As a young woman interested in pursuing journalism, I had the privilege of interviewing Chloe Shakin, a Columbia School of Journalism graduate who currently serves as an associate manager at The New York Times. Shakin, who launched her career as the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, The JerEcho, long demonstrated an interest in journalism. While deeply rewarding to connect over our shared love of writing, what I found most compelling was Shakin’s ability to draw on her life lessons to empower every girl in our audience.
Though young herself, Shakin has already begun a remarkable career as a journalist. As a student writer for The Philadelphia Citizen, Shakin published a touching narrative on the aftermath of a fire at a local restaurant, Bridget Foy’s. At journalism school, she went on to cover the complexities of New York City transportation, bringing attention to subjects as broad as subway violence and a South Bronx artist whose sketches of commuters went viral on TikTok. When asked how other girls could achieve similar success in journalism, Shakin was thrilled to share advice applicable to writing and other fields.
“There isn’t one perfect career or career path,” Shakin said. “Figuring out what you don’t like is just as important as finding things you do enjoy.” Despite her self-described shyness, when Shakin entered the University of Pennsylvania, she chose to become a tour guide. While outside of her comfort zone, Shakin, who wondered if she wanted to work in politics at the time, found it imperative to “brush up on [her] public speaking skills.”
Growing more confident in herself, Shakin proceeded to intern at the Philadelphia mayor’s office. She did not pursue politics as her ultimate career but gained invaluable skills by making herself open to new experiences. These skills later aided her as a leader on 34th Street, the arts and culture magazine of The Daily Pennsylvanian, and in countless other facets of her career. As she reflected on her unusual career path, Shakin advised every girl to explore “as many things that interest you and really just let yourself be pulled in different directions.”
Shakin went on to advocate that “enthusiasm and persistence will take you far— especially when you’re just starting out.” As someone who grew up on Long Island, Shakin had revered the New York Times for most of her life and never believed she would have the opportunity to work under the publication. Though she battled self-doubt, after seeing a Times HR manager at a university job fair, she gathered the courage to introduce herself.
Shakin reminisced about the excitement she felt upon starting her career with the Times. “[The HR manager] scribbled something down and said, ‘This is exactly what we are looking for.’ I still didn’t really believe it. I was hired onto a really amazing team on the business side of the organization… Marketing and Media Strategy.”
After her initial summer internship had ended, Shakin felt the urge to return and maintained contact with the Times. While in New York, she eventually heard from a mutual connection that the Times staff had gathered at a bar across from their office. Eager to join the team, she decided to make her interest known, sprinting to the bar to reintroduce herself to everyone she had worked with. She was asked to interview for a role a week or so later. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Expressing my enthusiasm is really, I think, what ultimately enabled me to get hired full-time,” Shakin said, encouraging all young women to “raise your hands for opportunities even if it doesn’t look like the opportunity is there.”
While Shakin recognizes the success she has enjoyed at such a young age, she also admitted that “it’s never too late to try, and it’s always better to fail trying than to have never tried at all.” When recalling her fateful decision to reintroduce herself at the bar, Shakin said, “I would have felt so much better if I walked into that bar and they completely turned away from me as opposed to me just jumping on the train back to college anyway— just predicting that they never would have spoken to me. Because you never know how people will react, and when you put your best foot forward and you are kind and respectful, there is really no reason you should get a horrible result.”
Shakin reminded every girl not to succumb to Imposter Syndrome, an all-too-common phenomenon marked by persistent feelings of self-doubt. At her graduation ceremony from the Columbia School of Journalism, Shakin received the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship, a prize awarded to the five top students of each graduating class. “I wasn’t even going to show up to the awards ceremony,” Shakin said. “I assumed I wasn’t going to win anything and then I happened to roll out of bed— my dress wasn’t even ironed— and then I was called up for a bunch of awards. It just goes to show that you should hold your head high, be confident in your work, and try.”
Shakin continues to put her best effort forward in every endeavor she pursues. Despite her current success, she recalls that as a young person, people had constantly asked her the same question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Shakin acknowledged that though many are excited to learn of her unique career path, some of those whom she admires most have questioned it. While it may feel scary to chase after one’s wildest aspirations, Shakin’s advice is simple: “All that matters is that you’re being kind of true to yourself. And you’re listening to yourself. And that will help you answer this question to the best of your ability.”
About the Author:
Kaitlyn Donato is a high school senior from Winchester, MA. In her sophomore year, Kaitlyn recognized that there were too few magazines focused on writing for and by young women and created The Alcott Youth Magazine. With the magazine, she hopes to publish inspirational writing for all young people to enjoy.
Kaitlyn would like to thank Erin Brown and all other team members from Inspiring Girls USA for making this interview possible. Inspiring Girls USA, an organization dedicated to fostering the ambitions of young girls by connecting them with successful women role models, aims to show girls that they can break down gender barriers and achieve their highest aspirations. You can learn more about their organization at inspiringgirlsusa.org.
Kaitlyn would also like to show her gratitude for the assistance she received from everyone at Books and Bridges, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that coordinates with elementary school teachers to read stories to younger students about women in leadership roles. Books and Bridges believes that discussing female leaders is important for acknowledging women in history and furthering confidence in young girls. To learn more about the organization, please visit booksandbridges.org.