Why Kate White got on LinkedIn (and so should you).

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For well over a decade, Kate White was running a double life.

The long-time magazine executive was serving as both editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, while simultaneously building a thriving career as an author, career expert and motivational speaker.

Two incredibly demanding roles. One human being.

Last week, White – who is already a New York Times bestselling mystery fiction author – launched her latest book, a sassy career guide called I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know.

(It’s great, by the way. I just finished it.)

She also made an announcement that surprised some – she announced her retirement from Cosmo, a move that she feels will best allow her to continue growing her writing and motivational speaking career.

So while the double life comes to a close, Kate now faces a new challenge: She’s got to market her “new self” and network her capabilities to those who will benefit most from her style, spunk and expertise.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Kate’s office.  Kate wanted, no … Kate needed a LinkedIn profile.

The gal who, for years, hadn’t needed a resume, cover letter or really much access to networking opportunities at all (hi, she’s been the editor of Cosmo for 14 years), knew timing was right to start harnessing the power of LinkedIn. And lucky for me, her publicist recommended me as just the one to help Kate with this assignment.

After Kate and I developed her sparkly new LinkedIn profile (and she’d experimented on LinkedIn for a couple of weeks), we chatted about the experience as well as her initial assessment of my all-time favorite social media tool.

Here’s what she had to say:

Why LinkedIn? What made you decide that this was your time to develop a profile and start leveraging LinkedIn as a networking tool?

Two reasons, really. As I’m leaving Cosmopolitan, I realized, “Hey, I’m probably going to need this networking platform more than I used to. I won’t necessarily have that instant networking access that I’ve had for all these years.” But the other reason is similar to the one British mountaineer George Mallory gave in the 1920s, when asked why he climbed Mount Everest. “Because it’s there.”

I joined LinkedIn because I can now. I finally have a little bit of time to dive in and get involved with it. One of challenges I’ve had in recent years is that, as my job at Cosmopolitan expanded so enormously, I lost my ability to connect with people as much as I liked. I was eating at my desk, scrambling to get everything done – not connecting enough, not mentoring. LinkedIn gives me a great means to revive connections and build new ones as I enter this next phase of my career.

Have you made any discoveries about LinkedIn since you arrived?

Yes! I didn’t realize how much you could do with the advanced search on LinkedIn. It’s just incredible how much that feature alone can help someone who is actively searching for a new job. Connections really foster things in a big way in job search, and LinkedIn helps facilitate these connections in such a big, big way. 

What general advice can you offer someone who is not currently leveraging LinkedIn for career growth or job search?

I think LinkedIn is something that you need to work the right way. If you use LinkedIn casually or haphazardly, it’s probably not going to work. It’s just like if you send out the same old “to whom it may concern” letters we’ve all been guilty of sending out. Today, it’s all about customizing your messages. You can’t expect great results, on LinkedIn or elsewhere, if you’re not customizing your messages.

For those who are nervous about communicating with professional contacts, through LinkedIn or in face-to-face settings, what can they do to psych themselves up?

First, recognize that this is truly how business is done. Men have known this for years; they’ve been helping other men through what most of us know as “the old boy’s network.” You’ve got to understand that there’s nothing crazy, over the top, or out of line about connecting directly with people you’ve not yet met. It’s happening all of the time, and no one will think you’re odd for doing it.

Second, you should understand that asking for input or a connection – which is hard for many women to do – not only doesn’t come across negatively, but as a message that you’re someone with clear goals and know what you want. It comes across as impressive.

One of the ways to make yourself feel less self-conscious about connecting with new people is this – keep the focus on that person. People love to talk about themselves, share information and give advice. It’s not about “Me, me, me, me.” If you can make it about that other person, you’ll be surprised by how far you can get.

Also, make it easy for people to say yes. Don’t corner someone and dominate their time or put them on the spot. Make it easy to say yes. Make it clear that you respect their time, and that you’re not going to trap them.

I can imagine you’ve seen a lot of networking pitches through your career. What do the best ones have in common?

The best pitches sound authentic, different and real. They’re specific, tight and focused. When you approach someone of interest, on LinkedIn or anywhere, you can’t ramble. You have to show that person that you know them, you know their company and you know their product. And then you need to ask for the business. Don’t just leave it hanging, ask for the business. Say you’ll follow up with a phone call or an email. Let them know you’re the one. This is so critical, and something so many women don’t do. 

Photo: Provided by Kate White