Kate White knows from career success. As the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for 14 years, she presided over an iconic brand and grew circulation to nearly 3 million people. I was lucky enough to work for White for six of those 14 years, and two other Birchboxers are Cosmo alums too: Copywriter Amary Wiggin and Associate Manager of Global Merchandising Kari Jones.
While at Cosmo, White started writing books on the side—both mysteries and career advice—and she's continued to since leaving her publishing perch. When she stopped by Birchbox HQ to dispense some valuable wisdom, she found a packed house. Here are her top three strategies for success, plus a bonus tip we couldn't help but include.
1. Go Big or Go Home “In my 20s, I was reluctant to go big. It can be scary to go beyond what you’re told to do,” White says. Her predecessor at Cosmo, the legendary Helen Gurley Brown, believed that successful people simply work harder, but White disagrees—she says it’s about making bold choices. “You have to be methodical about it. Step back from every project and ask yourself the four Bs: could it be better, bigger, bolder, and more badass? There’s a voice that often tells us our best and brightest ideas are reckless. You have to fight that voice.”
2. Worry Less About What Other People Think One of the main differences between men and women? “Women worry about other people’s opinions more than guys do,” says White. “We get caught up in a need to please and are fearful of criticism.” Women also ask for things less—a promotion, for example, because they’re not sure if they’re 100% qualified—whereas men are more likely to go for that brass ring regardless. And men are 4 to 8 times more likely to negotiate a starting salary. Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to ask!
3. Drain the Swamp as You Slay the Alligators White learned this fabulous phrase years ago from a management guru, and it’s become one of her mantras. What it means: You can’t lose sight of the big picture (draining the swamp) even as you tackle your day-to-day tasks (those pesky alligators). At Cosmo, she set aside one hour by herself every week to focus on the magazine’s growth strategy. “We need to be relentless architects of our careers. Too often managing our actual jobs gets in the way of our careers,” White says.
4. Bonus Tip: Slice the Salami Yes, you read that right. Besides acting as a building block to a killer sandwich, slicing the salami is a time-management trick White swears by. Often, the reason we don't take on dream projects—writing a screenplay, launching a business, moving abroad—is because they seem too daunting. And they are if you think of them as a mountain to climb in one day. When White first thought about writing books, she would always tell herself, “I’m going to write all day Saturday.” Which never, ever happened. So she started writing in 15-minute chunks each day. “Slice a project into the smallest slice you can tolerate, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so daunting.”