Kimberly B. Cummings, NEXT MOVE, BEST MOVE

Kimberly B. Cummings, NEXT MOVE, BEST MOVE

Career development coach, public speaker, and CEO of Manifest Yourself Kimberly B. Cummings joins Zibby to discuss her first book, Next Move, Best Move, which compiles her best professional advice for all types of readers. The two talk about what makes a good leader in the workplace, the effects of Corporate PTSD (as well as an instance in which Kimberly experienced it herself), and what inspired her to write this book. Kimberly also shares the journey she went on to build up her coaching business and how it makes her feel to watch those she’s advised advance their careers.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Kimberly. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into a Career You’ll Love.

Kimberly B. Cummings: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here with you.

Zibby: It’s my pleasure. Why don’t you tell listeners a little about your book and why you were the perfect person to write it?

Kimberly: Oh, gosh, okay. I spent nearly ten years in higher education. I always joke and say that I’ve worked with folks who are age eighteen who don’t know what to do with their lives all the way through in their sixties looking to put all of their experiences together to really just enjoy the world of work. I worked in university career services and then transitioned into talent acquisition at a Fortune 100 company in financial services. I’ve dedicated most of my professional life to helping people navigate the world of work and hopefully transition into a career that they’ll love. For me when I think about career transitioning, it’s not just your first job out of college or moving from finance to marketing or some huge, catastrophic move. It could be any type of transition in the workplace that makes things different for you. Just renavigating and hoping that you find something that brings you joy is a transition in itself. This is the culmination of all the work of the private clients I’ve had in my private practice as well as working in higher ed and in corporate finance and talent acquisition to put everything together that’s something tangible that people can take to really build out a two-year career strategy.

Zibby: Amazing. I was really interested in your chapter on being a people leader and a good people leader. I like to believe I am a good people leader, but I probably am not. What does it take to be a good manager, a good people leader, as you say? What are the tools? I know you have a bunch of questions that you ask about how we take stock of our own career. You mentioned your own bosses. Talk a little more about that. How do you be a good people leader?

Kimberly: Fun fact. That was the last chapter of the book that I added, and it’s first.

Zibby: No way.

Kimberly: I just knew I had to say something. The chapter title is Serving as a People Leader is a Privilege, Not a Right of Passage. So many people, you just have to lead people, magically, when you want to grow in your career. Number one, I would challenge you to think that you are a good people leader because you actually care about it. Most people wouldn’t even say anything if they didn’t really care. We just need to get the task done, get the job done. We don’t care. You even caring, I think the key is caring about your people, not just the execution of the task. That’s the hardest part, especially when you’re growing a team or when you have mountains of work. It’s thinking about the human aspect, understanding what motivates someone to work better. What inspires them? How do they like to be communicated with? Just thinking about the small ways to make their life a little bit easier or motivate and inspire them to do work a little bit differently. I know on my team — I’m someone who’s generally a morning person. If I wake up, I will send you an email at five AM because the idea came to me. It’ll be perfect. I actually do all my writing really early in the morning because my brain works best at that hour, literally rolling out of bed. I always have to tell people, if you’re an afternoon person, just ignore me. That’s how I work, and understand that I’m not going to get a response because they’re more of an afternoon person. Just simple things to figure out how your people work. I always give a working styles quiz for anyone who joins my team to understand what motivates them, how to feedback, any past things that have happened that really turned them off to managers just to really understand who they are.

Zibby: How do they like the quizzes?

Kimberly: They’re really intrigued by the questions because they haven’t been asked, what’s a bad experience you’ve had with a manager? What’s a good experience? What time of day do you want feedback? If you did something wrong, how would you like me to tell you? If you do something right, how would you like me to reward you? They’ve never been asked those questions before. They’re like, “Do you really do this?” I’m like, “Sometimes I can’t do it all the time, but I really try. It’s good just to know what your red flags are. Then I’ll also tell you mine and how I work.” It just helps understand the person a little bit more.

Zibby: Can you do it in a Google Form, or should this be a conversation?

Kimberly: I always do it in just a document. It could be a Google Form. Now I have it in a Google Form. When I worked in corporate, it was just, I’d email the questions and have them respond. Then we’d talk about it. I always want someone to write it down first and then we talk about it so that I have it later to reflect on. I never like it just to be a conversation.

Zibby: I didn’t go searching for this yet. Is this available somewhere that I can find it so I could perhaps copy your idea and send it to the people I work with, or not?

Kimberly: It is not, but I can definitely give it to you for your show notes and for you personally.

