Top 10 Success Secrets from Former Cosmo Editor-in-Chief

Kate White, bestselling author and editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan for fourteen years (until earlier this month, when Joanna Coles took over the post), knows how valuable her hard-earned wisdom is to career-minded young women. In the introduction to her new book “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know,” White details the story of her professional trajectory and clues readers in on her motivation to write the book. “Why am I so eager to share my favorite secrets?” she asks. “Because I’m at a point in my career where it costs me nothing to do so -- and I’m grateful for all the advice that’s been offered to me.” At 345 pages, “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This” is jam-packed with life lessons. Here we share the top ten, culled from some of our favorite chapters.

1. "Ballsy Strategies for Finding a Job"

Did you ever notice that when you read about people with successful careers, you often learn about their unconventionally bold moves? Kate White is no exception. She scored her first “real” job at Glamour after winning the magazine’s Top 10 College Women contest her senior year, and her next job as senior editor of Family Weekly by making a list of the magazines she admired in a notebook and using her contacts to reach out to people on that list. Terri Wein, cofounder of executive coaching firm Weil & Wein, weighs in too, offering the modern day version of White’s technique: use spreadsheets instead of a notebook!

 2. "9 Things You Should Never Do in a New Job"

When first starting a new job, it’s hard to get it all right -- you want to turn in good work, impress your boss, and always be on time, if not early (another key point White gets into later in the book). There are so many nuances to master and unspoken rules to learn. Before you break into a cold sweat thinking about all of your new responsibilities, digest this chapter and feel your fears melt away. Among its takeaway: never turn up your nose at grunt work, don’t get too cozy with coworkers while on the job, and don’t forget to tell your boss you like the work!

3. "Now Knock Their Socks Off"

After you’ve mastered what not to do in a new job, the next obvious step, of course, is to “Now knock their socks off!” This chapter is about taking things to the next level. Anyone can tick off a bunch of items on a checklist, but how many people go the extra mile? See what needs to be done, and then take things a step further. Write a story without an assignment. Ask for more work! (What boss can say no to that?)

4. "Always Ask for What You Want"

Often, even when we know what we want, it can be daunting to come right out and ask for it. White nails it on the head when she writes: “Why are we such scaredy-cats when it comes to asking? We’re afraid that if we ask, it will seem as if we’re overstepping our bounds.” The good news? That’s not the case. White encourages that you do ask, and that you make sure to do it “in the right way.” In this chapter, she talks more about what that right way is, and she reminds readers to leave emotions at the door. In other words, be tough! Her concluding piece of advice: have backup proposals clearly in mind in case they say no.

5. "12 Ways to Get Buzzed About"

Before Kate White was the household name she is today, well, she was still Kate White; you just hadn't heard of her. Here, White reveals many of the steps she took -- and that you can take, too -- to become buzz-worthy. Some crucial points she shares: develop a signature look, and get out there -- in person, not just virtually. 

6. "Career Breakthroughs: The Very Simple Formula"

In the first part of the book, White focuses on helping readers figure out what exactly they want to do professionally and how to land that position. Since success doesn’t end here, White has developed a very simple formula for plotting a series of strategic moves: Ask yourself if you’re really ready to take on the job you’ve been dreaming about, if you’re creating enough opportunities for yourself and not just waiting for them to come along, and if you’ll be ready to hustle when openings arise.

7. "It Pays to Be a Little Paranoid"

One should not aspire to be a worrywart, nor be in a constant state of panic, but a mere smidgen of paranoia is not a bad idea. In other words, be aware and be prepared. “I need to be on the alert for danger, spot it early, and, when possible, act on it before things turn ugly. I recommend that you do the same,” Whites says. At the end of the chapter, she lists “14 Things to Be Paranoid About,” including suddenly being excluded from important meetings and an economic downturn. Take note.

8. "Terrific Time-Management Tricks"

Time-management is one of those skills that can always be improved upon. Here, White shares the names of two time-management book authors she highly recommends and lets readers in on a few of her own tricks. Find the time of day when you’re most in the zone, prioritize, and don’t wait until all your ducks are in a row to start something; jump in head first, and then get organized, she urges.

9. "Setting Boundaries"

While sometimes it can be tempting to work 24/7 (imagine all that you’d get done!), that tendency is far from healthy. Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, who makes a guest appearance in this chapter, equates using handheld devices late at night to “drinking a can of Diet Pepsi just as you’re getting ready for bed.” Morgenstern also suggests screen breaks to help us think, and checking email around five times a day for twenty or thirty minutes at a time rather than every few minutes, all day, every day.

10. "Make Your Back-Pocket Dream a Reality (While You’ve Still Got a Day Job)"

If you have a “back-pocket” dream that you want to pursue, don’t let it fall by the wayside because of your career aspirations, White advises. She doesn't advocate that you quit your day job after knitting a few killer pot-holders, but suggests: “You don’t have to do everything at once. Think of yourself as a serial achiever, someone who will probably live a long life and can take on different goals when the timing is right.”