The Step Down: An Inside Look at an Editorial Assistant of Vanity Fair Digital

Photo courtesy of Sarah Shoen

Photo courtesy of Sarah Shoen

One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and nearly one-tenth of these floors are home to century-old media giant Condé Nast. It is also home to Sarah Shoen, a 23-year-old from Reno, Nevada, who landed a position at many fashion lover’s favorite publication, Vanity Fair, only 13 months after graduating college.

“I’m really lucky to be here. I’m like the luckiest person in the world to be here,” Shoen said.

Shoen works as an assistant to the digital editor of Vanity Fair, Mike Hogan. This competitive entry-level position could lead to a staff writer position, or even an editor role at the magazine.

“I had never even considered moving somewhere like here,” Shoen said. “That was so out of my league.”

“I had never even considered moving somewhere like here. That was so out of my league.”

She said she left her position as a producer at ABC in Reno with “no idea what [she] was going to do next.” After leaving, she sent out emails and called everyone she knew that worked in media to see what jobs would turn up.

She landed her first interview for an assistant position through a former college professor who worked as a freelancer for Condé Nast, the parent company of numerous publications including Vogue, The New Yorker, and Glamour.

After the interview, she signed a lease in New York City, planning to move with a strong feeling that everything would work out. Two days before her move, however, she found out she didn’t get the job.

She said she had never been more devastated in her life.

However, this wasn’t the end of her story at Vanity Fair. With her lease signed and tickets bought, she decided to take a risk and continue with her move. A month later, she got a call from the magazine asking her to interview again, and she landed her current position as an Editorial Assistant.

“[The digital section of the publication] is almost as big as the print side which is almost unheard of at a magazine as big as Vanity Fair,” Shoen said.

While she works on the web side of the magazine, Shoen has the opportunity to taste a bit of everything the magazine has to offer, from managing the digital editor of Vanity Fair, Mike Hogan’s schedule, phone calls, and emails, to conducting and transcribing interviews, and writing a page in the magazine each month.

“It’s hard because I don’t have like a day-to-day routine, but the big things are like assisting anybody and everybody, not just in web but... in the whole publication in general,” Shoen said.

While her job varies greatly from day-to-day within the departments of Vanity Fair, Shoen also has opportunities to work with people from other branches of Condé Nast.

“Mike works with Anna Wintour a lot so I’ll talk to her assistant and coordinate meetings, and David Remnick, who’s the editor-and-chief of The New Yorker, they have meetings a lot,” Shoen said.

When her editor was on the red carpet interviewing celebrities for the Toronto International Film Festival, Shoen was tasked with helping come up with questions to interview celebrities.

“It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to interviewing a celebrity,” Shoen gushed. It was a great experience for her to hear her boss ask questions on the red carpet that she had come up with.

“The caliber of talent at Vanity Fair is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

One of the most exciting parts of the job for Shoen is working on the contributor’s page in the print magazine each month. The 150 to 200-word section depicts non-regular staff who contribute to the issue by taking photos or writing articles.

“I get to call these people and interview them and then do the little blurb, so that’s fun, and that’s like why I don’t really mind that I’m an assistant,” Shoen said. Although it may be lower in rank than the position she left before Vanity Fair, Shoen is happy to be where she is.

“Yes... rank-wise it might be a step down from my last job, but one, it’s an incredible brand so I would literally have taken any job there,” Shoen commented. “And two... I’m still able to exercise those journalistic skills that I think I garnered over the years.”

In addition to being able to utilize skills she has learned throughout her education and career, Shoen said the people within the publication and their connections outside of it are one of her favorite parts of work.

“The caliber of talent at Vanity Fair is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” she said of the team.

Having landed the job in just over a year after graduating college, it was a risk for Shoen to move to New York City, but one that she feels happy to have taken.

“I really think that part of the reason why I got that job is because I, just for whatever reason, believed in my heart that I was gonna get the job there, Shoen said. Even though it didn’t work out the first time, she said, she had a feeling that something would work out in the end and she would end up there one way or another.