for the work is irrelevant in the beginning I think. Potential employers will be impressed by your determination and drive. I wrote for music websites for free for a while because it’s something I enjoyed and knew quite a bit about. It kept my writing skills and knowledge of the subject fresh. And the kick of seeing my work published never gets old. It would give me a good boost of confidence to keep working towards my goals.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up? Believing in my abilities was very important, and reining myself in whenever I got too critical or hard on myself for not getting a job. Everyone has career setbacks and I just give myself space and remind myself that I’m not going to gain every promotion or nail every interview I go for. I believe in karma and things happening for a reason. If I don’t get a promotion I work on improving my efforts in my current position. A negative frame of mind is only going to affect my own chances I believe. I like to stay positive and enjoy each step of the way.

 Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? No, not in my case. I wouldn’t rely on luck because that would just mean my sitting back and waiting for things to fall into place. I moved my life to the other side of the world to pursue a career in publishing, and I’ve been broke in a foreign country and I’ve been building up my life and career here since I arrived in 2006, so I don’t believe that’s luck. I definitely feel blessed in my position now, but it didn’t come easy and I’m proud of how far I’ve come. And how much more I have to achieve.

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