Ever wondered how the COSMO team got to where they are today? Here’s how we did it.
Holly Meadows – editor
I started out as an intern at Vogue House in London for a society magazine called Tatler. I got the work-shadow placement via a family friend, and the experience made me realise I had absolutely *zero* interest in nepotism nor the who’s who of aristocratic England.
I left the UK for India and worked on Bollywood movie sets (entirely by accident) before I got the call that I’d been accepted to do a postgraduate degree at UCT. And so I moved my life across continents again, this time to my mother’s birth country. The degree required that I complete practical part-time work experience, which I did at a well-known local travel magazine. After that I was unemployed for a year. I waitressed and built up a writing portfolio while cold-calling every single publishing house, and writing to every editor I could find an e-mail address for.
Hundreds of motivational letters later, I finally got my break as a digital travel journalist. From there I worked my way up into internationally-recognised women’s magazine brands. In every job I’ve had I’ve given 110%, grafted really hard, been loyal to the company for at least two years, and applied through common means (as in legit job portals we all have access to, and not via family friends!). Once you’re good enough, people will take notice – talent doesn’t shine until you’ve proven yourself, and you might even be headhunted. That’s how I landed up in the privileged position I now find myself, and it’s not something I will ever take for granted.
Noxolo Mafu – deputy editor
I kicked off my career interning for a big news company as a video journalist. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I dodged stun grenades at protests, found the weirdest and most wonderful visual stories, edited and wrote in-studio interviews, and tried my hand at video presenting (and yes, some of these cringy videos made their way onto the Internet).
I had applied for a bursary while studying at Rhodes University, where I specialised in TV production. This would guarantee one year of work post-graduation, but I would have to prove my worth to land a permanent role. I did exactly that and ended up moving to Jo’burg after a few years with the company to help build their video division in Gauteng. But the politics and current-news beat was getting me down, and I knew I needed to make a move towards lifestyle content instead – I knew it was my calling.
I moved over to another online news company where I was eventually promoted to deputy editor. While *drowning* in imposter syndrome, an e-mail popped into my inbox from COSMO editor Holly Meadows. I had always loved the mag (and even visited during a job-shadowing task in high school!) and they were looking for a new deputy editor. I could not believe it. I applied, but did not think I would be contacted again. I was (whaaat?!) and, well, the rest is history. I packed my bags, left Jozi and joined the COSMO family. And I have never been happier.
Shirley Padi – art director
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to work in the magazine industry. I loved collecting magazines that had beautiful, striking covers. There was something exciting about the way the pages looked and how they evoked a feeling.
While I was studying marketing at Wits Technikon (now UJ), I did promo work to make some extra cash. I was booked on a job to work at an ad agency’s road-show event for two days. I was exposed to this creative, high-energy environment I never knew existed, and I felt right at home. I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. I was invited to visit their office for a tour and chat with the CEO, and this experience prompted me to study visual communications at AAA.
Two years into what felt like Advertising Boot Camp, I realised that although the work I was doing fed my creativity, I still yearned to work for a magazine. Fearing that I’d end up miserable in an agency environment, I decided to be proactive – I called and e-mailed every publishing house, literally begging for an internship or job. I finally got my break, and interned at a local magazine while I was studying.
After graduating, I moved overseas for a few years and worked at various magazines as a designer. When I came back to SA, I got a job at a well-known publishing house and, while there, I got a call from COSMO – they wanted me to apply for the art-editor position, which I got. Yay!
I’m now COSMO’s art director. Working at this brand has not only helped me grow professionally, but also personally. Every day I feel like I’m part of a movement and that I’m doing something meaningful.
Jaime Waddington – digital director
Everyone told me internships were the gateway to get into the media business. They also told me the pay would be pooh. After doing a post-grad in journalism at Rhodes, I soon realised I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet as an intern, so I went to South Korea and taught English to save up some $$$.
