Skip to main content

Episode 201: Actionable Career Advice to Make Your Next Move Your Best Move, with Kimberly B. Cummings

Kimberly Cummings headshot

Episode Description

Kimberly B. Cummings is a leadership development expert, accomplished speaker and podcast host whose mission is to empower women and people of color in the workplace. Her personal and professional development company, Manifest Yourself, LLC, helps professionals looking to lead a dynamic career and life. Kimberly discusses the impetus behind writing her recently-released book, Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning into a Career You’ll Love. She also shares her career planning framework, the importance of strategically thinking about your career in terms of getting from where you are today to where you want to be in ten years, and breaking down the steps to bridge that gap. Kimberly's advice is relevant for anyone looking to make a career transition, whether relaunching or already in a job.

Links to Episode Content

Kimberly B. Cummings' website

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today, we welcome Kimberly Cummings. Kimberly is a leadership development expert and an accomplished speaker and podcast host, whose mission is to empower women and people of color in the workplace. Her personal and professional development company, Manifest Yourself, provides in-person and virtual workshops, training, and coaching to professionals looking to lead a dynamic career and life. Kimberly is also on the board of directors for the Power of You Teens organization. And her first book, Next Move, Best Move Transitioning into a Career You'll Love has just been released and we are going to discuss that today. Kimberly, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Kimberly B. Cummings: Thank you so much for having me, very excited to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, we're excited to have you. And why don't we start right out and hear about your new book, Next Move, Best Move. Can you tell us what it's about and how did it come about?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Definitely. So the first thing I always say is that this is a process I've been using with my individual clients and group clients for years and years.

And one of the things I've noticed, and I believe to be a fact, is that many people never look to hire a career or leadership coach. Many folks believe that this is something that you can only have if you are a C-suite executive, or super high up, or have money to spend. What folks end up doing is just applying to jobs and just hoping for the best, just hoping that they get the interview. And one of the things that I really care a lot about is the access. I wanted professionals to have access to information that can change the trajectory of their careers. So something I'm very proud of is that my book is super-duper actionable. I basically put together the process I've used for my clients for years, and I walk through everything from evaluating your career, understanding what your next step should be, how to look at your personal and professional brand, how do you get feedback, all of the things that ultimately helped my clients put together a two year career strategy. And now, if you pick up the book, you can learn how to put together a two-year career strategy.

I never ever thought that I would write a book, but, I do a lot of speaking engagements, a lot of speaking engagements. And it got to the point where people expected that I had a book, they would just ask, “Where can I buy your book?” I was like, "I don't really have one of those." And my mentor, Lindsey Pollock, who wrote the Forward, she was like, "Yeah, it's time. You're going to write a book." And I was like, "I don't really think I'm gonna write a book."

She was like, "Like I said, It is time." So here we are, the book is in people's hands now.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, that is great. And we know Lindsey and actually she was on our podcast and I follow her work really closely. So that's great that she's your mentor. So I'm thinking about your own two-year plan for your career, and when that book might've come into the plan. And now it's happened. But I have to say, here at iRelaunch, we really love actionable advice. I'd say we have a bias toward actionable advice, so I'm really happy to hear that was your focus. That was how you wrote it.

We know, because we met you a long time ago, when you were working in alumni career services at academic institutions, before you transitioned to similar work in the private sector, we know that you have attended the iRelaunch conference, and I'm thrilled that you have done that. And I wanted to know, so you're familiar with relaunchers, you're familiar with our audience, and I wanted to know what about the work that you're doing or the work that you were doing with alumni career services, was there something there in parallel with the coaching that you were doing that sort of influenced the way that you coached or that work? Or, how did that background propel you into what you're doing now, including the book?

Kimberly B. Cummings: So I think that I have a very unique background working in career services for almost ten years, and then moving into the talent acquisition space with diversity and inclusion at a global company. So it's a very interesting culmination of experiences. And I joke and I say that I have worked with folks who are age eighteen and don't know what to do with their entire life, let alone choose a major, all the way through folks who are in their sixties and would love to transition into something using all of their experience from their career, but more, much more closely aligned to their passions, versus just receiving a paycheck every single day. So it's a very unique background.

