Admit it, we’ve all been there—deep dive stalking social media and LinkedIn profiles, trying desperately to figure out how the hell someone got their dream job.
It seems impossible and yet there they are, living out your career fantasy (minus the itchy business suit). It might seem hard to believe, but once upon a time, they were also fantasising about their future career, and with some hard work, they made it.
Welcome to How I Got Here, HerCanberra’s series that reveals everything you wanted to know about the secrets of career success.
This week, our very own Editorial Coordinator, Erin Cross shares her journey.
Existential crisis time: Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Erin—a caffeine-addicted, social media junkie who can often be found with a coffee in one hand, and my phone in the other as I try to simultaneously answer emails and keep my Instagram fixation satisfied. But you might know me as the Editorial Coordinator at HerCanberra.
I’ve been working at HerCanberra for two years now (how time flies when you’re having fun!) and in my role I wear many hats, including writing, editing and coordinating content across the website and our social media channels, working with freelancers, contributors and maintaining balance in our editorial schedule by working with the team to decide what content will be published throughout the week.
My day-to-day work is never the same—and I love it. From interviewing locals to writing editorials, editing work from interns, creating social media content, attending events, the list goes on and I am never, ever bored.
Let’s go back to when you were a kid, have you always dreamed of working in this industry?
The short answer? Yes.
The long answer? There isn’t a particular moment that made me stop and think “I want to be a writer”, it’s just always been my dream—even before I knew that journalism was a career path I could pursue. Growing up I loved to read (at the breakfast table, in the car, on the bus, walking down the street) and I wrote creatively. I would spend hours looking at magazines, and a core memory of mine was reading a particular column from a beauty editor in Girlfriend, looking up at my mum and telling her “one day I want to do that.”
While it was always my goal to write a book (and it still is), high school, was when I fell truly in love with print media after contributing to and editing the high school magazine. In college, I double-majored in English and while I’ll admit I did have a bit of an existential crisis when it came to my future (at one point I considered being a primary school teacher—which if you know me is completely hilarious), I always came back to journalism. So I enrolled in a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Canberra and that was that.
Now that I’m here, it’s kind of cool to be able to look back and say to little me: “We did it”.
Tell us about when you were first starting out, what set a fire in your belly to get here and how did you do it?
During college, there was a time when the idea of going to university to study journalism didn’t even cross my mind. I wanted to be a nurse, then a teacher, and even a psychologist—but the spark was always there and it was fanned into a fire when my Mum sat me down, told me to pull myself together, reminded me how much I loved writing and my long-ago comment about wanting to work in the magazine industry.
So I took the leap (thanks Mum).
I was met with a few raised eyebrows when I told people my plans—after all, print media was dying and there are not many journalism jobs available in Canberra—but attending the University of Canberra to study was one of the best things I ever did. And while I’d often get asked if I wanted to be a ‘weather girl’ on the news (as a raging introvert it’s personally not a job for me), I stuck to my guns and I would tell people “I want to write.” Usually, that would be followed by a lecture of how TV or radio is the best place to be in the media industry, but in 2019 I interned with The Canberra Times and I loved it.
I knew print and digital media was the right place for me.
Then a hop, skip and a pandemic later (during most of which I was working in a Centrelink call centre. And yes, it was pretty bad) Julie Samaras from Canberra Weekly took a chance on a rookie journalist—something I will forever be grateful for.
Then, six months later after deciding to leave Canberra Weekly for a Communications role in the Australian Bureau of Statistics, I ended up at HerCanberra. It happened completely by chance, but it was like the universe aligned. Sometimes things do happen for a reason.
Recall a time when you wanted to chuck it all in; what did you tell yourself when it got too hard?
So. 2020—AKA the year everything went to shit. Graduating university is already scary enough, but graduating in a pandemic? Not a good time.
At the time I was working casually in hospitality so you can imagine what happened once lockdown began in Australia. But I was privileged enough to find work in a Centrelink call centre during the peak of the pandemic and it was rewarding—after all I was helping vulnerable people every day—but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it take a massive toll on my mental health. The job wasn’t for me but I stayed, because what else could I do?
Eventually, news agencies and media companies started hiring again but with every resume I sent, it felt like I’d never break into the industry. Everyone wanted to hire an employee with years of experience, skills I hadn’t had time to cultivate because the world was frozen in lockdown. Every rejection hurt—and combined with the state of the world, I just wanted to give up on my dream. After all, what was the point?
It wasn’t something I told myself that got me through that year, but the support of my Mum, my partner and my friends. They believed in me, they told me I would get there, and eventually, I did. And I owe it all to them.
What was your biggest break?
I’ve been lucky enough to have two big breaks. The first was when Julie Samaras hired me at the end of 2020. The second was when my best friend and mum sent me an Instagram post advertising a role with HerCanberra. I remember opening and thinking “Wow. That is literally my dream. There’s no way in hell I’d ever get it.”
It took a few pushes from them to actually to get me to submit my resume because I never thought for a second I would get an interview, let alone offered the job. But in my week off between the end of my contract with Canberra Weekly and starting at the ABS (again, if you know me, a hilarious decision), Bea called and asked me to come in. I thought I bombed the interview but Amanda and Bea saw something in me and invited me to join the team—I started the following Monday, the exact day I was supposed to be at the ABS. See? The universe aligned.
It’ll forever be the highlight of my career.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“What about journalism? You’ve always said you wanted to do it. Do what you love.”
It sounds cheesy but it was like a lightbulb went off. Everything came together and the rest is history. Thanks again, Mum.
What is it about your industry that you love and what makes you want to pull your hair out?
Don’t get me wrong, I love working in this industry but there are a few things that get under my skin. Lately, it feels like the general public has forgotten journalists are people too. Yes, we LOVE chasing stories, interviewing, and creating content for our amazing clients. But while a good story will always come first, we do have lives away from the keyboard (well, sometimes)—especially when people expect you to write about something that will make them money, for free.
Also, when people copy and paste our work without changing a thing—it happens more often than you think. At least change the headline?
Tell us how you ‘stay in the know’, what media do you consume?
Lately, I’ve been more selective with what I consume and how much—post-pandemic, news burnout is real. But for local and regional news I look to ABC Canberra and The Canberra Times and for national news, I always check The Guardian Australia and SBS (as well as the Cheek Media Instagram page because like most of Gen Z, my news consumption comes from social media).
The Squiz is my go-to news podcast for the day’s headlines in a digestible format and for lifestyle and pop culture news, I always look to VOGUE Australia (including their podcast Under The Gloss) and Marie Claire (both print and digital) as well as Fashion Journal Magazine and Shameless Media.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still at HerCanberra, with more knowledge and more skills, doing what I love. With that said, who really knows? I have so much to cross off my bucket list that I’m not sure where the future will take me. But maybe I’ll finally be writing that book.
Why should people follow in your footsteps?
Because I strongly believe we work to live, not live to work—being paid to do what you love is the best way to live. And because we need more diverse voices to tell incredible stories.
What advice would you give your past self?
Believe in yourself. Everyone else does.