After a year there, I saw an ad online for a digital-intern position at a local fashion mag and immediately applied. I managed to secure a Skype interview from Korea (I was so nervous, I had two shots of soju beforehand – don’t @ me). In the space of a month, I got the job, left Korea and moved to Cape Town, solo.
I was so eager. I wouldn’t leave until everyone else had. I’d wake up super-early to beat my fellow interns to news ideas and said ‘yes!’ to every task, even if I didn’t know how to do them (I Google-taught myself later on).
A year later, I moved to Associated Media Publishing’s Creative Studio as a copywriter, writing advertorials on everything from toilet cleaner to cottage cheese. Since then, I’ve worked my way up – one article and social-media post at a time. And now I get to work at my ride-or-die, COSMOPOLITAN, as the digital director.
Ashleigh Engel – social media manager
I’ve always been a typical COSMO girl. When I was younger, I stole copies of my older sister’s issues to flip through the pages and drool over the man candy and see the celeb style pages. I attended all the COSMO events and signed up for a subscription (I was a big fan!).
While I was working at my first job in PR and social media, I heard from a close friend that there was a position that had just opened at COSMO as a social-media manager. I eagerly applied as I loved the brand *so much* and social media is something that I’ve been passionate about for forever.
My second interview for the position happened to be on the morning of a brand activation I had to do at the COSMO office for the company I was working at – LOL! I casually just told my colleagues I would meet them at the office in time for the activation to begin, but little did they know I was about to jump ship!
Being a part of the COSMO team has been such an incredible experience. I’ve built great relationships and I get to do a job that I love for a brand I absolutely stan!
Candice Cook – chief copy editor
I began my journey at COSMO waaay back in 2007 when I was a features intern. Even though I was only there for a short time, I felt like I was a part of the team – and I wasn’t asked to do mundane intern duties like coffee runs and photocopying. I loved my experience, and it made me realise that the magazine world was one that I wanted to work in. After I graduated from UCT in 2008, I worked at various magazines and newspapers as a sub-editor. But it was in 2013, while working at a competitor magazine, that I received an e-mail from COSMO asking me to apply for the copy-editor position. Um, yes, please!
I went for an interview and got the job! I stayed on for two and a half years (and loved it), and then I decided to branch out and do freelance work. Fast-forward to December 2018, and I once again returned to COSMO when I was offered the role of chief copy editor. In the publishing industry, it’s so important to stay in touch with former colleagues and to maintain those relationships. Having contacts is vital, and it helped me to get where I am today – working with an incredible team and doing what I love.
Cleo Marcopoulos – fashion director
After graduating from varsity, I was searching long and hard for an internship at a fashion magazine (and by ‘searching’, I mean *frantically* e-mailing every possible lead!). During that time, I was a hostess at a restaurant. One day while on shift, the fashion director of a renowned local magazine came in. After looking at her cool outfit, I realised who she was. Eek!
I immediately introduced myself and blurted out that I wanted to be her next intern. She responded by saying that intern intakes had, unfortunately, already taken place. I was not deterred, though (this was my chance!). Later that evening, I created a ‘business card’, which I delivered to her with her bill and had my name and contact details on it. ‘Your future intern. I make excellent coffee and copies,’ it said. I wasn’t afraid to start at the bottom, and do whatever it took to get my foot in the door.
She asked me to come in for an interview and, two days later, my six-month internship began. The industry is so small, and after my internship I was asked to assist the fashion director at COSMO. I worked my butt off and, six years later, I’m COSMO’s fashion director. What a ride!
Clare Robertson – fashion editor
In 2015, I quit my nine-to-five desk job after studying photography and events management to apply for the internship of my dreams. The vacancy became available at a time where I was questioning my career path — and there it was: a sign.
Imagine, ‘Fashion Intern at COSMOPOLITAN’. I would basically be starring in my own season of The Hills circa ’09, when Lauren got that internship with Teen Vogue. Goals! I felt like I was a kid again, filled with excitement and dreams. So I applied, along with four others who were after the same position. The internship was unpaid, but the work I would put in, the reference letter I hoped to get and the overall experience would be invaluable. Plus, working after-hours hostessing would put enough money in my pocket.