I was very excited. Once I started working in alumni career services, more closely focused with career transitioners, I believe like the iRelaunch group as another special group of transitions that we don't necessarily talk about all the time. I think we talk about career transition as in moving from one industry to another.

In the beginning of my book, I define career transition in my own way. Just so folks know, this is not a book, just because you're ready to move from marketing to finance or finance to tech. It's when you're making any type of career movement. So it's internal or external to your company.

It can be the catastrophic change that we talk about moving from an industry to another, graduating college, or most importantly it's the mindset. It's a mindset of being ready to really move from being an employee to a leader in the workplace. When I was connected with iRelaunch, I was very passionate because working with women is something that is a big part of my work.

And making sure that women are served in this capacity is so important, especially even as we're looking at the COVID-19 pandemic and how that affected women in the workplace, disproportionately to other groups, that really was another reason why I was so excited to get this book out there.

So people had a manual to really help them make their next move.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. And you said that you wrote this book, this is what I read, that you wrote this book for "people who feel hopeless about the trajectory of their career." And I just want to acknowledge that, in job searching in general, but also when people are relaunching, that process can become so drawn out. And we've had people on our podcasts talk frankly about depression and hopelessness, part of the process when it takes forever or you're getting a lot of rejections. And the idea that you called that out I thought was very meaningful.

And I just want to know if you can elaborate a little bit more in terms of, how do you characterize the relaunch coming from a career break and making the transition, as opposed to someone who's been working all the way through and they're transitioning one way or another into some other kind of paid work?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Definitely. So I think the relaunch break is even more crucial, especially from a mindset piece because you're moving from one atmosphere to a very different atmosphere. It's like literally turning on a different piece of your brain that may not have been on for a minute, and not to say that it's gone or it's dead because it's not. But you have to switch it back on to getting back into the grind of a completely different structure to your day, structure for your family, for your life, everything.

And, I think there's a huge piece of confidence, like turning on that confidence that you're able to, depending upon how long your break was, for some folks, it could be three, six months, a year. Other folks, it could be a lot longer than that. It could be twelve years, fifteen years. It could be a very long time where it really is a big movement. I remember when I was at the iRelaunch conference, there was a woman who was talking about how she transitioned back into the workplace. And one of the things that she didn't notice was how the fashion changed. She was wearing suits that still had the shoulder pads in them, like very structured shoulder pads, and she realized, "Oh, my gosh, it's not just talking about my skills. It's even how I look and how I show up." And it was such a small piece, but I think it can be such a big piece when you're returning, and speaks to really believing in yourself that not only you're ready, but you are able, and you have the tools in your brain, in your appearance and your skillset, everything that allows you to return.

And I think that hopelessness really speaks to that. I think in the book, when I'm talking about that hopelessness, I give an example of myself where I was literally sitting at my desk, in my office and just looking up at the ceiling, like, "Why am I here? Why am I here right now?" And I think relauncher can feel that as well.

It's when you're sitting at your desk after the hundreth application and you've only gotten two callbacks, you're like, "Why am I doing this? Why?" I think it speaks to that moment as well.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, and it underscores your initial point about why it might be important to have a career coach in moments like that, and having Next Move, Best Move as a guide as well. Ideally both of them, right?

You really hit the nail on the head. That confidence piece, that professional disconnectedness and that diminished sense of self that you experience when on a prolonged career break is what distinguishes the relaunch from the job search that does not include a career break. And it's definitely a different process. As you know, I'm a relauncher myself, and I took an eleven year career break. So I can relate directly to everything that you're talking about. Kimberly, can you walk us through an overview of the career planning framework that's in Next Move, Best Move?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Definitely. So from a very high level, the first thing that you have to do is really take an assessment of where you are and where is it that you'd like to be? There's a quote that I give in a workshop where I teach the Next Move, Best Move framework that talks about, “your problem in the job search is to bridge that gap from where you are and where it is that you'd like to be.” For every person there's some type of gap, right? You are at your current state right now, and you want to get someplace different. So there, and I literally have my hands up, I know I'm not on video, but in-between, there is a space in between there. For some people, it can be very, very small, for some people it can be very, very large.

And it's not just that you have to bridge it for yourself. You also have to bridge that knowledge gap as you're speaking about your skills, interests, experiences, et cetera, throughout the interview process with your hiring leaders, with your current manager, if you're trying to make a transition and you're in the workplace.

