Forbes: Secrets to Success: One-on-One with Bestselling Author Kate White

November 30th, 2012

November 30, 2012
By, Jessica Kleiman


“Change is scary but almost all change is good.” – Kate White

Pearls of career wisdom from longtime Cosmo editor Kate White

Over the past 12 years I’ve spent running PR at Hearst Magazines, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kate White, who was editor-in-chief of US Cosmopolitan – the world’s largest-selling monthly magazine for women — for 14 years and a best-selling author of both fiction and non-fiction books. Kate has always been a mentor and an inspiration to me because of her amazing accomplishments and ability to seem like she has everything completely under control – all while juggling a huge job, writing books, traveling the world and being a great mom.

Last month, Kate announced that she was stepping down from her role at Cosmo to focus on her writing and speaking career just days before I decided to leave my own longtime position at Hearst to join Sandow — a company that owns luxury brands in the media, design and retail space (including Interior Design, Worth and Fred Segal to name a few) — as EVP, communications. Kate White’s latest book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know (Harper Business, September 2012), just hit shelves and is filled with sage wisdom on how to get ahead. While some of it dovetails nicely with the career advice offered in my own book (written with fellow Forbes blogger Meryl Weinsaft Cooper), Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work (Career Press, January 2011), I still walked away with a ton of great tips on how to navigate your success at work and at home.

I recently sat down with Kate to talk about everything from leaving a job that you still enjoy to building a “personal board of directors.”

You said something in the book that really resonated with me: “Sometimes the best time to leave a job is when you feel happiest.” I totally agree but it’s also the hardest time to leave. How do you get the courage to leave a comfortable job?

One of the things that has worked for me sometimes is to imagine going forward — and the rush or thrill of that propels me. That’s how I dealt with procrastination. Projecting helps. For example, the feeling that will come from not being part of a big corporation and going freelance in a sense, Sunday night eating a bowl of pasta and not worrying about anything. Change is scary but almost all change is good. At a magazine, for example, often the best time to change your cover direction is when you’re at your best — it’s hard to change but you should do it when you’re about to peak.

How do you face new challenges with confidence and not allow self-doubt to rear its ugly head?

Guys look at a new challenge as a stretch and women look at it as “we’re in over our head.” If I knew everything there was to know about a job, I’d be in the job above that one. When I became editor in chief of Working Woman at seven months pregnant, I told my husband I thought it was the biggest mistake and he said “Aren’t you a working woman?” Always go in and ask a ton of questions and do your research. Do one big thing when you get to a new job and buy yourself some time. You need to investigate — knowledge gives you confidence and control. Having been at five different magazines, I know that I don’t have to say what I’m going to do right off the bat.

You also really have to get those “confidence” clothes and hair. Those things really end up giving you confidence. One thing I noticed is that on photo shoots, models are given incredible stilettos to wear. The shoes aren’t even in the picture but the photo director said that wearing them makes the women feel powerful.

Jane Buckingham [who runs research company Trendera] said it’s amazing the number of people she does research for want to dismiss it. You have to check those phrases like “but” at the door because it may mean that you can’t embrace constructive feedback.

What do you need to do to embrace the daunting task of starting in a new environment where you’re unproven?

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