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Podcast with the President and CEO of NETSHARE, Kathy Simmons

Kathy Simmons, President & CEO, Netshare Kathy Simmons

"I always used to say people hired for two reasons: you can make me money or you can save me money, and now it's can you stop the bleeding?" - Kathy Simmons

Welcome to rewind 09 - On TotalPicture Radio we're replaying some of the most memorable podcasts from 2009: Today, Kathy Simmons, the guiding force behind NETSHARE and its ongoing evolution as a Web-based community for executives who are seeking jobs as well as opportunities to network with their peers and build a personal "brand" online. Kathy joins Peter Clayton, producer/host of TotalPicture Radio in this Career Transition Channel podcast from March, 2009. Simmons has made it her mission to help NETSHARE members harness the Internet to advance their careers.

"The greatest line I heard recently was when someone said, 'no matter what your job was before, you're in sales now.' And you have to think of it that way, you have to think of it in terms of I'm a product, what's my unique value proposition?"

"So now you've identified what your product is. Then you look at who needs my product? That's your market from which you develop your list of target companies. I always used to say people hired for two reasons: you can make me money or you can save me money, and now it's can you stop the bleeding?"

NETSHARE is a membership-based organization "dedicated to providing executives and professionals across all disciplines and industries, with quality $100K plus job listings, networking opportunities, and a community of peers for the exchange of strategic information related to job search, professional development and best practices."

Talking Points

  • What's changed in the last six months in the Netshare world, Kathy?
  • Do you have any "quality 100k job listings?"
  • You were telling me about the fact that Netshare is getting so many first time job seekers - people who have always been recruited and now don't have a clue what to do next?
  • What advice are you giving them?
  • What's happening with NETSHARE monthy open forums? You hold these across the country? Any geographic trends you can share with us?
  • You wrote on your blog recently that it may be better to look for work than look for a career -- a Portable Career?
  • Another blog article I'd like to discuss - The Sweet Smell of Success - a memeber had four job offers recended because of the economy - the fifth one stuck. What were some of the take-aways from that individuals experience?

1. Network and network some more. Get at least eight LinkedIn recommendations spanning at least two people you worked for, two people you worked with, and two people who worked for you.

2. Don't be too selective about the companies you target. Your best option may be in a different industry or location so keep your options open.

3. Create a value proposition and pitch it to both former employers and new companies that can create a role for you. You have to demonstrate economic value.

4. Invest time in your resume. Change what you were supposed to accomplish into results driven prose. C-level executives care about how you will raise revenue or cut costs.

5. Be realistic about the recruiting cycle. Keep in mind the time of year, the fiscal cycle of companies, and understand how your value proposition meshes with the hiring process. Timing is everything!

6. If the position doesn't mention relocation but you live outside the area, reconsider applying. You don't want to waste your time or a recruiter's or hiring manager, even if you are willing to pay for your own relocation.

So keep the faith. This job-seeker applied for more than 300 positions in six months. Two years ago, the same search took three weeks with a handful of opportunities. In the current climate, the rules are different and you need a strong resume to make you stand out. Invest where it counts and you can be your own success story.

Kathy Simmons Biography

Linkedin Profile

Kathy Simmons is the guiding force behind NETSHARE and its ongoing evolution as a Web-based community for executives who are seeking jobs as well as opportunities to network with their peers and build a personal "brand" online. Simmons has made it her mission to help NETSHARE members harness the Internet to advance their careers.

Prior to joining NETSHARE, Simmons spent 15 years in customer service and technology positions in the telecommunications, construction and healthcare industries. Her eclectic background includes stints as a buyer for an international trading company and founder of an administrative services center in Tehran, Iran.

Born in Southern California, Simmons spent most of her formative years in Asia, the daughter of an international executive with assignments in Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea. She credits her ability to size up situations and make connections quickly to her early years and the many times she was the "new kid" in school!

Simmons' passion for connecting people has served NETSHARE well. She recalls the night in 1993 when she took a call from a recruiter who was having a tough time filling an international assignment. The client had very specific multi-lingual and cultural requirements. Earlier that day, the perfect resume had been faxed to NETSHARE by a new member. Calls were made, faxes exchanged. Within two weeks the job was filled by the NETSHARE member. Today such connections are made more efficient by the Internet, but Simmons' passion for connecting the right people with the right jobs remains the guiding philosophy behind NETSHARE.