Fast-forward to three months into the internship (yes, I got the job!), I realised that that the US TV series painted a very unrealistic picture of what a fashion internship entailed. But nevertheless, I loved it. I worked my ass off, terrified of our fashion director at the time who was brilliant and would not take sh*t from anyone. She taught me resilience and that doing what you love is worth all the sweat and tears.
I left with a killer reference letter, got a position as a fashion assistant at another company before being asked to come back and interview for the same role back at COSMO. I worked my way up and I’ll never look back.
Amber Barker – style & beauty assistant
I wish this wasn’t a cliche story but unfortunately I cannot give you the satisfaction of something juicier! Throughout my studies, every time I would bump into an acquaintance they would ask my how my fashion studies were going, which was frustrating, as I was studying advertising at the time. But this made me wonder if I had chosen the right career path.
After I left college, I had a burning desire to try my hand at this whole ‘fashion’ thing and applied for an internship at COSMO instead of looking for a job in the advertising world. Interning is key and changed the game for me – it allowed me to see that this is what I really wanted to do and was where I needed to be. I never knew that a job would make me feel so happy and fulfilled. The only problem? My internship came to an end. Sigh. I left COSMO for a year after interning to go work for a major online fashion retailer. Then, my wildest dreams came true and a job opening became available to be the fashion and beauty assistant at COSMO, so I applied for the job. The rest is history… and the love affair continues!
Zipho Ntloko – senior beauty editor
Funny story – working in beauty was a career I never even thought of pursuing. I initially wanted to study architecture, was accepted into interior-design school, and I even applied for a culinary course at one point. Thank god I didn’t, because if I had I wouldn’t have experienced any of the opportunities I’ve worked so hard for in the past five years.
It all started while I was working in retail during the last year of my degree, and my co-worker happened to be related to the beauty assistant at COSMO. I obviously decided to shoot my shot when I heard the mag was looking for a makeup-obsessed intern, which at the time was me to a T. I went for the interview, aced it and was offered the internship the following day, and that was the beginning of it all. From there, I worked my way up. I will admit, the first couple of months into my senior role, imposter syndrome really gnawed at me – anxiety and stress consumed me on a monthly basis as I had a lot to prove. But we’ve produced such amazing work in the past year that I am proud to be able to put my name on.
Helen Wallace – beauty & lifestyle writer
I thought that I was going to go into the art world after school (you don’t take two art subjects in matric for fun!). But after four gap years, a wake-up call and more than one failed attempt at tertiary education, I decided to pursue writing instead. And while the end goal was always to land up in women’s lifestyle magazines, I didn’t think it would happen this quickly. Or at all, TBH.
Caryn Welby-Solomon – content producer
Working at COSMO has been a dream of mine since I used to steal issues from my sister, but breaking into the industry was tough. I couldn’t afford to do an unpaid internship, so after studying film and media, I worked in PR and marketing as a social media and website manager.
At that point, online media was starting to emerge, so I moved into online news writing before becoming a commercial writer. During this time, I focused on learning all there is to know about online media, including content writing, SEO, social media management and content management systems.
By the time I met Holly at an interview for another gig, I could merge my love for COSMO with the knowledge that I had picked up at my previous jobs. I didn’t get that job, but when a position opened up for an entertainment content producer months later (entertainment is my absolute passion and basically what I breathe) she remembered me, and here we are today. Through this journey, I learnt that if you continue to work hard and focus on your goals, you’ll eventually find your way.
Muneeba Boltman – senior commercial copywriter
It’s true what they say about your imagination – it will take you places. Mine got me into content-strategy meetings with some of the biggest brands in SA, and conceptualising campaigns that would result in me telling stories about great products. Fast-forward to 2019, where I’m sitting across the table from COSMO’s editor, sipping coffee (I knew she was my people when she arranged for my interview at a café).
