Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black told me this over lunch at Michael’s Monday. Not that I’m considering a new job at one of Time Inc.’s main rivals. (Fear not, Ann Moore!) But as Black and I traded insights on career mistakes – the topic that resonated most of all with readers of her recent best-seller, Basic Black, she says – she told me that her biggest misstep occurred in 1983 when she was hired as president of USA Today, then a struggling newspaper startup.
Her error wasn’t taking the job. Rather, she goofed by failing to clarify the reporting lines beneath her. Day one in the USA Today job, Black was shocked to find that that the advertising department didn’t report to her. “It took 90 painful days,” she recalls, to work out a structure that satisfied her and her new colleagues. “Don’t get enamored with the title or the money,” Black says. Or at least curb your enthusiasm until you’re certain what the job really entails.