Cosmopolitan magazine internship opens career door

March 14, 2013 •

In a scene from the 2006 movie, The Devil Wears Prada, the powerful and demanding editor of a New York fashion magazine orders her assistant to obtain a hard-to-get advance copy of one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. The almost insurmountable feat took all the employee’s resources to accomplish.

In an instance uncannily similar to the movie, CU-Boulder student Caitlin McCluskey interned with Cosmopolitan magazine in New York last summer. An editor asked her to get an advance copy of Rowling’s latest book, The Casual Vacancy, delivered overnight so that it could be reviewed in the magazine's next edition. Unlike the assistant in the movie, however, McCluskey was unsuccessful at getting the book for the editor.

“I was flat out rejected by the publisher,” said McCluskey. “When I told my boss the publisher wasn’t giving out any advance copies, she got mad and said I didn’t ask the right way. So she called the publisher and got even more rejected. That really made her mad.”

A junior majoring in English and psychology, McCluskey was the books intern at Cosmopolitan, an international women’s lifestyle magazine, during the summer of 2012. The internship opened networking opportunities for McCluskey in an unexpected way.

Her job was to order and sort through the 20 to 30 advance copies of books that came in each week and list those she deemed worthy of review in the magazine. She also researched, organized, and sometimes helped editors write articles about current and cultural events. 

Dream job leads to a career mentor

This was a dream job for McCluskey. She has read Cosmopolitan, also known as Cosmo, since she was 13 and aspires to a career reviewing books in the publishing industry.

“Because I ordered all the books for the magazine, I ordered a lot of books that I was interested in reading,” she said.

One book in particular sparked her interest — Lauren Leto’s Judging a Book by Its Lover — a witty guide to the world of passionate literary discussion.

“I absolutely loved the book and thought she was an amazing writer,” said McCluskey. “It made me want to be her friend.”

McCluskey emailed Leto explaining that she was interning at Cosmopolitan and had enjoyed reading the advance copy for the magazine’s book review section. To her delight, Leto wrote back and suggested they meet for coffee. Over lattes McCluskey and Leto sat in a park and talked about their favorite books and how to break into the publishing industry.

“She’s beautiful and funny and has read every single book that I’ve ever wanted to read,” said McCluskey. “Now she’s my mentor. And she sent my resumé to one of the publishing houses.”

McCluskey, who has written articles for the CU Independent — a student publication on campus — and Rooster magazine, almost didn’t apply to Cosmopolitan thinking that an internship there was a long shot. Through her research on internships in publishing, she found instructions for applying to Cosmopolitan on the magazine’s website.

“It’s a huge international brand that everyone wants to work for,” she said. “But I tried anyway and made it.”

Having interned with Cosmopolitan, a Hearst Magazine publication, will give McCluskey an advantage when she applies to the publishing house giant for a writing or publishing job after graduation. That’s when the value of her CU-Boulder degree will be evident.

“You have a guaranteed leg up in the interview process with Hearst and your application goes right to the top of the pile,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to have had this opportunity without the skills CU-Boulder’s English department has taught me.”

While in New York City, McCluskey shared an apartment with other interns, close enough to walk to the magazine’s offices near Central Park.

One of her concerns about working in New York City was similar to what happened to the lowly assistant in the movie: that everyone at the magazine would be unkind to her. However, McCluskey’s experience was quite the opposite.

“I was afraid everyone would be mean and cutthroat,” she said. “But they were so nice. I’m still good friends with the girls I interned with and we talk several times a week. I definitely made lifelong friends. The internship was a great experience.”