Washingtonian Magazine staff share stories, experience

By Katherine Sylvester

Two media professionals from D.C.’s Washingtonian Magazine visited Whitman Apr. 11. Marketing and communications manager Vanessa McDonald and food editor Jessica Sidman shared professional experience, stories and advice in a fifth period discussion hosted by Whitman’s Young Professionals club.

McDonald works on the advertising and business side of the publication, and Sidman writes about the dining scene and contributes to popular features like the “100 Very Best Restaurants” in D.C. Both women emphasized the importance of seizing opportunities, advocating for yourself and networking.

After disliking her first job, Sidman said that she had to slowly fight to become a food reporter. Now, she writes on subjects like the D.C. Food Porn Instagram account and estimates she eats out for free about 3 or 4 days a week on average.

“I strongly believe that no matter what career you end up going into, or whatever internship, take whatever assignment you possibly can—because you never know,” Sidman said. “My first job was writing about trade associations and nonprofits, which was kind of miserable. As I’m sure you’ll all discover someday, your dream job is very, very rarely your first job.”

McDonald said one of the first lessons she learned on the job was the importance of advocating for herself. When she first accepted a job at the Washingtonian, she didn’t negotiate her pay—and ended up regretting it.

“In a month, my boss was like, ‘I don’t want to tell you this to upset you, but we actually had some extra money set aside that we were willing to pay you,’” McDonald said. “Particularly women, studies have proven that they’re afraid to ask for what they think they deserve. So always ask—and what’s the worst? They say no, or they half that, and you still come out ahead. It’s just important to ask and be your own advocate.”

Sidman and McDonald also agreed that learning to network is a crucial part of being successful.

“Networking is a huge part of today’s world. You have to know stuff—it’s what you know, but it can also be a little of who you know, to just get you that little push and nudge,” McDonald said. “Stay in contact with where you intern when you get internships.”

McDonald and Sidman were invited by the Young Professionals club, which hosts lunchtime visits of professionals in a variety of careers every month. Max London and Jordan Shaibani, who started the club, said it’s intended to give students a taste of their job options.

“Both of us thought that a lot of people go into college unprepared, not really knowing what they want to do,” London said. “So this isn’t really a high-commitment club, it’s just once a month, but you get to hear from a variety of careers and just see what might spark your interest.”