Expectations vs. Reality

Claire Spellberg

Age: 24

Job: Reporter/Producer, Decider

Location: New York City, New York

Claire was referred to me by Kat, my interviewee at Teach For America from New Orleans. The two of them know each other from home. Like myself, Claire made the move from Maryland to South Carolina for school, but then came back up north to start her post-grad career. Starting as an intern after college, Claire makes a really strong point about how it is okay to be an intern after graduation if it means that you are one step closer to a job that really fits you. I loved hearing Claire's story and know you will too.

Give us a little background and tell us how you ended up in New York.

So I’m from Chevy Chase, Maryland, which is a suburb of D.C., and I graduated high school in 2013. From there, I went to Clemson University down in South Carolina and graduated in May of 2017 with an English degree. My minor was in screenwriting with an emphasis in writing and publication studies. I knew I wanted to move to New York, so I took a class with a professor who introduced me to the company that I actually work at now, called Decider. It is the television vertical for the New York Post. We do mostly streaming-focus, so a lot of stuff like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. I was moving to New York and Decider was looking for an intern, so I applied and was an intern there from July 2017 to January 2018. I was the only intern and was there 40 hours a week, so I really felt like I was part of the team. Around December, I felt that it was time for a change, so I applied for an entertainment writer position at Elite Daily, where I did get hired, but they actually don't have any full-time writers at the period. In my brief time there, I was writing entertainment coverage and I did enjoy it, but it was only three days a week and there was no upward mobility. So right around this time, my boss from Decider called me and said someone was leaving and they would love to have me come back full-time, so I accepted it. I missed everyone there, so it was nice to get back in July of 2018, and I have been here since.

What experiences from college led you to this career path?

I have always loved TV and one day I’d like to do TV writing, like be a screenwriter, so that’s why I was a screenwriting minor. I worked at our on-campus publishing center, which is different than our news center. We do the South Carolina Review, edit the English department newsletter, hands-on multimedia, and video production. I worked there for one semester as an intern, which provided me with a great tangible experience to have in terms of writing. All of these experiences definitely led me to what I am currently doing and gave me some solid groundwork to get started with.

Have you had any hardships in your young professional career?

I think it is hard to be a student who does well in school and then to wrap your idea around not having a full-time job right away. It was hard graduating with an english degree from an engineering school, specifically when you don't want to be in South Carolina and when the school didn't provide its liberal art students with as much aid. I think just getting myself to be okay with being an intern first was the real hard part. Expectations versus reality were also hard for me at first. I think I played it right, though, since I am back in the place I love now with the people I love too. It all worked out.

What is it like living in New York as a young professional?

It’s awesome. I don’t want to live here forever, but for right now, it’s great. My office is really casual, too. To give you an idea, I’m in jeans and a hoodie right now, so I don’t think I get the full young professional experience with, you know, business casual or Ann Taylor, but it is definitely fun. There are tons of happy hours. Most of the people in my office are in their mid-twenties or thirties, so if you want to go to happy hour, there are a thousand of them nearby. I have a boyfriend, but I’d imagine it is a great city to meet and date people in, too.

What has been the most surprising thing to you after college?

Well, I could tell you that work sucks, but we all know that. I mean, it really doesn’t. I don’t know if this is surprising, but I feel like a lot of my friends have jobs that they just go to, and aren’t actively excited about. I was surprised to find something that I actually really like right away, and I realize how rare that is.

Tell us about the dynamic in your office.

Decider’s office is on the Post’s news floor and we are with the other New York Post digital property, so that includes page 6 and some of their other projects. It’s a pretty open floor plan and I have a desk that is pretty out in the open with no dividers or anything. I report to the editor in chief of the site, as well as the managing editor, which is a position that was created right after I left as an intern. They are both super great. The managing editor does more day-to-day stuff, whereas the editor in chief does more big-picture stuff. I have nothing but good things to say about them, and it’s just nice to have people you feel actually listen to you. I always feel like if I am super busy, I feel comfortable going to someone and asking if I can get some relief. I will say that at my previous role, I had a female boss and that is just a different dynamic we can go into another time. Both of my current bosses are men.

Can you talk more about that?

Everything I did at Elite Daily was remote, so I only really met my boss once, which is kind of crazy. Our conversations were much more formal than how they are now with my new bosses on a day-to-day basis. As a young woman, I’ll read into a message from a man more than I would from a woman, so that impacts how I react to my bosses in person, via email, etc. I think women read between the lines a lot more, which also makes things interesting.

What would you tell someone who is considering an internship following college?

Give yourself as much time as possible to have all the options open. If you get an internship and you’re not super excited about it, don’t just say yes. You have to see what is out there, to give yourself as many options as possible. Say you have a full-time job and a full-time internship position and you’re not as excited about the full-time job as you are about the internship, then hell yeah, take the internship! I think there is so much to be said for doing something you’re excited about. Waking up early in the morning isn’t fun; but if you get to wake up early and be like, I get to write about Amanda Bynes today, as I did earlier, then that’s exciting.

What do you like about post-grad life?

I’m a big Clemson football fan, and there is a Clemson bar known as Death Valley North that I go to for all the games. There are actually more Clemson fans in New York than you’d think. I have a good group of friends who are there, and I’m also Jewish, so you know, New York, Jews, there are a lot of us. I also watch a lot of TV both in and out of work. I think I have a pretty great work-life balance. I work 8 to 4, and I am out of here at 4 every day.

The YoPro Know's Takeaways:

- You want to be happy with your job, and you want to wake up excited to go to work everyday

- You have to see what is out there, so you have all of your options out there

- If you get an internship and you’re not super excited about it, don’t just say yes

- Expectations versus reality can be hard at first

Check it out: Decider, Clemson University

You can also follow Claire on Twitter and Instagram.

*** If you’re a young professional heading to New York, you may want to check out Trolley, a nascent community for new grads in NYC. Trolley has curated a community of new grads to make it easier to find housing opportunities, join interest groups, and get help on post-grad questions.