Zibby: That would be great. I think that’s really interesting. In therapy or whatever, you spend time, you think about your past, your relationships. No one — I shouldn’t say no one. It’s not as common to be like, I need to go to therapy for this traumatic relationship I had with my boss, but those things happen. Actually, that was a horrible generalization. What I mean is sometimes these bad things happen at work, and you can siphon them off and say, well, it was just work, but it’s still your emotions. It’s still you. There’s no difference between something really painful and emotional happening in a work context, really, than in a friendship context, but it doesn’t get as much attention or verification. I don’t know what I’m saying. Do you know what I’m saying?

Kimberly: I do. I do know. It’s the same exact thing. I actually have a podcast called “Corporate PTSD.” People say, that’s so dramatic. I’m like, yes and no, because you’ll also see how you act. For instance, I remember in one of my last corporate jobs, I was on this global town hall. Hundreds of people are on this call. A very senior leader had asked me to work on a project. I knew this project was going to fail, but they wanted it. They didn’t really understand my area in DEI. They wanted me to do the project anyway. I was like, “I really don’t want to do it because I’d rather do this instead.” They’re like, “No, no, no, I want you to do it this way, and you’re going to report it on this call.” I did it after giving all that pretense that it’s not going to go well. I gave the data. I previewed it before to tell them, “Hey, it went as I told you it was going to go. It’s just not working. It’s not going to work in this way.” They proceeded to yell at me on this global call. There were hundreds of people on the call. They were just like, “I don’t even understand why this happened. We should’ve done this. We should’ve done this.” There’s hundreds of people. It was one of those times where I turned the camera off. I’m like, “Okay, I’ll talk to you about it. Thank you so much.” The sniffing, you know someone’s crying. I’m not a crier at work, but I was so embarrassed. I was so upset.

I realized, sometimes to this day, especially now running my own business, I have a little bit of a complex sometimes when I go into meetings and I know that the outcome isn’t what’s necessary. Even if I know I communicated it well, if it’s not what it was intended to be for that person, I don’t go in most of the time with as much confidence as I know I need to, even as a businessowner. I’m the CEO. There’s no leader to come save me or talk about anything. Whenever I see someone’s super long, corporate, long title knowing they have a lot of power and influence, I have to be like, it is okay. They’re not going to yell at you. This is your own company. You can yell back if you want to. You can fire them as a client. Whichever one you’d like, but you don’t have “sit and take it.” In corporate — when I say corporate, I mean anyone in the nine-to-five world. I think we’re conditioned to think that someone in leadership has power. The manager has the power. You don’t have the power. You can’t speak up for yourself or you’ll lose your job. It’s really difficult. It’s a difficult place to be in. As we’re talking about people leadership, I tell people you need to lead in the way you’d like to be led. That’s the golden rule. Don’t do things to your people that you wouldn’t want done to you. Just try and be a good human. There’s work to be done. Just be good. Just be a good human.

Zibby: I’m always like, how would I want this to go? When people are like, “Can I have the afternoon? I have to be –” I’m like, “I don’t care where you do your work.” It makes no difference to me. You could be on a beach in Bermuda. If you’re getting the emails back, more power to you. You know when it’s time for you to take a swim. I don’t think anyone — I don’t know. Has anyone gone to Bermuda? That’s my assistant. I don’t think so. I hope to foster that culture. Then there are things that I took from jobs I had where I liked something that was being done and jobs I had that I didn’t like something that was being done. My first — not my first job. It was probably my fourth job. My job right before I went to business school, I worked at Unilever. I was helping on the Unilever Prestige team launching the Vera Wang fragrance. I had a woman boss who was probably maybe ten years older than me. When I got to work my first day, she had sent me flowers on my desk with a little note that said, “Welcome to the team.” Now I try to do that to everybody who joins because it was so nice. It made me feel the rest of the whole time I was there that they cared and appreciated me, so even something small, even just a note or something.

Kimberly: That is so sweet. I really like that one. My thing is I give people three to five people to meet with on their first day. I give them a whole guide, of course, their onboarding, but I always give them three to five people, not just on the team, but across anyone else who I work with just so they can navigate and expand. I connect them to really cool people in general. In my last corporate job, I would essentially connect to some of my mentors, some of my, I like to call them corporate besties just so they got kind of socialized a little bit more outside of the team. I think it’s always good to have folks on your team and outside of your team who you can talk to.

Zibby: That’s smart. The first days are always hard, especially remote. How do you advise people to handle remote integration and team building and all of that stuff?

