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Tips for aspiring editors with Clare Sanderson

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Tips for aspiring editors with Clare Sanderson

Hi Claire! Tell us a little more about you… (name, work, hobbies, etc.)

I’m the new Editor of Women’s Health UK. It’s my ultimate dream job.

I’ve worked in magazines for about 13 years, including on Look and Grazia. I started my journalism career on national newspapers 18 years ago at the Mirror, and newspapers will always have a special place in my heart. 

I’m fitness obsessed. I’m never happier than when I’m hot and sweaty after a great workout. Even though I know weight training is best for shredding fat and yoga’s amazing for lengthening and stretching, for me, nothing can beat a full-on cardio session. If I’m about to throw up then I think that’s time well spent. I’m a bit of a masochist like that. 

The absolute loves of my life are my children – four-year-old Zak and Nell, who is 18 months. Between working full-time and working out, what little free time I have is devoted to them.

Being a parent is hard work; exhausting, draining, but beautiful and fulfilling. I’m very lucky.

You’ve held a number of senior roles within the media; how do you find working in the fitness industry? Does it differ heavily from others?

My job is first and foremost being an editor. The fact that Women’s Health is a fitness magazine is secondary. An editor’s skills are the same whatever the type of content you are managing. It’s as much about people management and process management as it is about deciding who will star on the cover and filling empty pages. Being into health and fitness is a bonus.

That said, Women’s Health is a special type of publication to work for. Everybody is very positive and supportive of each other. I guess that comes with the territory of all staff being into wellness and therefore feeling great. Even little things like there being no unhealthy food in the office makes a real difference. People eat really well and work out, which positively impacts the office mood. 

Do you think fitness has changed in recent years and if so what do you think is the most positive change?

The fitness industry has changed massively in recent years. Now it’s cool to work out and people want to look fit and strong, not skinny. Fitness has become as much of a social activity as it is a wellness pursuit. Girlfriends now get together to do a workout class and grab a shake afterwards. Not so long ago, meeting your friends would entail a trip to the pub followed by a takeaway.

You only have to look at the whole athleisure craze, where women are spending £100-plus on leggings to work out in, as proof that fitness is now about more than just wanting to burn a few hundred calories.

As with all fitness trends, the boutique class obsession that’s dominating London came from LA and New York, where there are trendy studios on every corner. I predict this will quickly spread out across the UK so people in places like the South Wales Valleys, where I’m from, won’t be restricted to working out in council-run gyms or a select few private clubs. Instagram and #fitspo are largely behind the change in people’s attitudes towards fitness. Social media is saturated with inspirational images of strong, beautiful people. It’s a lifestyle we all want to tap into. It may seem a little shallow, but it’s improving health and wellbeing so it can’t be a bad thing.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

There are not many jobs where you see a physical embodiment of your hard work. As an editor, I get a magazine as evidence of the blood, sweat and tears.

I especially like empowering staff to develop their skills. I firmly believe people respond better to encouragement rather than constantly being given negative feedback. Obviously, people need to be told if there’s room for improvement, but I find they respond better to criticism if they have the confidence to believe in themselves – and that comes from lots of validation.

A huge perk of working at Women’s Health is that I get to try all sorts of new workouts. I try not to include anything in the magazine that I, or one of my team, haven't personally tried.

What tips would you give to aspiring editors?

Publishing is an extremely competitive industry so perseverance is essential, as is being willing to start at the very bottom and work your way up. You may have a master’s degree in journalism but you still need to be thrilled if you are offered an editorial assistant’s job.

Get yourself a portfolio of published work – anything from your university magazine to your local newspaper and online work. And accept all intern opportunities.

Once you’re in publishing, say yes to everything your editor asks you to do and do it with a smile. As a graduate trainee, I worked late into the night on countless occasions. It’s that enthusiasm that will get you noticed, as will being professional in the office. So no hangovers, dress appropriately and don’t be the subject of office gossip.

It took me 18 years to progress from being a graduate trainee reporter on the Mirror to the Editor of Women’s Health. That was a lot of hard work, a bit of luck, making myself known to the right people and arguably being indispensible in every office I’ve ever worked. In terms of skills, being able to write is obvious, and, if you are aiming for magazines rather than newspapers, you need to be creative and extremely visual.

Finally, what’s the one thing you do daily to feel badass? 

I returned to work after having my second child to a more senior job. It’s a sad indictment of society that women often have to take a step back in their career when they have a family, sometimes taking more junior roles to make it work around their family commitments. I hope I’ve gone some way to prove that doesn’t always have to be the case. I’m a great mum to two gorgeous, happy children and I run Women’s Health, the most successful women’s magazine launch of the last decade. I’d say that’s badass!