Simmons' commentary frequently appears in major media outlets. She has been a guest on CNBC's Morning Call and has been widely quoted in national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and Smart Money magazine, discussing issues related to executive employment.


Peter: Welcome to our career transition channel podcast on Total Picture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting.

Kathy Simmons is the guiding force behind Netshare and its ongoing evolution as a web-based community for executives who are seeking jobs, as well as opportunities to network with their peers and build a personal brand online.

Simmons has made it her mission to help Netshare members harness the Internet to advance their careers. Netshare is a member-based organization dedicated to providing executives and professionals across all disciplines and industries, with quality $100K plus job listings, networking opportunities, and a community of peers for the exchange of strategic information related to job search, professional development and best practices. Kathy, welcome back to Total Picture Radio.

Kathy: Thank you, Peter, it's good to be here again.

PETER: So my first question is do you have any quality $100K plus job listings? Do those exist?

Kathy: We do, and they're not with AIG, however.

PETER: That's good! I'm glad to hear that!

Kathy: We do have quality jobs. We are getting quite a few jobs. And it's interesting to see that there are certain areas – this is such a schizophrenic kind of market right now in the sense that there are areas where you're seeing quite a bit of pick up; for example, we're also running face to face networking meetings. When I go to the meetings in Dallas, there is a lot more activity in Texas. What's interesting, I think, is the big upsurge in very good consulting and interim level positions. And I think that's a trend that we're going to be seeing for awhile, certainly until the economy recovers some.

I think there is a big distinction between what I call a consultant and what I call an interim exec. And even though there are many consulting firms where the person actually has to execute, usually in the consulting firms that traditionally it's been – you know, you sort of parachute in with the 40-pound PowerPoint, and then show everybody what they need to do and you leave. What I think is different now is there are a lot of companies who are looking for people who will actually come in and execute the plan, because while particularly in public companies, they're getting rid of a lot of jobs to look better to their shareholders, in many cases – and this isn't true in every industry – but in many industries, the work is still there. They may not have the bench strength as fulltime employees, and they're hesitant about adding to their FTE count, so they will bring in a point person to actually go through and head up a group of their own employees to run a project. So it's more project based, than just coming in and saying this is what I see you need.

PETER: So these are interim jobs, right Kathy?

Kathy: Yes, they're regular interim executives.

PETER: Are these kinds of jobs advertised on Netshare?

Kathy: Yes, and as I said, we're seeing more of these where it's coming directly from companies. Or the other thing that's springing up now that's interesting are there are a lot of recruiting firms that, even the big recruiting firms are moving more towards helping their clients find interim executives.

The other piece is what they're looking for is a seasoned executive, not a newly minted MBA; they want someone who actually can hit the ground running and has faced this problem before and will work with their in house team all the way through to completion. And there is actually … I recently spoke with someone with a company called Point B - fascinating company. They're kind of turning the consulting model around in that instead of having people be road warriors, they go into an area and do consulting. They hire people to work for them as consultants, and then they go into the various companies as the point person to run the project within the company. Their average cycle, I think, is three months to a year onsite.

They started out, interestingly enough, in Seattle, and their biggest customer there was Microsoft, and I think another one of their big customers is Starbucks.

PETER: Interesting. I have seen that trend as well with companies who really can't afford to bring in that level of executive on a full time basis, but if they can bring them in for 3-4-6 month project, they're finding a lot of success with doing that.

Kathy: It's a great model because #1, you've got buy in from the employees; it's not something where you've got somebody who knows very little about the inside politics of the business coming in and telling you this is what needs to happen and then going away and expecting somebody to wave their magic wand and make it all happen.

PETER: Right, and there seems to be a shift. In fact, I interviewed Linda Stewart, who runs a company out of Boston, which is called EPOCH, where what she does seems very similar to what Point B is doing, is she identifies and vets senior level executives to go in to organizations to do project-based work. And these executives have made the decision that this is what they want to do; they're really not looking to get into fulltime work again or work for one particular organization, they like doing this project-based work.