Yes, it may sound cliché, but all my professional experiences lead me to that moment – pitching myself to be the custodian of COSMO’s commercial content across its print, digital and video platforms. I met Holly once before, so she had a teaser of what to expect from me. Trust the timing of your life because that initial meeting got me three separate interviews with different heads of the company. If I hadn’t (over)shared about my passions and why I love writing, I wouldn’t be creating content for SA’s biggest Millennial and Gen Z media brand.
Yeah, the interview included a creative and written assessment, but saying ‘yes’ to duties outside of the scope of my writing roles (even when I didn’t yet know how to do the tasks) is what got me a seat at the table – and there was coffee!
Michelle Cory – senior commercial designer
I always knew I was going to turn my love of art into a career. The first time I realised my love for art was as a child during one ballet lesson. I knew it wasn’t for me and remember firmly telling my mom that I should be doing art instead. From that moment onwards, I attended art classes and channeled all my energy onto the canvas.
After leaving school, I set off to study visual communication at Vega in Johannesburg. During this time, I unexpectedly entered a beauty pageant, which resulted in me being chosen to be on the cover of a gardening magazine, LOL. On set of the cover shoot, I ended up chatting to the art director. Her job sounded so exciting and just up my paint-splattered alley. Here is where I realised that magazines were the culmination of my interests across art and design.
Following my conversation with her, I managed to secure an internship at that gardening magazine. Once the internship ended, I knew it, I was *in love*. I researched all the magazines that had offices in Johannesburg. I interned at a couple more media brands until I got my big break and nabbed a job as a senior designer for a fashion magazine.
After a few years, I knew I was destined for something even bigger and better. So I packed my car, filled to the roof handles and set off to the hub of media, the Mother City. After building a connection with COSMOPOLITAN’s former editor at my previous gig, I managed to land the position of commercial designer for COSMO.
What I’ve learnt through my experience is that perseverance is crucial and that connections and networking are key. You never know who you might meet along the way and what questions you might ask them that could lead you to the job of your dreams!
Lufuno Ramadwa – multimedia producer
Ever since I realised I could tell a story without actually using words (which was during my high-school art classes), video has been my medium of choice when it comes to expressing myself. By the time I was getting ready to go to university, I knew I wanted to do something (anything!) that involved a camera, so I ended up working towards a degree in film and media, specialising in broadcast journalism.
When I wasn’t studying like crazy, I would organise impromptu shoots with my friends or find odd jobs interning on film and TV sets or at local fashion events, just to fuel my passion As soon as I graduated, I got straight to work. I interned at a popular digital youth magazine, and this internship set the standard of what I would expect in this industry. I was ready!
I got my first (paying) dream job at another fashion magazine, where I had the opportunity to travel and meet the most amazing personalities, from the famous to the inspirational. Today I’m the multimedia producer at COSMO. No two days are ever the same, and you never know what to expect when you walk into the office each morning, which keeps me on my toes!
Sloane Poggenpoel – project manager
Coming out of university and walking into a corporate internship, I took full advantage of every opportunity presented to me – especially those that frightened me. I got my job at COSMO by being bold, taking authority and grabbing opportunities. When I applied, COSMO asked my mentor if she knew anybody who would be able to run the commercial projects for the brand and, of course, my name was the first one she mentioned. That, along with truly pretty CV, got me in the doors for an interview.
My advice for others who want to work their way up in the corporate game? Choose – and I can’t stress this enough – a mentor and choose them well! Approach someone who you resonate with, wants to *genuinely* help kick-start your career and has been in the game for a good number of years with an established network.
Another tip? Just act like you know what you’re doing and figure everything out as you go. Nine times out of 10, I figured it out and when I didn’t know, I asked questions. Life, and our careers, are a learning process. And you’ve got to start somewhere to work your way up the ladder.
*styled by Amber Barker (thanks, boo!)
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