Sept 7, 2012
By, Jenna Goudreau
Just two weeks before she’d announce she was stepping down from a 14-year run as editor-in-chief of best-selling women’s magazine Cosmopolitan to focus on her career as an author, the ever-stylish Kate White was chatting with me in a New York City bistro about her latest book.
“I’ve learned so much from the Cosmo years,” the 61-year-old explained, sipping a frothy coffee. “I had to both learn and lead because the stakes were so high. At a certain age, you get perspective looking back and saying those were the smart things I did and those were the really bozo things I did.”
It’s all revealed in the upcoming I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know, on sale later this month. A smart career survival kit, White offers women inside advice on acing an interview, dazzling bosses, navigating coworker mine-fields and ramping success up to the next level. She says being unafraid to change was what kept Cosmo at No. 1 for 14 years. Here’s how you can take a page from her playbook.
Be A “Hot Tamale”
According to White, one of the biggest mistakes young people make in the interview process is being “cool as a cucumber” when “it’s the hot tamale that walks away with the prize.” Especially in creative fields, passion is contagious, she says, and managers are more likely to hire the person they think will bring their drive and insatiable enthusiasm. Recently, White ran into the recruiter who hired her to be editor-in-chief of Redbook 18 years ago and asked what it was that convinced him. He said it was because she’d turned “beet red” when talking about the job, so he knew she really wanted it.
Get Over Your Fear Of Negotiating, Fast
“It scares the pants off women to negotiate,” says White–which can in turn have major implications on their lifetime earnings. It’s not that women are afraid of saying the words so much as what will happen once they do. Will they take away the offer? Will I look greedy? In reality, it’s always better to ask for more upfront, White says, because any future raise will be a percentage based on your base salary. Although it may not always work, it’s still good to practice and set the tone for future negotiations. Follow an offer with: “That’s terrific. I’d love to work here, but I was hoping for X amount.” Says White, “The first time you say it, it’s terrifying, but it gets easier the more you do it.”
Take Yourself Out Of The Ask
Once you’re in the job, it’s important to continue asking for what you want and being fearless when it comes time to talk raises. Even in a tough climate or a wage freeze, you can negotiate for perks beyond money. However, White warns to take yourself out of the ask, remembering it’s not about you but about what you can do for the company. “I had someone on my staff who asked for more because her husband was going to make a job switch and wasn’t going to make as much money,” she recalls. “You’ve got to know your boss doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your college loans or your partner’s financial situation.” Instead, focus on what you’ve accomplished and how you hope to do even more.