by Kate White | March 01, 2013

When you're ready to take your career to the next level, there's plenty of smart advice out there: work hard, network, find a good mentor, etc. But during my career as a magazine editor in chief, including 14 years running the global women's magazine Cosmopolitan, I found that when it came to achieving success, some unorthodox strategies often worked better. Here are some of my favorites, which are eminently suitable for those who want to make their mark in meetings management or any other profession.

Go big or go home. Helen Gurley Brown, the woman who brilliantly reinvented Cosmopolitan in the 1960s, once said that what separated successful people from unsuccessful ones is that the successful people worked really, really hard. But I don't buy that piece of wisdom.

Sure, hard work is important, but when I look at my own career and the careers of some of the extraordinary people I've met along the way, I'd say success generally results from knowing how to go big or go home. It's not enough to put your nose to the grindstone and do everything you've been told. You have to come up with fresh, inventive and even unsolicited ways to help your organization reach its goals and beyond.

Answer this question: When was the last time you made your boss say "wow"? That's what will help set you apart from the pack and land you your next big job or promotion.

Don't just think about what you need from the world, consider what the world needs from you. This is advice I heard from Alexa Hirschfeld, the dazzling co-founder of Paperless Post. Yes, it's nice to find your passion and build long-range professional goals around it, but is there an actual market for your goals? If not, it's time to rethink them.

Create your bumper sticker. We hear a lot these days about the need to turn ourselves into brands. Though it may make you feel a little like a roll of Bounty paper towels, it does help to determine your core values and develop viable specialties related to them.

But there's another step beyond that: You need to succinctly define your brand. Come up with the kind of a phrase that could fit on a bumper sticker. You then hold that phrase up against your résumé, the projects you take on, etc., and make sure they fit. I was lucky when I arrived at Cosmo because the brand already had a brilliant bumper sticker: "Fun Fearless Female." I made sure every article, title, photo and cover line reflected that phrase.

Do the math. No one person's career unfolds exactly like another's, but in certain fields there's a general arc people follow, and they tend to hit critical marks around the same point in their work lives. And if you don't reach those marks at the right time, you might not get another chance.

When I was in my early 30s, I wasn't 100 percent certain that I wanted to be an editor in chief, but one day I did some math and realized that the editors in chief of all the top women's magazines had landed their jobs by their early 40s. So, just in case, I began acquiring certain skills (like public speaking) and making important contacts that would help position me. When I decided that's what I wanted, I was ready.

Next month: new ideas for mentoring, interviews and more.