Joanna Coles is leaning in.

Joanna Coles

Editor in Chief

New York, NY

Pay attention to your instincts and the opportunities in front of you. Which ones will take you nearest to where you want to go? Then go get on with it.

I was working in New York as foreign correspondent for the Times of London when I received a call saying my four year post was up. I was to return to London to be the parliamentary sketch-writer, a highly prestigious job in London, following the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But I didn’t want to return to London. I knew I had unfinished business in New York and I wanted to work in the biggest magazine market in the world. However, I had no visa and I was pregnant with my second child. To get around the immigration issues, I needed a job, but my personal “situation” was complicated and I knew it made me a difficult hire.

Anxious to push forward and on a time deadline, I decided to accept a role junior to my experience in exchange for the opportunity to get sponsored in the States. Though the employer had no issue telling me I “came with a lot of problems,” they were also dedicated to helping me sort through them. I was immensely grateful for their support and I leaned in, which required a 50% cut in my salary and compensation package. I remember feeling like I was staring at a roulette wheel and throwing all of my chips at my best guess, hoping I would magically hit the right number. Though I knew instinctively my investment would pay off in the long-term, there was no way for me to know then just how much.

I’ve had friends comment that my transition to Cosmopolitan must have been my most challenging Lean In moment yet. I disagree. Choosing to take a junior role in exchange for sponsorship and the legal right to work here was actually my greatest challenge, and it eventually lead me to being given the amazing opportunity to edit Cosmopolitan, the world’s most widely-circulated magazine; we have 66 editions across the world.

If I could offer any advice, it would be: Be your own shrink and ask yourself tough questions like: Why am I doing this? Where do I want to be? And of course, Sheryl’s favorite question, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid? And then be brutally honest with yourself, even if you give yourself answers you don’t want to know. Pay attention to your instincts and the opportunities in front of you. Which ones will take you nearest to where you want to go? Then go get on with it.

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