Now-former Cosmopolitan editor Kate White in her New York office in June 2007.
Kate White recently made headlines when she left Cosmopolitan magazine this fall after serving as its editor-in-chief for 14 years. Now focusing on her writing career — her latest book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know, was published in September — White recently shared her best career advice to students and professionals at Fordham University in New York.
Much of White’s advice is tailored for young women, especially as they navigate the challenges of being either a “good girl” or a “gutsy girl.” The latter, White explained, gets the job done without shying away from asking for more challenges or promotions.
Nonetheless, White’s career tips can apply to almost anyone: men and women, high school seniors, college freshmen or college seniors dipping their toes into the job market.
Network your heart out
“Networking is so key,” White said, noting that many of her peers often find their jobs through someone they know. It’s more than just rubbing elbows, though. She cautioned students against making networking “too much about them” — White said people “want to know what you’re going to do for them.”
Keep in touch with a professional contact by sending a link related to a conversation that you have had in the past. White also suggests students find both a sponsor, a professional contact who can open doors in the future, and a mentor to dispense career and life advice.
“Talk less than you listen,” White advised, summing up networking in a formula: Contact plus curiosity equals opportunity.
Rock your resume
Everyone knows that a solid resume and cover letter are crucial to the internship and job search. It is important to remember to customize your resume for each position you apply for, since you may want to highlight different skills and experiences.
The key is standing out from the rest of the pile.
“The more authentic sounding you make your cover letter and resume,” White said, “the better.”
The cover letter is the place to show your personality, and as well as your familiarity with the company in which you’re interested.
Own the interview
One warning from White: “Know the decision to not hire is [often] made in the first five minutes” of an interview. This should not discourage anyone, but it does highlight the importance of fit in the interview process. In addition to a firm handshake and good eye contact, it is important to dress the part; don’t dress up in a corporate suit if you’re applying for an internship at a creative advertising firm.
Like the cover letter, the interview is when you show you are more than your resume.
“There’s nothing wrong with showing your heart on your sleeve,” White said, while reminding students to emphasize what they would do for the business if hired. Finally, close strong and come armed with questions, even if they are written on a notepad beforehand; it shows you were prepared and took the interview seriously.
It’s OK to be clueless about your future
As important as it is to do your research during the internship and job search, it’s hard to get started without doing some self-reflection.
“Don’t believe everything you think,” White said. “Step back and challenge some of that. Just because you come from a family of doctors, it doesn’t mean you’ll be one too.”
“A lot of us discover what we love much later,” White said. To find it, she said it’s important to expose yourself to things outside of your comfort zone, even if it’s just visiting a new museum. Eventually, you’ll figure out how to eliminate an interest as a career possibility.
Finding a good fit with your career is “inspiring,” White said, and you’ll do better work as a result.
“Gutsiness,” she said, “is about understanding what you need and going out to get it.”
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