A lot of the book is really walking you through understanding where you are, and then getting clear on where you'd like to be and determining what those short and long-term goals are as it relates to your career strategy.

So one of the tricks I do with my clients is that I literally snap my fingers on a call,
and I'm like, "Where do you want to be in ten years? Where?" "I need to know in three seconds, tell me where you want to be, that gut reaction. I don't want you to hum and haw and think about it, no, tell me exactly where you want to be if all the cards aligned, if I was a fairy godmother, and can give you the job that you want, where would that be?"

Then we need to cut that down into five years. Where do you need to be in five to get there in ten? And then I want you to cut it in a little more than half again. And we work in two year increments. And what are the milestones you need to reach every six months in order to get to that two year goal? Which sets you up for the five, which sets you up for the ten.

And I always tell people, "You have to leave some room for magic," because there's people who can come into your life and can move you very, very fast. You're at six months in your plan then, "Hey, I'm going to bring it to two and a half." Well, all right. Don't say no, you need to make that jump, but you have to reassess.

And so after we understand those two things where you are and where you'd like to be and the milestones in between, we start to dig more into your personal and professional brand, gaps in your relationships, and we really start to add those milestones into the framework so that your strategy isn't just a list of where you are and where you want to be. "Okay, I got to do this project, that project, this project," but what are all the relationships, skills, et cetera, that need to be pulled in to really have a robust strategy from A to Z?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, I'm thinking through that and I love the idea of having that longer term goal and then breaking it up into components, and components in terms of timeframe, very effective.

Can you give us an example or two of how your methodology has worked with changing a person's trajectory?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Definitely. So I just got a testimonial the other day that made me so happy, because I think one of the things about careers is that sometimes it takes time. We want it to happen now, ideally yesterday. But that's not really how it works. Back in the day there was a statistic that said it takes the average person six months to find a job. And that is the next aligned position that used to be the level step that I give all my clients. But if you have any type of special circumstance, it's going to take a little bit longer than that sometimes. I had someone on my podcast the other day who applied to over a hundred jobs in eight months. And I honestly don't think that is odd. I think a lot of people apply to a hundred, they just don't track it, so they don't know how many jobs they applied for. But a client that I recently worked with, we worked together in quite a few spotlight coaching sessions over the past year to really get clear on what it is she wanted and work on her confidence, her leadership capabilities, and do a lot of mock interviewing for storytelling.

And about four months after our last session, she got a $35,000 salary increase, she moved into a new industry that was much more aligned with what she wanted. She also knew how to ask great questions, so she was very passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, and she got herself placed on the committee as she came into the job.

And more importantly, I think the piece I'm most proud of is her ability to advocate for herself and really position herself as a leader. Cause I think most people need a job, right? Most people need a job. I'm a big believer that you may not like the job. But you can find a job in most cases, you're just not going to like it.

I know back in the day I used to wait tables. Did I love it? No, but did I make good money and was able to support myself? Yes. But to find a career and actually have that career satisfaction, that takes skill, it takes advocacy, it takes passion, it takes deeper relationships and it takes the storytelling and interview process to get you there.

And that's what I'm so proud of is that my client was able to really navigate that. And she did it with finesse, and with ease. And she's a new mom, which makes me even more proud because it was even more important for her to get that opportunity and not feel like she was sacrificing anything. She negotiated a fully remote role as well.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. That sounds incredible and very consistent with, when we're talking to relaunchers and this whole idea, that it takes time to go through. It's a thoughtful, deliberate process where it has steps and it's just time-consuming. So sometimes we say, if you have financial constraints, you have to take that not so perfect job in the interim while you're strategizing for the next move, which is going to be your true relaunch.

It sounds very consistent in that kind of approach. So you just touched on this a little bit on the relationships part, and in your book, you say "relationships are everything." And I want to know if you can talk to us a little bit about networking and building relationships, especially for our relauncher audience, who, coming out of COVID has been pretty much still home using video.

And also as we're starting to venture out again, any specific tips on how to navigate all of that?

