“This is the funnest thing I’ve done all day. A bunch of amazing young women having wine,” Amy Odell, editor of Cosmopolitan.com, told the sold-out crowd at NYWICI’s Young Professionals Happy Hour on Feb. 11, 2014. As audience members munched on mini burgers and sipped cocktails at Hotel Chantelle, Amy shared how she got to where she was today.
Back in 2007, Amy began her career as a party reporter at New York magazine. She later became a founding blogger for The Cut. After that, she headed to BuzzFeed, where she launched two women’s verticals: BuzzFeed Fashion and BuzzFeed Shift.
Now, under Amy’s stewardship, Cosmo’s site has doubled its traffic, reaching more than 30 million monthly unique visitors. In January, Amy was named to the Forbes list of “30 Under 30” in media.
“We’re a feminist site, and I’m proud to say that,” she explains. Cosmo features everything from reproductive rights, LGBTQ issues to politics (along with plenty of celebrity gossip, sex, relationship advice and fashion). The goal is to cover all of women’s interests, while maintaining a conversational tone — akin to talking to friends over brunch.
Amy was candid and inspiring. Here are five valuable takeaways:
Finds mentors naturally
When it comes to mentors — a common topic in the communications industry— these kinds of connections best happen naturally. “It's not something you should force or stress over,” she said. First and foremost, bosses can serve as mentors. They should be supportive and set an example in the work environment.
Keep stress out of the workplace
Stress is inevitable — but try to not let it interfere with your job. If Amy feels overwhelmed at work, she’ll call her husband or g-chat a friend, who’s not on her team. She doesn’t want her own stress to carry over to her co-workers. “If we’re not having fun, we’re not creating our best content.”
It’s OK to be scared, but don’t give up
Amy recalled the best advice she’s received: “If you're not scared all the time, you're not doing your job.” She’s a big proponent of taking risks — and of persistence. “Don't give up if someone tells you ‘no’; you can always go back and ask again.” Case in point: When Amy began her career as a party reporter, she failed miserably. But instead of calling it quits, she kept trying until she got it right.
Make yourself valuable
Like most editors, Amy receives plenty of pitches. Sending any old story idea, however, is not the way to stand out. Instead of regurgitating ideas, “look for a void you can fill that makes sense.” Think outside the box and only pitch smart, innovative content.
You don’t have to ‘have it all’
“‘Having it all’ is cliché. It’s up to you to own your ‘all’.” There’s no magic checklist of everything you need in life in order to be considered successful. Own what you’ve got and make the most of it. As long as you’re working hard and enjoying what you do, that’s all that matters.”
Amy Odell’s book Tales from the Back Row debuts this fall. As she told the NYWICI crowd: “I love to write — and I’ve always wanted to write a book.”