Experience · Get Inspired

Jo:‘Going away gave me a clarity and bravery that I’d never have found otherwise’

County Cork native Jo Linehan took a gamble when she resigned from her coveted post as Junior Editor of IMAGE Magazine and booked a one-way flight to New York. The journalist and stylist spent several months networking and exploring the city, before ultimately deciding to return to Dublin. Here she discusses why the experience was an invaluable step in her career.

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Vital Stats:

Age: 27

Hometown: Mallow, Co Cork

Currently residing in: Phibsborough, Dublin 7

What & where did you study?

International Development & Food Policy in UCC and Music Performance & Management, Colaiste Stiofain Naofa, Cork

How did you start your career in Ireland?

I had a really successful fashion blog (before the industry exploded!) and then managed to talk my way into an internship at IMAGE Magazine

Why did you decide to leave Ireland in the first place?

I needed a change, I needed a challenge. My biggest fear in my career life is to become stale. Living in New York, like hundreds of people, had always been a dream of mine. So I did it. I knew if I stayed I’d stagnate.

(Career) Highlights of being in New York?

Styling a shoot or Barneys NY (below) was incredible. I couldn’t have planned or predicted it, it was in the stars. And it was wonderful. Meeting Grace Coddington was special too, it reminded me of how NY will always surprise you.

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Five favourite things about your time in New York?

  1. Proving everyone wrong. People told me I was foolish to leave my Junior Editor position at IMAGE, but I knew it was time to go. And my gut was right.
  2. Being Irish in New York. My nationality opened more doors and became the catalyst for more conversations than anything else. Even in a city of 8.4 million people, I felt connected to home every single day when strangers shared their love for Ireland.
  3. Finding a tribe. The friends I made in the city will be with me for life. The support you seek and find when you’re away from home is a different kind of connection – there’s a mutual understanding that it’s you against the world.
  4. Being in new York. I pinched myself every day crossing the street and seeing a line of yellow cabs; riding the Subway and admiring the dozens of unusual, beautiful faces; hearing the most incredible jazz being played on a sidewalk; running in Central Park with REAL New Yorkers … the city’s charm was never ever lost on me
  5. Doing things I had never made time for at home – dating, working with a charity, pulling pints of Guinness in a bar (yes, really!). I felt like i made up for time lost in my twenties that I had spent focused purely on my career.

Downsides of your time in New York?

I never relaxed financially. It’s an expensive place to live a life in, and you can feel and see the struggle of those who are poor all around. I really missed the fresh produce we have at our fingertips in Ireland, and our fresh air and our mountains and sea. And the rats never got easier to accept. So many rats!

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Describe (briefly) the process of getting the visa to go to New York?

Luckily, I qualified for a media visa, so I was able to be in the States as a freelance writer.

What made you make the decision to return home?

A couple of things. Visa restrictions were a major factor, but mostly I really love the life I spent 5 years building in Dublin and I missed everything about it. I have a new found appreciation for the level of creative work in Ireland, the ease with which you can make shit happen. At the root of everything I do is a love of Irish and a desire to support what we do in this country. When I came home for Christmas, I was lucky enough to be offered opportunities I had always wanted before I left – I couldn’t say no to living my best life in my favourite city in the world.

Are you glad you returned home?

I am, very much so. Ireland does something for me. It’s my heart and soul. That’s not to say I don’t miss New York and think about it all the time. I’ll go back before the end of the yer to check in, see what I’ve been missing. Going away matured me and gave me a clarity and bravery that I’d never have found otherwise.

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What have you been up to since you got back?

I’ve been freelancing! I’m a contributor to the Irish Times Weekend Magazine, CARA Magazine, Image Brides, Lovin’ Dublin and I’m co-creating The Coven’s first print issue this September (thecoven.me) . I’ve been freelance styling and consulting and having fun with a little radio work too. I’m working on a new Podcast series at the moment.

Best thing about working in Dublin?

Dublin bikes. I can be anywhere in the city in less than 20 minutes.

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years time?

This is a scary thing to write down! Phew. I’d love to be contributing to great publications, styling for film and tv, running my own agency, having designed my own homewares line and living in a house in Portobello with a dog and a kind man.

Best piece of career advice you ever received?

Before you say yes to anything sense check your ego. Are you doing it because you’re flattered by the offer or will this ACTUALLY add value to you and your brand.

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If you could offer one piece of advice to others – what would it be?

Do the work, do some more work, and then work again. The only way to make things happen is to put in the graft. Laziness is the bedfellow of mediocrity.

How can people follow you + keep up with your projects?

Please follow me on Instagram jo_linehan and at my website jolinehan.com

*Since completing this interview, Jo has also launched a slick new digital publication ‘GAFF interiors’ with fellow journalist Caroline Foran. You can check it out here.

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