Kimberly B. Cummings: So I will say that I'm probably a bit harsh when it comes to this piece, when it comes to networking. So I apologize if this rubs you the wrong way, I'm also reading Relentless and Winning is Everything from Tim S. Glover. And if anyone knows Tim, he coached Kobe, Michael Jordan, so you can imagine what that environment was like, coaching them, so it makes me a little more turned up than I usually am. But when I talk about relationships, I am so passionate because it is the only thing that can expedite your success. And I do not believe that being virtual is an excuse for not building relationships in any way, shape or form. I think that when we think about networking, we think about it from an old school perspective. We think about it, when I picture it in my mind and I'm closing my eyes right now, just so I can see it. It's like walking into that ballroom at a hotel. There is generally a bar on one side, the room is crowded. You're walking in by yourself and you're just sitting there like, "Uhh, alright, let me put on the ‘stink and smile.’ Let me grab my business cards out of my pocket. And I have to meet someone and awkwardly walk up and say, 'What do you do?' 'Oh my gosh, what do you do?'" That's what we think about when it's networking.

And that's why it's so stinking daunting. It doesn't have to be like that. Networking is relationship building, and I don't need you to go out there every single day, have a coffee chat, or reach out to strangers. But I do need you to make dedicated time every single month to attend, maybe attend an event.

There are so many beautiful events out there right now. And virtual events have really democratized access. You don't have to leave your home. I'm sure iRelaunch does events. I could name a million other organizations that do monthly events. How can you attend one? How about you monitor the chats, and see who's the person in there who is answering all the questions, who's dropping all the gems and quoting the speakers on that event?

Reach out to them after the events, send them a private chat. All of these softwares have all that stuff where you can find the person, send them a chat and say, "Hey, I'd love to connect for fifteen minutes next week or the week after. How about we hop on a quick call?" And fifteen minutes, stop asking for an hour. You don't have to go to dinner. You don't have to do happy hour. Fifteen minutes and build a connection and continuously follow up with that individual. My favorite question that I give folks is, every time you meet someone, ask them, "Is there anyone else in your network who you think would be good for me to meet? And would you be willing to facilitate an introduction?" And slowly but surely you start building your networking circle. And it's not always about quantity, it's also about quality. So I always have a hit list of people who I want to build relationships with. Always. Who is it that I want to deepen this relationship so that it's truly mutually beneficial? I can get what I need. I can help them, and we honestly have a friendship and there's a relationship.

The first person who participated in my book tour, Myleik Teele. If you listen to that, I have it on my podcast, on my website, et cetera, she jokes and says "I didn't want to mentor Kimberly. I had no interest in mentoring Kimberly. I don't know this shit got into every dag-gone room that I was in." But I did. And I met her. We couldn't even pinpoint the time, but it probably was like 2014 maybe.

And now in 2021, she was on my book tour. It took time. And if I'm honest, it took some money for me to get into some of the rooms that I got in. But I was dedicated and slowly but surely built these relationships. It's not that the relationships are going to overnight get you everything that you need, but it's over time.

And it's the quality of being patient and actually getting to know these people for what they love, what they don't like, where they live, how they got to where they are. The deepest relationships I have, I also know about their personal life, it's not just their professional life.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's interesting. And I love this tip about the videos to look at who's doing the chat monitoring and the chat answering and connecting with that person. That's a great idea.

Kimberly B. Cummings: Whoever is active is normally the best person because they're already talking, they clearly want to meet people. Or someone who answers questions or asks questions at the end.

And if you ask questions too, that's a great way to get you a little moment in the spotlight. So try and figure out what the best question is that you can ask it at the end. So if you want me to speak a great way for them to be like, "Oh," and later you could follow up on LinkedIn. “I was the person who asked this question,” and they're like, "Oh, okay. I remember that person." There's so many little quick tricks to really help expedite some of those relationships.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I hope everyone's listening carefully to those very specific examples because they are great. Let me skip to something else because we've been talking so far about getting the job, but I also want to talk about the advice that you have for people once they're on the job.

And as you were explaining earlier, when you talked about coaching people who are already working and maybe they're even looking to change jobs within their same company. So can you talk about this whole career planning process once you're in the door and you have your first role and of course, for our audience, that usually means after an extended leave.

