In ELLE.com‘s monthly series Office Hours, we ask people in powerful positions to take us through their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between.
Just like you, Gayle King only has 24 hours in a day. So how does the veteran journalist find time to be both the co-host of CBS This Morning and the editor-at-large of O, The Oprah Magazine? “I’ve been up since 3:24 this morning,” she tells me on the afternoon of our interview. “The car picks me up at Hearst Magazines to go home at 6:30 P.M., so it’s a very long day.”
In 2019, King went viral after keeping her cool during an explosive interview with R. Kelly, and later that same year, she was named one of TIME‘s 100 most influential people. She’s also one half of the nation’s most enviable friendship, with none other than Oprah Winfrey.
When it comes to her job, King admits, “I didn’t even dream this big.” Here, she reveals the best career advice she’s ever received, her essential power outfit, and the key to working alongside your friends.
My first job
“[It was] at a hamburger stand in California. To this day, it really irritates me when I’m standing in line, and I get [to the register] and the people run out of change. I’m thinking, ‘Didn’t you see that you were running out of quarters and dimes?’ I used to pride myself in never having anybody waiting in my line for something like that.
Also, when I was working, you’d have to put on the tomato and put on the lettuce, put on tomato and put on lettuce. So I thought, ‘What if I put the tomato and the lettuce together so that it was only one motion?’ I was always looking for efficient shortcuts, and I find myself still doing that today in big and little ways.”
On working two jobs
“I could never have envisioned this. I thought if I do CBS, I’m definitely going to have to give up the magazine. But they said, ‘Nope, you don’t have to give up the magazine.’ I’m like, ‘What? I can do both of them? Thank you, and yes please.’ I didn’t even dream this big. Having two full-time jobs is kicking my butt, but I love it.”
Go-to desk snack
“I’ve been on a raisins kick. But I’m on WW and they’re not good for you in terms of points. And I don’t keep it handy, but I’ve been known to walk around the office saying, ‘Does anybody have anything with icing? Anything?'”
On getting what you want
“It’s very difficult for me to take ‘no’ for an answer for something I believe in. I’m a big fan of Kendra Scott, and when I was interviewing her, she said, ‘Whenever anybody tells me no, I just say, ‘Game on,’ because no backward is on.’ I like that. Eventually, within reason, you can turn almost any no into a yes.”
My usual office outfit
“I love a great form-fitting sheath dress. Yellow is my favorite color. I’m not partial to pants. I just don’t think I look good in pants.”
My riskiest career move
“I’d been working in Hartford for 18 years and was just about to sign a new contract. Then I got this offer to get out of TV and go to The Oprah Magazine. I thought, ‘God, would I be willing to give up television?’ I really found [the magazine] very satisfying, but whenever there was a breaking news story, I would get a little bit of a ping. When September 11th happened, I was working in magazine land and felt such a tremendous sense of not being involved. I wanted to tell that story now. But it was a risk. It was a risk to leave television for a medium I knew nothing about. Twenty years later, I’m still here and still loving it.”
Words of wisdom
“I did an interview with Jesse Jackson years ago when I was a little baby reporter in Kansas City. He said to me, ‘Excellence is the best deterrent to racism, so be excellent,’ and I have never forgotten that. I never thought I don’t belong, or I can’t hold my own. I come from the school of make yourself indispensable to your employer. I would want people to think, ‘Well, we can’t really let her go because she’s really good. She’s very valuable to us.'”
On working with a best friend
“People always say it’s not good to work with friends. I don’t find that difficult as long as you always know who’s in charge. The name of the magazine is O, The Oprah Magazine, so that’s never an issue for us. All of us know she has final say, and we’re all good with that, so it ain’t hard. Fortunately, she has very good taste, and she’s very smart.”
When I’m not working…
“I try to figure out a way to get some kind of exercise. I’ve been reading this book about the joy of movement, and I do think there’s something to that. I’m not saying I like working out. I’m just saying I do it. I do the treadmill, I do the elliptical, and I do weights. But I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Oh my god, I love it.'”
How to ask for a raise
“Somebody once told me, you never say, ‘I deserve it.’ The phrasing is, ‘I earned it.’ And then you really document why you earned it.”
The one job everyone should have
“I think everybody should do something that allows you to interact with the public, whether it’s waitressing, whether it’s retail. It teaches you how to engage with people, how to problem solve, and how to deal with nice people and people that can be extremely difficult.”