Kathy: Yes. And I think there are more and more people that are finding that and I think, you know it comes from (1) I think the fact that all of us watching 401K turns into 101K and realizing that we're going to be working for longer than we originally thought and want to do something that's on a project-basis and realize that we probably won't get hired by a Fortune 50 company again because of our age and because it's a big expense that nobody wants to talk about is we're so expensive to insure, and so I think you'll see more and more of this interim executive play out.

PETER: One thing we had talked about last week was the fact that you were telling me that you were getting so many first time job seekers at Netshare who had always been recruited and never had to go out and look for a job – and we're certainly seeing that here on the East Coast as well – very highly accomplished, very professional executives who don't have a clue to how to get a job, right?

Kathy: Exactly. It's been an interesting phenomenon because in the past, while we used to see that in pockets, the most common would be someone who had been a VP of manufacturing in a particular industry and all that manufacturing had been outsourced, and they were people who had been in their job for 20-some years and now suddenly they had no idea how to find a job. Now we're seeing a younger demographic, as well as people, who have always been recruited, they've always been hunted, they've never been the hunter. It's sort of a brave new world and a scary one. I think it's especially scary and somewhat disorienting when you're a senior executive because you're used to having everybody return your calls and feel like all of a sudden that stopped, and you're used to having people seek you out and you have no idea how to go about creating, even the persona that you once had as a sought after executive.

What we try and teach and help people do with Netshare is it's kind of like what we talked about last time, about dead moose on the doorstep idea. The idea is what we want to do is teach people how to build enough presence so they can either find that interim job that will tide them over and help them to bring some income in until things turn around, or they decide that that may be their career, or they find a regular job because that job was created for them. The way you do that – I mean it's the same principles it's always been in which, in my opinion is really this sort of multi-pronged approach that includes yes, you respond to job listings. Again, there are still job listings, there are still good job listings and you should respond to those, but you should not rely on hearing about openings. You should work on (1) … the greatest line I heard recently was when someone said, "no matter what your job was before, you're in sales now." And you have to think of it that way, you have to think of it in terms of I'm a product, what's my unique value proposition? What is it that I do? It's not I'm a CFO; it's I'm a person who can take mergers or acquisitions and integrate them properly and make sure … but it's that skill that runs through all the jobs you've ever had. And in many cases, it's the passion that you've had throughout your career. That becomes your brand or your unique value proposition, whatever you want to call it.

So you look at it first from that standpoint. So now you've identified what your product is. Then you look at okay, who needs my product? Who is it that's doing the kind of work, right now it may not be acquisitions to much. You know, what my market is, what my target companies are? I always used to say that originally we talked about it, that it's either you can make me money or you can save me money, and now it's can you stop the bleeding?

PETER: Yeah, I think that's a very unique perspective and that's certainly something that has just over the last six months become a reality out there.

Kathy: Yeah. So what you have to do is think about okay, who is it that you can be the answer to one of those or one or more of those questions and those become your target companies. That may be geographically based, because many people don't want to relocate. It may be industry based, because in this market, it is often easier to find something in an industry you've already been in. If you're trying to transition, there are ways you can do that; they're a little bit different. Because that again, you're not selling, I'm a CFO of an automotive company; you're selling, I'm a CFO who can make companies work together properly. So that could translate to any industry.

What we do is we try and teach people how to do that, how to figure out what their target companies are and then who do they need to know in those companies, because people hire people. You want to get in front of the right people so that you can get either the job created for you, or the temporary job, or even hired for a job that they might have that's open. But again, it's much more proactive than reactive, and I think that's the big news in the way things are now.

PETER: I was reading your blog this morning and one thing really hit me, an article you have that's titled "The Sweet Smell of Success." I think here's another trend that we've never seen before, and you write about this one member who had four job offers rescinded because of the economy, and that fortunately for this individual, the fifth one struck. What were some of the takeaways from that person's experience that you could share with us?

Kathy: I think one of the most important things is that it points out that people have a tendency to want to pursue one thing to the end and then you always start back at zero. So it means that you always want to run parallel strategies. You always want to pursue parallel companies. You don't want to assume that just because you're close on this one, that you don't need to keep pushing on this other one over here.

