Skills & Expertise

What Does an Editorial Assistant Do?

While this entry-level position has its share of menial tasks, you'll get to exercise skills you didn't even know you had and gain invaluable experience in the process

Oh, hey there, recent grads, aspiring writers and editors. We hear you’re ready to apply for an editorial assistant gig to jump-start your career. Great! Sounds like a plan. But first, check out what someone in the know has to say about this killer entry-level opportunity.

What exactly does an editorial assistant do?

Whether you work in book publishing, traditional media or at a digital publication, there’s usually some invoice and check-request processing, document scanning, meeting scheduling, editorial calendar managing and submission tracking going on in Editorial Assistantland. But fret not, future editors. You’ll get to flex your editorial skills too.

Depending on your industry, an editorial assistant also pitches and researches stories; writes articles, promotional materials and/or jacket copy; copy edits or proofreads texts; and creates and curates digital content, including social media posts. You may also transcribe and conduct interviews, fact check stories, screen manuscripts (you could discover the next Toni Morrison!), research photos and assist with photo shoots. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get a variety of experience under your belt.

“No single day is the same,” says Erika Ostroff of Yahoo Style. As assistant editor, a role the company defines the same as an editorial assistant, Ostroff does everything from pulling data analytics to attending events such as the Met Gala, Victoria Secret Fashion Show and SXSW to report for the site via social media. Sounds amazing.

What skills does an editorial assistant need?

Writing skills, of course. You should be able to string together a pretty awesome sentence, devoid of grammar and spelling errors, so make sure your English skills are on point, and brush up on AP and Chicago style rules.

Strong interpersonal and organizational skills are also important, as is the ability to prioritize and multitask.

And any experience with CMS, HTML or software such as Photoshop and InDesign is icing on the cake.

Wait … so digital skills are important?

Totally. “[Hashtag] GirlsWhoCode (or boys) all the way,” says Ostroff, who’s well versed in all things digital, from HTML and JavaScript to rich pins and SEO. “My dad always says: ‘The best restaurant owners can wash dishes, wait on tables, [and] cook, if they have to, and I think that theory applies in this space too.” In other words, the more you know, the more you grow.

Anything else?

Be nimble. “There’s always a new story, trending topic or social platform that you have to be ready to tackle with dexterity and speed,” says Ostroff.

Who’s my boss?

It depends on where you work and the size of the company, but you’ll likely check in with a senior or managing editor. You might even report directly to the editor in chief (no pressure or anything).

How do I stand out—like, how do I kill it?

“I’ve found that people associate excelling with being first—first to break a story, first to post that awesome original Instagram photo or first to tweet what you think you saw, [but] being thoughtful and right is more important than being first, and knowing how to manage that will help you excel,” Ostroff says.

How can I become an editorial assistant?

If your resume lacks J-school cred, don’t stress. Show potential employers you’re familiar with different platforms and can maintain a unique voice, advises Ostroff, and you’ll be good to go. Just hop on over to the job board and start searching for open editorial assistant or assistant editor jobs.

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Climb the Ladder, Skills & Expertise