Kimberly: It takes more effort. I’m really interested. Maybe one day I’ll write another book talking about the impact of the pandemic on introverts versus extroverts. I think that would be a really interesting study to talk about. I think the key is to treat it like it’s not remote. What would you have done in the office? How can you replicate that at home? The biggest thing that people are missing is that connection, is that relationship building, the mentorship, the sponsorship, even just having really great peers and getting to know them outside of that box of the actual assignment that you have. It’s finding ways to connect. Going to the virtual events — I know sometimes we’re tired of the virtual events. Go. Meet friends. See if you can have a coffee. Hey, do you want to have a fifteen-minute coffee chat? Actually go make your coffee in your Keurig and drink coffee and talk together. Do lunch. I really try and think about all the little instances that you would have, even after you go to a large meeting. Normally, you have your buddy who you debrief walking back to your cubicle or your office with. Who are you going to Slack right after and be like, hey, you want to hop on a call to talk about what Susan just said? Do all those things to create that connectivity. I think it just takes a lot more effort. It has to be intentional when you’re at home by yourself. It won’t happen by accident that you will make work friends, make deeper connections, find mentorship and sponsorship. You have to be a bit more intentional and aggressive with making sure you make those connections.

Zibby: Have you found any — canned is the wrong word — organized team-building things on Zoom or virtually? Somebody just said, hey, maybe we should do an online team-building thing. I was like, yeah? Are there good ones?

Kimberly: I think it depends on your team. One of the companies who I consult with, they did a virtual happy hour. They actually shipped out little drink-making kits to everyone on the team. They actually made it on the call. Anything that makes people do a little something. People have played Bingo or things like that. I have another client of mine who, to help people get to know each other before every company town hall, they have a monthly meeting. They introduce three or four colleagues depending upon how many new starts happened. They have one slide of who they are — who’s their family? What activities do they like to do? — so that the team can get to know everyone across the organization. It’s a leaner team. I think they have about 125 people in their organization. That was always nice to see that and get some more connectivity. I think anything that gets your people excited. Some people like mentorship. In some companies that I work with, they want to be matched. They want to be matched with a buddy and told, you will talk the first week of every month. Other folks just want an event where they can socialize. Some companies bring everybody together in person now maybe once or twice a year to talk. The important thing is to ask your people what they would actually be willing to do. Sometimes what we think is great, they’re like, no, I don’t want to do that.

Zibby: I was thinking it would have to be somebody really interesting coming to talk to all of us, something really like, oh, yeah, you’re doing that just for us. I don’t know. I haven’t figured out what it is. It would have to be really special. Otherwise, who wants to be on Zoom anymore? Although, I don’t mind. I love Zoom because I get to see people like you and learn all sorts of great stuff that can make my day-to-day even better. Tell me more about your business and how you started that. I know this is about your book too, but I feel like it’s all related.

Kimberly: It is. It definitely is.

Zibby: How did you start this up? Tell me what services you offer to people and how you’ve built your own business.

Kimberly: It’s evolved over time. I joke and say I’ve been playing on the internet since probably 2011. That’s what my parents would say, at least until recently. The book made them realize — they’re like, oh, she’s doing something. We can go into a store and take the book. Oh, okay, she’s not playing anymore. When I was working in career services — I love speaking. I love teaching. I love doing training and workshops and presenting at conferences. As I started to present and was able to kind of cultivate my own way of coaching students, coaching alumni, and working with people to make career transitions, I frequently got asked, can you come here? Can you work with this person? Can you do this? The business slowly evolved. I actually started as a blogger back in the day, way back in the day, just blogging about things that I was going through. I slowly started integrating the career and leadership development content. I started in 2011. In 2013, that’s when the name Manifest Yourself came. Then by 2017, I founded my LLC.

By that time, I was doing a lot of workshops and trainings within companies, speaking at larger-scale companies, and also doing a lot more coaching on the side. Now the business as it is still has combinations of that, but a lot more of it is centered around consulting, so going into organizations and teaching them how to recruit, retain, engage, and promote their underrepresented talent no matter what that is for the organization. Then I do have a career community where I have leadership development courses on demand that people can take. I do monthly group coaching. It took some time. Everyone’s like, did you just stop working at your corporate job and launch the business? I was like, no, I’ve been doing it the whole time behind the scenes. I definitely probably should’ve resigned a little earlier because I two hundred percent burnt myself out. I left when I had no choice because I was just so overwhelmed. Oddly enough, I think it was three weeks before the book came out. I was like, there’s no way. I looked at my calendar. I looked at my work calendar. There’s not enough hours. There’s not two Kimberlys to do this work. We need to figure something out.