PETER: Yeah, that's so true, because how devastating would it have been if this person had only one thing that they were percolating along and they got a job offer and then the next day it was rescinded. I mean that would be devastating.

Kathy: I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, well you know I'm going to cancel my Netshare subscription because I'm really close, and then two weeks later, they say well, that kind of fell through so I really need some more help. It's sad but true, is that that happens.

The other thing that's going on right now is it's taking a long time to get an offer.

PETER: Yeah. I've heard that so often lately, Kathy, that companies just are not pulling the trigger. They're getting right to that point of sending out the offer letter and it's just not going out.

Kathy: Yeah and you know, I think a lot of it is that there's just such a hunkered down mentality in everybody. I was talking about it this morning, it's like I'm afraid to turn on the news. Maybe it's also because of what I do; I spend all my time talking to people who are in that situation, but it's also all over the news. All you hear about is this sort of bleak picture, so it becomes I think that's one of the reasons that companies are so hesitant about making a decision right now. I think we all are. I mean it's like any psychiatrist will tell you the best way to get out of depression is by action.

So that's why what I feel doing this much more proactive approach of figuring out who you are, figuring out who the companies are, researching the companies so that you understand what they need and going in and really supplying them with the answer to where their pain is. Because if you can do that, I think you're going to get hired a lot faster than if it's a job req that they've had open and now they're kind of trying to decide whether they really want to fill it.

I've heard estimates when I was talking to someone about Microsoft and the number of people Microsoft had laid off and how it seems like such an enormous number. But in some cases, it was actually position requisitions that they couldn't fill, so they just pulled the position reqs back. It's kind of an interesting … it's sort of how you play with the numbers. I think that … you know it's not actually people coming out on the street; it's the companies being more hesitant about expanding.

PETER: I want to go back to this Sweet Smell of Success article that you wrote for a minute because first of all, it's a great story, but I'd really like to know what this individual did to have five live job offers in place. What were some of the really successful techniques that they used?

Kathy: Well, a lot of it I know in their case was networking and making sure that they were in touch with everybody they could. I think that's critical, and that's one of the reasons that we've started, as I said, as many networking groups as we have. Also again, it was perseverance, and in this particular person … I mean what we took this from was his own letter to me about what he was doing and a lot of it was … he was actually taking that attitude of what it is that will sell you. He was looking at again, in his own words, he was networking. He was not being so selective about the companies that are targeting, and he said your best option may be in a different industry or location, so you want to keep your options open.

It used to be when it was more of a buyers market you could say, you know, I don't want to relocate, and people still say that and many people have really valid reasons. I think that you never want to be in the position that you start out narrow, you want to start out wide and narrow if you have to. Because the wider you … again, it goes back to the same thing, the wider the net, the more opportunities you're going to pull in.

PETER: It seems to me people have to be more flexible and think in more flexible ways than they ever have before and as you say, have a very wide net out there. You know, if they really need to shorten that period of time from being unemployed to getting that next position.

Kathy: Yeah. In his case, he also went back to former employers and talked to them, and I mean that was something a little different than what a lot of people do.

PETER: That's interesting.

Kathy: He had a really strong sense of what his value proposition was, what we talked about before, and how to pitch it. Again, he was really working on where's the pain, how can I get rid of your pain. Because it's just … again, it comes back to sales, it comes back to marketing; you have to understand where the pain is and how you can solve that problem.

One thing I tell people a lot is that if you can come in to a company as a solution to their problem as opposed to a job seeker, that's a totally different kind of interview that you're having with that person or a totally different conversation. If somebody can come in to me and really talk to me on a consultatively basis as opposed to I want something from you, it does a lot of things. Number one, it makes me realize that (A), they've done their homework, (B) they get what my business needs, and they're talking to me as a peer. They're not talking to me as you know, somebody with hat in hand looking for a job. They're talking to means a peer, and I'm more likely to think of them in terms of a peer, to build a relationship with that person, even if I don't have something right now, I'm going to think of that conversation. I may have a project for them, I may have something down the road that that will turn into.