Let me give you just a little bit more context. So when we hear from relaunchers, who I'd say, maybe are in their first year, sometimes they themselves are more risk averse in terms of what job to take right off of their career break, because they're like, "I haven't been in the workforce for awhile. I'm going to come in at a more junior level." And then once they've been in that job for a few months, they're like, "Wait a minute. I'm totally back, I shouldn't have come in at this level. I should have come in at a higher level." So how do they manage that process and try to accelerate their ability to get promoted to that next level?

What kind of advice would you give in that situation?

Kimberly B. Cummings: So I recently, like literally last night, had a coaching call with one of my clients and I broke down this process on the call. It was interesting. I had to write it down after I said it because I feel like it made more sense than some of the other frameworks and how I explained it before.

But, a) a strategy is really, really key. Once you know that your feet are more than wet, you are good to go. Then it's time to start thinking about what that next move is. And I'm a big believer that your next move has to be your best move. Not just because it's the name of my book. I've been saying it for a long time, but there is no need to make any career movement unless it's the best move.

So, a) make sure that you're building those relationships before you even take that first job, so you have a better idea of where you go, so you don't have to go back too far and have to build up. Because that can be discouraging. I think sometimes if you're like, "Oh my gosh, I could do my boss's boss's job. I should have at least been where my manager is." So I think talking to other people in the field can help you make that first move a little bit better. And if you find yourself there where you feel underemployed, I think it's important to think about the “like, know, trust” factor, right?

It's when you're thinking about buying products or services, they always talk about the “like, know, trust.” They have to “like” it, they have to “know” it, and that's how they'll “trust” it and continue to refer and get more. But we don't think about it as it applies to ourselves. People love to work with people whom they like.

So make sure you're building those relationships, make sure they know who you are. If we're talking about “like,” okay, they like you. We're talking about “know,” they know who you are, however they know who you are, but don't know if you know them and know the work. Make sure that it's reciprocated, right?

So they know who you are. They have a good relationship with you, but have you proved that you know the organization and you know the work? One of the examples I always give is that when you're presenting at an organization, it's very easy to present your idea. It's your idea, you built out the strategy, you can present it because it's yours. But do you know how to present it so that people in the room feel seen and heard? Do you know how to proactively address the questions that your boss has? When I worked in a Fortune 100 company in financial services, one of the new folks on my team, I joke now, and I was like, "All right, so you're going to hate me for your first four months. It is what it is. You're going to love everything else about me, but when it comes to presenting, because it was a new area, you're going to hate me. Why? I know how my boss thinks, I know how my skip leader thinks, and I'm not going to allow you to put work out that isn't going to get past them because it's going to be frustrating for both of us."

I'm like, "This is going to be deck boot camp.” And she was like, "Really?" And I was like, "Yes, indeed." It's deck boot camp because we can't just put something out there that we know is good. I need to answer our boss's questions and my skip leader's questions, preemptively. So when they see this, they understand that you understand what you're doing and how the organization works.

That's how ideas get seen and that's that “know” factor that I think a lot of people never get to and it's hard to move. And then once they know you and know you understand the organization, the work and what their needs are, then you get to “trust” where they trust you to move into other roles. They trust you to lead by yourself.

And I think that is so key and a lot of professionals never get there and don't understand why they don't accelerate because once you know the work, know the organization, know how your leaders think, then you get to do so many other things. You can accelerate your career. You can fly and do so much else because you're most likely creating an impact.

You've showcased your value. They can trust you to move to the next level.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. So I just want to take one step back and something that you mentioned about even taking that first job, and understanding about where you might land in the organization ahead of time. So just to push back on that a little bit, so sometimes people feel like, a) They don't have that control, and b) We actually interview relaunchers who were back in their roles for a number of years who had, when they first came in at a much junior role to what they had left, and then they moved back up over time. And they did, but most of them, in fact, all of them said, "Don't worry about the level, just get in the door, just get into the organization."

So I want to know how you would respond to hearing that. And also, assuming that the person came in at a more junior level, what kind of timeframe would you tell them to think about in terms of how long it would take to make these moves up? Even if they want it to happen on an accelerated basis, it might not.

Kimberly B. Cummings:

So I think everyone's situation is unique, but on the other end, every organization is unique. So I get similar questions when it comes to stepping back to step forward, even from folks who aren't relaunching or taking a pay cut to make more money later. So what I always push back on and I say is, "Do you know if you'll actually be able to accelerate this process at the organization?"

