Meet Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine (and three other major publications before that). On top of an impressive 14-year tenure at Cosmo — where she grew their readership by 700,000 and solidified the magazine’s spot as the bestselling monthly on the newsstand at the time — Kate is a novelist, speaker and recipient of the Matrix Award for Outstanding Achievement in Communication and the Woodhall Institute Award for Ethical Leadership. She’s also a wife and mother of two.
In her latest career guide, “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve,” which came out in paperback this month, Kate reveals her strategies on getting ahead in the workplace.
We asked her to share her success secrets with us. Here they are, in her own words.
#1 Don’t Let Your Job Get in the Way of Your Career.
We get so caught up in managing our jobs that we don't remember the career stuff. One day when I was in my early thirties, I looked at the age of women who were editors in chief of their first magazines. I began to realize they were all around 38 years old — so I didn't have all that much time.
I took a couple of public speaking courses with the idea of preparing, even if I didn't know it was what I wanted for sure. And networking is so important. I've said networking isn't everything — it's the only thing. In our careers, we let that go when we aren't actively looking for our next job, but you should really be networking all the time.
#2 Don’t be Afraid to Say ‘No.’
Sometimes it’s OK to say no to opportunities, if you feel it is going to be too much at this moment. After the Anne-Marie Slaughter piece [“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” in The Atlantic] there was a lot of talk about mothers having it all. I just think you always have to make tradeoffs as a parent, tradeoffs in your marriage, in your beauty routine, in your fitness routine, etc. You may not be able to have every opportunity during some really busy periods in your life...But as long as you’re keeping a lot of vitality in your career and you’re networking, another opportunity will come around.
#3 Always Negotiate.
First and foremost, know that you must negotiate. Don't talk yourself out of it. Always ask for more than they're offering. Guys do that. Make your ask about the job and the value, not personal need. Don't make it about the college loans you have to pay off or a new move to an expensive city. Make it about that in this marketplace, from what you’ve been able to determine, the job is worth this. Don't be a hard ass. Just a friendly, “Thrilled to get the job, but hoping for more.”
#4 Recognize Colleague Envy for What It Really Is.
I think a lot of times at work whenever you hear yourself protesting too much about someone doing something annoying, it's often code for, “Wait, should I be doing that?” Look at it as a sign. This is triggering something on a subliminal level that says you need to figure out how to do this -- whether it be talking to the boss more or tooting your own horn more or asking for more responsibility.
#5 Figure Out How to Accelerate Your Learning Curve.
If you’re suddenly promoted and feeling unprepared, clarify what you need to do. The person before you may have been let go or phased out, so you need to know what the expectations of the job are. Just knowing what the job entails is so critical.
And you need to accelerate your learning curve. You may need to learn Excel or take a public speaking course. Then do something quickly to dazzle [your new boss]. Don't feel like you have to go out there with a ton of stuff, but do that one thing where he/she says, “Wow! I am so glad we put her in this position.”
#6 Maintain Your Career Libido.
You should really start thinking about how to look for a new job when you are happiest [at your current one]. That means you've reached that place where you aren't terrified. That's nice for a while, but you need challenges. You are too cozy there. It may just mean you need to ask for a bigger job or project, but if you wait until you've passed “happy” and “comfy” to “bored,” it is hard to get the energy up.
I like to play a game with people in the work world and just say, “Let's spend 10 minutes. You solve my problem. I solve yours." It is fun to do. One question could be, “Where do you see me next?” Often people have a better idea than you do. They can see your strengths in a way you don't.
#7 Look Ahead and Behind in Your Career.
You not only need to look ahead in your career, but also behind. Of course, if you are 40 years old, you should be aware of what 20-year-olds are doing in your industry. But today, even if you're 26, you need to be looking at what 23-year-olds are coming in with because you don't want to be left not knowing what things are.
I don't think you need a five-year career plan — maybe a loose one — but what you really need to be thinking is, “What is my area of speciality? What can I be doing that is different from other people?” You want to have an area that people think, “She does that and nobody else does. She is the best at that.” That is how you make your mark.