Kate White Moves Beyond ‘Cosmo’ Headlines To Pen Own Writing Path

Addressing the Own It audience, former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Kate White emphasized the need for emerging leaders to establish their own brands by going big—or staying home.

“I want to start with a little confession, okay, just to clear the air, get it on the table. Yes, I’m the woman who used to write those crazy Cosmo cover lines, like, ‘Mattress moves so hot, his thighs will burst into flames.’ I just wanted to get that out there so we’re all on the same page. But I’m not going to talk about any of that today. I’m not going to talk about sex, or men, or love—unless you beg me later—I want to talk about success. And not just owning success, but sustaining it, and growing it, and really being able to savor it.”

Abandoning the podium and instead walking the length of the stage to address the audience at the Own It Summit, Kate White—former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and four other major magazines, New York Times bestselling author, and one of CEOworld.com’s 15 Best Career Experts to Follow on Twitter—began the latter of the two keynote speeches with the aforementioned bit, and her energetic hilarity endured throughout the rest of the talk.

White focused on illustrating what she asserts are three central strategies for success during her keynote, drawing on her own career trajectory in compiling the advice: one, “go big or go home”; two, “stop worrying, once and for all, about what people think about you”; and three, “learn to drain the swamp when you’re up to your neck in alligators.”

After winning Glamour magazine’s Top 10 College Women contest with what she called a “rule-breaking” essay and thereby getting her foot in the door, White traveled to Manhattan to pursue a career in the magazine industry.

Successfully attaining a job at Glamour, she gradually made her way through Child magazine, Working Woman, and Redbook to the top of Cosmo, where she would remain for 14 years starting in 1998—and for which she would increase circulation by 700,000. “I took it into the digital age and made it number one on the newsstand in the United States—it’s now number three, but that’s not my problem any more,” White said, laughing.

White voluntarily left Cosmopolitan to kickstart her freelance writing career. “The only downside of working for myself is I know the boss is a bitch,” she said.

She has since authored several bestselling nonfiction works, such as I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion and Create the Career You Deserve, and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do, in addition to suspense novels including If Looks Could Kill and Eyes on You.

As compared to nonfiction, White discussed the challenges inherent in composing fiction—a difficulty she is currently facing as she starts her next book, which will follow her upcoming release in June.

Noting the seeming elusiveness of success, White insisted upon the need for an individual to set oneself apart from the pack, urging that he or she ask, “Could it be bigger? Could it be better? Could it be bolder? Or could it be more badass?” when building a personal brand.

Particularly prudent given the media transition from print to online, she asserted that contact and curiosity are paramount to creating diverse opportunities and establishing a fruitful career.
Also pertinent to this technological revolution, she said, is the importance of sincerely listening to and having younger mentors in addition to older, more experienced advisors.

In closing, White articulated the need for a woman to “be a mercenary for experience and knowledge,” and she emphasized the importance of setting boundaries and being “the bossypants” of one’s personal life.

“This is me owning my success and owning my career rather than it owning me, and that made all the difference.”

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

Maddie Phelps

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