Do you know? And you need relationships to understand that. Because what I don't want to happen is someone, they were so excited to get their foot in the door, but the organization promotes really slowly. They end up being stuck in that role and have to leave later, or they really didn't do their research and don't have the relationships to make that happen.

Or there's someone else who's in line well before them or their boss has been in that role. I know for some nonprofits and education, the boss has been in that role for God knows how many years, like I'm talking fifteen, twenty, twenty-five. They're not leaving any time soon. You're going to have to move later. So what I push back on is, do you know if you can actually accelerate it? Because sometimes you can't. Or sometimes you have to move later to accelerate. So if you're passionate about that organization, and want to move up in that organization, do they have a timeline that actually works for you? Because I've seen it work both ways. Some folks can come in and rock the house and move it and get someplace else. Other folks end up being really discouraged because they're sitting in that role for too long, because it took them, let's say three to six months to get up and running, and now they're bored. And the org is going to take a lot longer. Every org promotes so, so differently. So it will be unique. I think it can work out really well, but it could also be super frustrating when it doesn't.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent point. And, I was just talking to a relauncher last night who's actually been back in the workforce for a long time, but then after she had been back, moved to another organization. And she said, “They finally recognized everything I can add. And I've been sitting here for a few years and all of a sudden I'm on this fast track promotion,” but she had to sit around for a while until that happened. And that's in that organization, as you're saying.

That could be totally different somewhere else. Some of the companies that we work with that have return to work programs are now thinking about what does the next step look like, or what is that level and return to work programs is one of the hottest topics, because it's really hard.

It's really hard to figure out on the employer side and on the relaunchers' side. We're exploring some interesting new ideas about how you handle leveling and level adjusting, post relaunch, but that's all new territory. So really helpful to hear your thoughts on that.

So can you talk a little bit about the questions that you recommend, let's say you're in the job, we're still in the job phase. Could you recommend a set of questions for professionals to ask people they work with and their manager, in order to see where they need to improve and to get some perceptions about the quality of their work? And I want to know if you could walk through a few of those.

Kimberly B. Cummings: Definitely. So getting feedback is so crucial and that's one of the things I continuously hear. "I haven't gotten any feedback yet." "No one's told me what's going on or how I'm doing." You have to get feedback because the first question I always say to ask when you're looking to move up or accelerate your process, it's important to ask, "What do you need to see from me in order to know that I'm ready to move to the next level?" Because when you're already ready to move, there's nothing more frustrating than your boss then giving you feedback, "Oh, I really should have seen this over the last six months." It's like, "Well, you never told me." So you have to ask that question so you know what markers you need to hit. And then when it comes to asking about feedback, I always ask people to ask, "What has your experience been like working with me?" "What should I do more of?” “What should I do less of?" "What should I continue to do?" "How would you describe me to someone else in the workplace?" "What adjectives would you use?" I think self-assessment is really the first piece of the book. And part of self-assessment is knowing what your perception is in the workplace.

Now, the other piece I'll say is that not all feedback is about you. So you have to understand what feedback is actually for you and what is not for you. Meaning, not every manager has good intent. There are bad managers, and we all know that. Many times employees say they leave managers, not companies where managers are bad. So just take that piece, if your manager is petty and they're rude and disrespectful, and they're giving you feedback that is coming from their lens, you need to throw that out. But ask folks who you can trust some of those questions, so you can understand what it is that you need to work on. So many times, you can have something that you think is right, it's innate to who you are. But in the organization, it's not translating well. An example I give for myself, so I'm a big believer in StrengthsFinder. I love StrengthsFinder and my top strength is discipline.

Discipline in the workplace isn't that I'm shaking my finger, “This is how you need to do it,” but I need a strategy. So every time I've come into a role, my last few roles in corporate America and higher-ed were all inaugural roles where I was the first person in the role, or the role was so newly fashioned, we had to scrap it and start all over. So I'm always brought in to build out a strategy, build out the phase approach and then execute it. That's what I'm known for in the workplace. So because of that, I really build out the plan. And I normally feel like it's a ticking time bomb of, “I need to get this out and do it.”

But in one of the organizations I worked with, they believe in this socialization process. Now I'm not used to socialization. I wasn't when I got into this job. Matter of fact, I hate socialization. Let me execute. I know that I'm doing it right. I have a track record. Let me do it. But what they wanted to do is socialize the plan.