Zibby: Wow. That’s really inspiring, though. Your own success story is another one to model on how you find your own career.

Kimberly: Yeah. I never would think that my career would be helping other people find their careers. The first time I helped someone get a job and I knew it was a direct result of working with me, I could see the transformation. I was absolutely positively hooked. I was like, oh, my gosh. I saw how happy they were. They actually stayed at that job for almost eight years and got promoted throughout the ranks. We keep in touch on Instagram. It brought me so much joy. That’s when I knew. I stumbled early in my career doing a bunch of other things just like most people do. When that happened, I was like, okay, I’m staying in the career and leadership realm.

Zibby: I love that. Then how did you end up even writing a book? How did that come to pass?

Kimberly: People had been asking me. I do a lot of public speaking. I average probably between fifty and seventy speaking engagements a year, workshops, trainings, facilitations, whatever it is. At the end, they’d be like, oh, my gosh, where can I buy your book? They just assumed I had a book. I didn’t. Finally, I was like, okay, I have a process. Let me put everything into a book. Oddly enough, the title of my book is a workshop that I did in 2017 for the New Jersey Conference for Women. I didn’t realize this until after when I thought of the name. I was like, oh, my gosh, this is so incredible. It’s like, no, Kim, you created this a long time ago. It just sounds good to you now. It was a process. As you obviously know, writing a book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Oddly enough, I’m planning on doing it at least one or two more times. It’s literally the process I’ve done with clients, corporations for years. I think it’s really important that people have access to career information. I’m a late millennial. My parents are baby boomers. My dad, we were talking about career development. He’d just say, work really hard and put your head down.

I think that’s what so many people are conditioned to do. Just work really hard and put your head down. Even if you’re unhappy, just figure it out. You’ll be okay. Don’t necessarily even change jobs. Just wait for your boss to leave. Just make it work. Someone will see you. That’s not really how the world of work works. I know not everyone wants to go back to their university career services. Especially if they’re an alum, they may not even have access anymore. A lot of women and people of color, when I worked in career services, they weren’t necessarily using the office as much. They felt like they needed to be more prepared before coming to the office versus getting prepared at the office to go out into the world of work. Then also, people may not be able to afford a career coach. A book, a little under twenty bucks, $19.95, I’m hoping that it democratizes access to career and leadership development information because this is literally exactly what I do with my clients. They’ve been able to transition fields, get a new job, get promoted, negotiate. I have one client who negotiated another $50K on a salary offer. There’s so many different things you could do that can bring you joy.

Zibby: Wow. In my head, I keep thinking, okay, in what capacity can I work with Kim? I’m like, what do you offer? I’m just asking for this podcast.

Kimberly: I love it.

Zibby: Have you been in touch at all or do you know about iRelaunch? It’s this whole conference.

Kimberly: Yes.

Zibby: Were you a part of it?

Kimberly: I was on their podcast when my book came out, actually. Back when I was in higher ed, I went to their conference to recruit.

Zibby: Well, then you don’t need my suggestion.

Kimberly: I love your suggestion.

Zibby: I really feel like — I want to say women, but I should say whoever, whatever gender. I do feel like there’s an enormous group of women with kids going off to school who have been home with their kids and are super smart and motivated but just don’t know what to do next and don’t know how to assess their own skills and strengths and minimize the great things that they do. There’s such a huge opportunity, not just for the women. Once all those people go back and start creating in the world, how great. We’ll have new content and new entertainment and whatever it is that they do. I just feel like that first step or even those first twelve — I guess not twelve steps. That’s the wrong — let me not mix things here.

Kimberly: The wrong program.

Zibby: Wrong program. They need a path forward. I say they. It was me very recently. I stayed home for eleven years. Like you, it just has evolved. I’m like, I’ll just do a podcast a week. Next thing I know, I have no sleep, and here we are.

Kimberly: The beautiful thing about the book that I’ve heard from my readers is that — I thought that I was writing it for a particular audience. When I did my book proposal, I think I said my audience was probably a twenty-four to thirty-five-year-old professional, generally, who is a bit overemployed. They worked really hard, got somewhere a little faster than they “should have.” What I’ve found is that it’s been helping across the board. I’ve had students who have secured internships from reading the book, or taking their first offer after graduation. I’ve had people who are much more senior executives who’ve gone back and loved the things on personal branding and relationship building. That’s the beauty of Next Move, Best Move. Then a lot of people, they read it through, but then they also go back. It’s almost like a little manual, like a textbook. Once you get the gist of how it works, you’ve done some of the exercises, you can go back. Okay, I got a new job offer. It’s a year later. Let me go back and read the salary negotiation chapter or read more about the core values. That’s the piece I’m most proud of, is that it’s helped across the board. I definitely have moms. I have a lot of moms who are relaunching their careers or reentering the workforce or, especially with COVID — they say women have been the most impacted taking care of families, children. They’ve been going through the book as well. How can I transition to a company that gives me more work-life balance too? Especially with people who are returning to the office, some people don’t want to go. A lot of people don’t want to go. They need to brush off their skill set so they can get something that’s much more aligned with where they are today.

