September 27, 2012
By Amy Levin-Epstein
Kate White spent 14 years as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, during which time she lead a growing team of employees, from junior-level editorial assistants to senior-level editors. “I really loved mentoring people with their careers, and I love when people ask me for career advice,” said White, who also served as editor-in-chief at Redbook, Child and Working Woman magazines.
She recently stepped down from her post at Cosmo to focus on her writing career. While she’s a best-selling mystery author, the readers of this blog will be most interested in her newest career book, “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know,” a conversational, user-friendly guidebook for working women building their careers.
Earlier this week, my colleague Steve Tobak rightly criticized “leadership experts” who dole out career advice without having lead anyone or anything in their lives. By contrast, White’s book isn’t full of unproven, jargon-heavy career coaching tips. Rather, it’s a specific map for navigating the working world, from job interviewing to long-term planning, based on her decades of experience as a boss.
White spoke with CBS MoneyWatch about some of the highlights in her book and discussed key lessons she learned during her time in the corner office.
CBS MoneyWatch: What’s a mistake you see Generation Y members make when interviewing for a job?
Kate White: Young people tend to be a little bit afraid to show they’re passionate about a job. They don’t want to appear goofy, but a potential employer is looking for enthusiasm. Once, I interviewed for a job and the headhunter said, “Never change how you come across in an interview.” Last year I ran into him and asked him what he meant. He said, “You got red when you were talking about the job.” He could see how excited I was about it.
MW: What are some things to consider before asking for a raise or a promotion?
KW: You have to make it more about what you’re doing for your boss and company, and not about what they can do for you. Show that you deserve something. Document what you’ve done and say, “I wanted to just refresh your memory — here are my results.” Ask a couple months before raise time, when the budgets aren’t set yet.
MW: What if you don’t get the raise you want?
KW: Women can be nervous about negotiating. Say, “I appreciate you giving me a raise, but based on everything I’m doing I think it should be X.” Spell it out in a neutral way. If they can’t give that, you can negotiate for something else, like extra vacation days or a title change, or working from home one afternoon a week.
MW: What is “b–ch envy,” and how can women use it constructively in the workplace?
KW: Some of us find ourselves being jealous of someone. If you fuel it by ragging mentally on the person or pretend it doesn’t exist, you don’t get what this is telling you. Like the woman in the restaurant said about Meg Ryan’s character in “When Harry Met Sally,” “I want some of what she’s having.” For instance, if she is always brown-nosing the boss, maybe you want a better relationship with him or her.
MW: What is “sudden promotion syndrome?”
KW: I saw it before my eyes: People got a promotion and ran out of steam after. When you’re applying for a job from the outside, you are clearly thinking about the work. With a promotion, someone else leaves and — boom! — you’re asking for the job. You have to figure out what the new expectations are. Tell your boss, “I’d love to sit down and hear what you expect me to do in the job and if there are there any changes you’d like in the way it was being done before.”
MW: What should a young woman consider when starting the job interview process out of college?
KW: You want [an interview outfit] that says, “I care about my clothes, and this meeting is important to me.” You need good shoes, particularly in a cosmopolitan city like New York. You want a serious haircut — not long, post-college hair hanging down your back. If you tend to play with your hair, style it up so you don’t touch it. Invest in a few quality pieces, like a beautiful pencil skirt or a great bag.
MW: In your book you talk about “managing your career.” Can you briefly explain what you mean by that?
KW: Managing your career has to be a regular part of what you’re doing. This may mean putting regular networking events on your calendar. Or putting Chinese classes on your calendar if you want to work in Asia. Then ask yourself questions like, “Am I happy right now? Am I too comfy right now?”
Finally, do the math. Make sure that you are on course for hitting certain target marks that careers have. When you’re in your 20s, it seems like it will all unfold ahead of you. But if you do the math, you can say if I’m going to get this position by age X, I have to hit this other one in four years.