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How I Got Here: Mecca’s Junior Sub-Editor Cjay Aksoyoglu on why it’s okay to break the rules

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“If you think you’ve done enough to get the job you want, do more.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While the internet and social media might have us believe that our ideal job is a mere pipe dream, the individuals who have these jobs were, believe it or not, in the same position once, fantasising over someone else’s seemingly unattainable job.

But behind the awe-inspiring titles and the fancy work events lies a heck of a lot of hard work. So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to women who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week we chat with Cjay Aksoyoglu, Mecca’s first-ever Junior Sub-Editor (and the accidental owner of a foodie Instagram page). With seven years of study and a Juris Doctor under her belt, Cjay threw herself into law, using her creative pursuits as a means to mentally escape the regimented world of barristers and commercial firms.

Cjay’s open mind, strong work ethic and ‘proudly non-linear’ career path lead to her current role at Mecca – a brand-new position she very much carved out for herself. Using an arsenal of creative, communication and community-building skills, Cjay helped foster Mecca’s loyal customer base of beauty lovers.

Cjay shares her experience overcoming imposter syndrome, building a strong skill set and learning how to effectively network (using the wise words of Matthew McConaughey, naturally).

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

I’m Mecca’s Junior Sub-Editor – my role is essentially a cross between a professional proofreader, a writer and a content producer. I’m generally the final point of call to check over copy across different platforms, to ensure it aligns with Mecca’s tone of voice and campaigns.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

Ugh, where to begin? I studied for seven years, having done a Juris Doctor (JD) postgraduate law degree and prior to that, a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Criminology/Media and Communications. I loved every minute of my law degree. Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to become a barrister and advocate for women.

I threw myself into the world of law wholeheartedly – gaining some pretty invaluable experiences across big commercial law firms and working with leading barristers (which was amazing)! Although the JD was gruelling, it rigorously refined my communication skills in a way that I never could have imagined. I’ve always had a creative side and so always harnessed this to give my mind a break from law.

During my time at uni, I started working in a couple of Mecca stores as a store host, then worked my way up into Support Centre. I started out in Customer Care before getting the chance to build Mecca’s Community Management team, which meant helping to grow and foster our community of millions of followers across our social media channels.

I was kind of a ‘guinea pig’ back then, as such a role didn’t exist at the time! They took a chance on me, it worked out pretty well and now it’s a well-established part of the business. If you’re thinking, ‘where the hell did community management come from?’ I was also freelancing for many years as a social media manager for cafes and restaurants – so knew a thing or two about building a community across socials.

Then came my recent role as Mecca’s first Junior Sub-Editor! I’d always known my favourite part of my law degree was communicating. It was the creative aspect of advocacy that I’ve always been drawn to – being able to strategically communicate in a way that builds your argument or persuades people.

It also made me a really good, succinct writer and taught me that every word should have a purpose. So, my weird combination of skills came together in this role. I like to think of myself as the unofficial punctuation police at Mecca now! Kidding (but also not?).

Ultimately, my career pathway thus far hasn’t been linear and I’m really proud of that! I’ve just approached every opportunity with absolute gusto and been really open to things as they’ve come along.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

Trying to pick a path! Once you’ve studied for so long, it can feel like you have to follow a particular pathway. For me, trying to pursue a legal path while honouring my creative side was really difficult to grapple with.

I realised that there are no rules, and so when the role as Junior Sub-Editor came about, it was a fitting mix of needing to be a super-strong communicator, whilst also being creative and writing snappy, witty copy. So many skills are transferable (even if not so obvious from the outset). They say lawyers must love reading but those people haven’t met sub-editors, let me tell ya!

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

 

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A post shared by Cjay 🦪🍷👀🍒 (@ceejeats)


The blessing (and curse) of the creative industry is that there’s no one particular pathway to getting somewhere – it’s really about all of your experiences coming together in a way that enables you to uniquely bring something to the table.

Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of industry where you get a degree and off you go! It’s about networking, working your way up and through and being really open to different opportunities.

It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s about so much more than just aesthetics or a love for fashion and beauty. So much of our role in content production is about problem-solving and critical thinking. Inspiration also comes from a plethora of places – art, history, travel and the like. It’s important to be well-rounded.

What’s the best part about your role?

I get to work with the most marvellous, spectacularly talented creatives going around! That and Mecca’s predominantly all-kickass-women workforce. I’m so passionate about women empowering one another, helping each other to get ahead and that almost indescribable kinship that comes from women backing one another. It’s amazing energy be around!

What would surprise people about your role?

It’s quite commercial – which I love. As a writer, I get to create fun, creative copy but there’s so much more to the role of a sub-editor than meets the eye. I have to liaise with so many of Mecca’s stakeholders, balancing their interests with that of other teams, our brands and most importantly, our customers. The best part is that I also get to learn about so many different aspects of the business – what they think about, how they do things, how things work.

What skills have served you well in your industry?

A relentless work ethic and attention to detail. If you’re switched on, take pride in your work and don’t let anything go past you, I think you’ll have a fruitful career in any industry – creative or otherwise.

I’m also unashamedly my own best advocate. It may feel daunting, but I find that backing yourself, having the confidence to tell someone “I’m going to nail this role” and showcasing your achievements when you deserve to be recognised is a good way to get ahead.

In the wise words of Matthew (McHotty) McConaughey in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, “No, not cocky. Confident!” Imposter syndrome is real for most of us, but you’ve gotta fake it till you make it and believe in yourself – so others can too!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

First, any experience is good experience. Say yes to everything that comes your way and give it your best – you’re never above any opportunity. I always try to leave a good impression and make any interaction a positive one.

Also, network. If you think you’ve done enough to get the job you want, do more. Go the extra mile, do your research, follow up with emails. It’s so important to have a genuine interest in the people that are in roles that you aspire to be in and make yourself known to them.

You never know what one networking opportunity might turn into in the future. While you’re there, ask the right questions. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you waste someone’s time with questions you could have easily found the answers to on the internet (I mean, I’m a Millennial… a quick cheeky Google stalk is in my DNA).

Finally, I think it’s so important to show all of your personality and bring your shine to every endeavour! There are no rules on how to get somewhere, all you have to do is be yourself and don’t try to be anything else.

What about a practical tip?

Still go for a job if you think you’re underqualified. I’ll never forget reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In where she references a Hewlett-Packard study that found women only apply for a job if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria (men apply if they think they meet 60 per cent). It really stuck with me. The worst that can happen is you get rejected – in which case, onto the next! If you don’t try, the answer’s always no…

@ceejeats

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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