Former People magazine president recounts highlight career

Joey Large

Through respect and dedication, Nora McAniff worked her way from being a receptionist to the youngest-ever president of People magazine.

With no empty seats in the Business-Communications Center-Room 228, McAniff told her story of moving from a secretarial job to president of People magazine, and eventually chief operating officer of Time Inc.

She did so with only a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Baruch College.

Baruch is one of the ten colleges in The City University of New York, the largest urban public university in the United Sates.

McAniff very casually and openly shared the plethora of experience she gained in more than 25 years running magazines sales.

“Think about the playing field … as a pyramid,” McAniff said. As she quickly moved up through sales at People magazine, McAniff described how she succeeded by “jumping” to higher levels of the pyramid to separate herself from other people entering the field.

She stressed distinguishing yourself to get a job and move up the pyramid.

“There are still too many white, middle-age men running corporate America,” she said. She advised taking a semester abroad as a key way to differentiate yourself from others with a degree.

The audience was a diverse mix of students from many different backgrounds and majors. McAniff asked the students to go around the room and introduce themselves.

Students with business aspirations in agriculture, music and urban development sat next to international students interested in small businesses, film production, accounting and communications.

“Understand, you’re a sponge,” she said. McAniff explained how she constantly learned-and got promoted-by always absorbing as much information as possible. The sponge was a metaphor she often returned to.

McAniff’s saturation began with her job after college, as a receptionist for a small market research firm. She took the initiative to teach herself the computer programs, and was promoted to customer service when the position became available.

“I was never afraid to say, ‘I don’t know,'” she said.

McAniff emphasized picking a career or job that will add to your experience.

With few exceptions, students are not going to get their dream

jobs straight out of college, she said.

She recommended sitting down with a piece of paper and thinking about things you like and don’t like.

“I used to think about the classes,” McAniff said. Looking back at her college classes, she really loved advertising, marketing and market research. Knowing this, she then got a job with magazine company Time Inc-the largest magazine publisher in the United States.

Thus began her market research for People magazine. After working hard for three years assisting sales people, while getting promotions and soaking up knowledge, she moved into the entrepreneurial side of sales.

While McAniff enjoyed the free time and perks associated with sales, she said she quickly realized that this would not be the end for her.

She then moved to Boston to manage an office for People-a jump up the pyramid-and returned to New York as a manager, surpassing the people she had worked under before.

Soon after, she was made lead manager of People’s New York office.

McAniff was then promoted to publisher of Life magazine, which she described as a huge leap from the New York office. She was brought back to People as the publisher, and was made president of the company.

Before retiring two years ago, she was the chief operating officer, second only to the chief executive officer.

She shared a great deal of wisdom with the students, honestly offering practical information and experience for entering business.

Overall, much of her advice could be extended and applied to many professional fields and careers. She also provided universal tips for job searches.

In her success with People, McAniff recalled looking at population and demographic trends. She thought about what the population of the country, and the world, were going to look like. This helped her to launch Teen People-now defunct-and People en espanol.

McAniff was adamant about not dropping out of school. She worked 30 hours a week while attending Baruch College. She took morning and evening classes, and attended summer school so she wouldn’t fall behind.

Without a bachelor’s degree, you limit your opportunities and your pay rate, she said.

“Get a job, go back to school. Don’t be stupid,” she said.