Kate White ’72 graduated from Union College with a degree in English before enjoying a long career in magazines – one that began when she won Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women Contest while at Union. She appeared on the magazine’s cover her senior year. Kate spent 14 years as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, which at the time was the most successful women’s magazine brand in the world. Eight years ago, she left magazines to be a full-time suspense novelist, something she’d started on the side while at Cosmo. Kate is a New York Times bestselling author of 14 mysteries and psychological thrillers (the most recent, Have You Seen Me?). She is also a bestselling author of books on career success, including Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do. An active mentor to many young people, Kate speaks at companies and conferences all over the country about career success. Kate’s also a passionate traveler and has a home in Uruguay, where she lives with her husband during the winter months (their kids come for the holidays!). She’s “ridiculously crazy about bird watching,” too.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
The most challenging aspect of my career is coming up with fresh reasons and ways for people to murder each other.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
On a professional level, other thriller and mystery authors really inspire me to keep thinking out of the box and be provocative with my ideas. I’m fortunate enough to enjoy friendships with many amazing mystery authors, such as Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Lisa Unger, Alafair Burke and Joe Finder. They’re a very generous group! On a personal level, I’m still inspired by my mom, even though she’s dead. She had a great way of getting you to see other options in life when things seemed to be going wrong. She would always ask, “What if….?” A great question.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
First, understand that if you really want to be a success in your work, you need to go big or go home. It’s not enough to do what you’ve been told to do and do it well. You need to come up with gutsy, rule-breaking, sometimes disruptive ideas that make money for your department or company (or yourself if you’re self-employed). You need to create buzz and set yourself apart from the pack. It’s also essential for women to avoid making excuses for being their gutsiest. Young women today are fabulously confident compared to some of us baby boomers, who were always encouraged to stick with the rules and make nice. But they sometimes talk themselves out of being bold, with excuses like, “This isn’t a good time to ask,” or “I don’t want to rock the boat.” Don’t make excuses. Go for it! And please write thank you notes. I can’t tell you how many young women (including Union students) have written me to ask me for guidance and then never responded with a simple email thanking me for my time. How did they get away without learning this essential lesson? Whether you’ve asked someone for advice, gone on a job interview, or simply participated in an informational interview, you have to thank the person. Period.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
Being one of the first coeds at such a beautiful, amazing school, having really good professors, and meeting terrific people my age, some of whom I’m still good friends with. Digging up and researching the story of Alice Van Der Veer, the ghost of Union College, and writing it up for The Idol, so it’s now known at the school. Being an extra in The Way We Were and stalking Robert Redford with friends. And finally, winning Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women Contest and being the August cover girl, thanks to Lorraine Marra and two other fabulous people on staff who submitted me. That experience helped me model in New York and start my career in publishing, plus twelve years later one of the winners from my year introduced me to my husband when she was co-anchoring the news with him in Manhattan.