Zibby: I should’ve given your book — my son just turned fifteen and is doing an internship. Literally, this morning, he’s like, “You know, yesterday was just really boring.” I’m like, “Yeah, you’re an intern.” I started telling him about when I was an intern. I’m like, “This is what happens,” but that they see it all in a context and know where it’s going. I guess I will give it to him now. I don’t know if he’ll read it.

Kimberly: Let me know what he thinks.

Zibby: I can’t get him to even read my book. I’m like, “Do you want me to read it out loud to you? I feel like you should hear some of this stuff.” Oh, well. Kids. The next two books you want to write, what are they? You mentioned already, the pandemic and introvert/extrovert. What are you? An introvert or extrovert?

Kimberly: I’m really an introvert. People are shocked because I do so much public speaking. If you ever see me after I speak, it takes so much energy from me. I can barely form a sentence. I need to be alone in a dark room. Don’t talk to me. Just give me kettle corn popcorn and some Cheez-Its. Let me sit in the corner and watch more Grey’s Anatomy. That’s all I want after I have big speaking engagements. I’m definitely an introvert. Oddly, that’s not the book I’m thinking about writing. I have two ideas that I’m thinking of right now. I want to go much more deeply into leadership development and really thinking about how we can work with each other, so not just managers. How can you manage better? Also, how can you manage up, down, and across and think about the different archetypes of different leaders and what that looks like? I’m a big believer that everyone is a leader in the workplace because you are there to lead your body of work, whether you’re an assistant, a chief so-and-so, a director, a manager, whatever it is. Then I’m also thinking about something a little bit more personal. A lot of people have been asking me to write more about myself and how that correlates to how I built my career, how I’ve transitioned through different things, but I’m a little nervous to write something personal. I don’t know if I’m there yet, to tell my own business.

Zibby: I did start a publishing company called Zibby Books. We publish memoirs. I’m just saying.

Kimberly: I don’t think I’m ready for a memoir. I think more aligned to a life lessons type of book from where I am now. I don’t feel like I’m old enough for a memoir yet.

Zibby: Memoir gets such a — I think we need to rebrand the word memoir. It’s really just people’s stories. It’s like a long personal essay.

Kimberly: It just seems so heavy to me. I feel the weight of it when you say memoir. I’m like, I don’t want that. I’m not ready.

Zibby: No, it’s just your story. It’s just people’s stories. That’s all it is. You can tell a story no matter what age you are. It depends what happened.

Kimberly: Very true.

Zibby: I like reading stories of people of all ages. It’s not like in the olden days, a retrospective of, here I am at age eighty, and I’m going to tell you about my entire life.

Kimberly: You can do any period. Yes, got it.

Zibby: Anyway, whatever. Okay, you’re not ready anyway. If you are, you have my email.

Kimberly: I will reach out, for sure.

Zibby: What advice do you have to aspiring authors?

Kimberly: Oh, gosh. What advice do I have for aspiring authors? For me, the hardest part of the writing process was really telling a story and connecting it to myself and to the reader at the same time. If you’re an aspiring author and you’re writing, I would really think about how you can share from a place of empowerment, how you can really share to connect. I think that was hard for me. As a blogger, I’m used to writing five hundred to nine hundred words, maybe. It’s short, quick, and easy. When you’re coaching, it’s very solution-focused. I always get to the point. I’m not used to having the breadth to explain and share and all those things. The connection, the stories are what people remember. My book, it’s more technical-esque, but the stories are what people continuously come back to me about. That’s how they remember the concepts.

Zibby: Love it. This has been so fascinating for me. Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed it. Stay in touch.

Kimberly: Yes, indeed. Have a good one.

Zibby: Send me the questions, the Google Doc.

Kimberly: I will.

Zibby: Thanks a lot. Bye.

Kimberly: Bye.

Kimberly B. Cummings, NEXT MOVE, BEST MOVE

NEXT MOVE, BEST MOVE by Kimberly B. Cummings

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