And sometimes I had to socialize with people who I didn't care what they had to say, if I'm very honest. But I knew that my leaders cared. And if I got buy-in from these people, whether they knew what they were doing or didn't know what they were doing, that allowed my ideas and my execution to move faster.

So because initially I didn't socialize, they thought that I was just driving, I didn't care about what they said. I just said I didn't really care what they said. But they thought about it in a way that I wasn't assimilating to the culture. I wasn't necessarily a big part of the team. And yet my work was great. It was amazing, but people wanted to be brought along the journey with me. They took it as I didn't want their support.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Interesting.

Kimberly B. Cummings: So when I got that feedback, I was like, "All right, let me go ahead and talk to some people." And sometimes they had no feedback, none for me, but my reviews significantly improved because people felt like they went on the journey.

When I was in meetings, they went better because people were like, "Oh yes, when Kimberly showed me this, I was so excited to hear that she thought about this, that and that." And just having other people say that about me, improved my reputation in the workplace, so that folks were more excited about my work.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's a great example. I remember when the word socialize even came into the work jargon. And I remember it was like someone said, "Well, I have to go back and socialize that." And I'd be like, "What?" Now of course it's used all the time and that is an excellent, excellent example. And just that whole lesson learned about bringing people along with you, I think is one that could be useful in many contexts, even though every company's unique. So just to flag that for relaunchers who are listening, when they get back on the job or who are already back on the job to think about that, and whether you can incorporate that if you haven't been.

So Kimberly, we're wrapping up now at the end and I've loved this conversation with you. And I want to end with the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Got it. So what I love to do, and I think I say this in many, many interviews with me, but I'm going to give it here too, because I think it's so important. So, my company's manifesto is, "You must believe in yourself and your vision. When you do this, you'll manifest the life you desire."

But if you change that to "manifest the career you'll desire," I think the biggest piece, especially for women in the workplace, is believing that you can do the thing that you want to do. If you don't believe that you can do the thing, that means you can't take action to do the thing, and you're not going to get the results that you want.

You have to believe that you are capable. And I think, especially for relaunchers, I think sometimes there's a lot of doubt in there. "Okay, where should I go? Can I really hack it? Will I be able to still take care of my home and my family? What's going to happen?" You have to believe that you can do the thing, because it's not going to transpire in the way that you'd like, if you really and truly don't believe that. I think you can do it scared. You can do it afraid, but you have to have that piece of, "You know what? It's gotta be tough, but I know I can do this."

Carol Fishman Cohen: That is excellent advice. And as you're saying, especially for relaunchers who have to envision a world in which they're working from a vantage point where they are not, and sometimes for extended periods.

So there is some hesitation and fear in that mix usually. So really excellent advice. Thank you so much, Kimberly, for all of the wisdom and advice for today. Can you tell our listeners how they can find out more about your work and of course, where to find your book?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Yes. So you can find me, my website is my name, You can find all things about me there, or if you want to go directly to the book. You can grab my book wherever books are sold, so Barnes and Nobles, Target, Walmart, Amazon, of course, all of the places. And I love to keep in touch with folks. So the place I'm probably the most active is LinkedIn and Instagram.

So please feel free to follow along on LinkedIn or go to @kimbcummings on Instagram and would love to chat there too.


Carol Fishman Cohen: And I'm actually going to ask you, can you spell out the URL since Kimberly can be spelled different ways and so can Cummings?

Kimberly B. Cummings: Yes. So Kimberly K as in Kim, I M B E R L Y. No extra E in there. And Cummings is C as in cat, U M as in man, M as in man, I N as in Nancy, G S.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And it's, so B as in Boy.

Kimberly B. Cummings: Yes, I am very particular. I love that being there because that's my maiden name and I did a lot before I got married. So I want that in there too.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Very good. All right. Kimberly, thank you so much for joining us.

Kimberly B. Cummings: Thank you so much for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch conferences, to sign up for our job board and access our return to work tools and resources, go to

And if you like this podcast, be sure to rate it on Apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media.

Thanks for joining us.

New to our podcast?

Find out more about our most popular episodes and content of the 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch podcast!

Don't relaunch alone!

Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

Icon community