PETER: Yeah, I think that is so critical now, and you're so right; you have to go into these interviews, it's not about you, it's all about them and what are you going to be able to do to solve the immediate problem or the immediate pain that that potential employer has.

Kathy: Yeah, and so many people go … it's like the old adage in marketing, features don't become benefits until somebody wants to pay for it. I don't care that you did all of this unless it's of benefit to me. Too many people go into interviews as though … the other analogy that I like to use is it's like being a salesperson who goes in and throws every brochure down on the desk and says tell me what you need. That's not my job. It's not my job to go through all of these brochures and tell you what I need. Your job is to figure out what I need and come in and sell it to me; and too many people think that if they go in with this sort of all purpose resume and put it on the desk, your employer is going to figure out where they would fit. And that might have worked in the old days, but it certainly doesn't work anymore.

PETER: One other thing you put in this blog post that I thought was great advice was to get at least eight LinkedIn recommendations.

LinkedIn – let's face it – has really become a very powerful tool for anyone to do a better job of marketing themselves and promoting themselves and being out there where recruiters can actually find them.

Kathy: Yes, and what we're finding that's very interesting is that we're seeing that it used to be mostly recruiters that were sort of trolling LinkedIn, and now we're seeing a lot of companies go out and look through LinkedIn. We're seeing far higher registration of companies to submit jobs to us than we are recruiters, because they're trying obviously like everything else, they're trying to cut the cost of hiring. So you want to be noticed.

Again, you bring up a great point with LinkedIn. One of the things that I try and do is to help NetShare members is we have LinkedIn groups, but I also invite a lot of members into my personal LinkedIn group and my personal LinkedIn network. What I try and do is if I know that it makes sense for me to introduce them to someone else, I'll introduce them to that person. It's about making those kind of connections and about getting that visibility.

Another one is having a blog. If you like to write, put a blog up there, because you want – again, you want that visibility. You want that get to the top of the search engine kind of thing. You want to be the subject matter expert because if a company is feeling pain in a particular area, like they're converting to SAP, and you can talk about SAP and about how that effects the company all the way through, all the way down the line in your blog, then you're going to come up in a search on Google.

PETER: You're so right. If everyone, every recruiter, every company these days, before they hire someone is going to put your name in the Google search field, and you better come up. That's all I have to say. Because if you are invisible on Google, you are truly invisible.

Kathy: Yes, and today it is all about showing up somewhere so that people can find you.

PETER: Back to the LinkedIn. You spend your time putting a very good profile together on LinkedIn because when somebody does a search for you in Google, if you have a LinkedIn profile, it will come up on the first page of that search because LinkedIn is so highly ranked within Google.

Kathy: Yes, exactly. Another just quick aside to say as far as LinkedIn goes, another thing that I suggest to members is the importance of joining groups on LinkedIn.

For example, let's say when we were speaking earlier about someone who wants to transition, and in this case, this particular job seeker had talked about not limiting yourself to industry; one of the things you can do is join LinkedIn groups that are centered around particular industries. Let's say you want to transfer from one industry to another; go find the groups that are in the industry you want to follow. The interesting thing about that is it makes it very easy for you to link to executives who are already in that industry, and so again – and get more information, you ask questions, you talk about it, and pretty soon … it's like the same thing with showing up at industry functions when you're trying to change industries. Pretty soon you've been around there so many times they're going "oh yeah, I know Peter; Peter has been in this business for years…" It's getting out there, being proactive and again, making sure that people know who you are and what … even as much as knowing who you are, what you are and what you stand for and what your value prop is.

PETER: Kathy, this has been a very interesting and informative conversation. Is there any last minute advice you'd like to share with those who are in a career transition right now?

Kathy: Keep the faith (#1). It is going to get better, and it's just about not letting the sense of hopelessness get you down, and I think it's important to get out and get away from your computer and turn off the news once in awhile too.

PETER: Yeah, no kidding.

Kathy: So I think the biggest thing is to make sure that you're doing everything you can to develop your brand or your value proposition and get it out there, get it in front of people, and don't hide behind your computer.

PETER: Kathy, thank you again for taking time to speak with us today on Total Picture Radio. It's been great to have an opportunity to catch up with you.

Kathy: Good to talk to you again, Peter.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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