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by Sarah E. Needleman | March 10, 2009


Aspiring to the corner office often means actively managing your career. No matter what your job level, a little strategic planning can benefit your climb up the corporate ladder. Kathy Simmons is chief executive officer of NETSHARE Inc., a networking and career-services membership organization for senior executives based in Novato, Calif., with more than 2,000 members. (NETSHARE is a business partner of Ms. Simmons joined the organization in 1992 and had been its director of operations before becoming CEO in 2005. We asked her to tell us the books she'd recommend to those seeking to position themselves for a top-management job.

Here's the list of her picks, with her comments about each:

"Now, Discover Your Strengths"
By Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

"Understanding what your strengths are and what you bring to the table is a really important part of being able to position yourself for a CEO job. This book helps you look at what areas you're strong in. It's great for understanding yourself and other people. One of things I tell people when I talk about hiring it that people hire for one of two reasons -- either because you can make them money or you can save them money. "

"Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+: Your Insider's Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-Changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century"
By John Lucht

"[The author] offers a lot of very practical advice. He's been a retained recruiter for many years and knows the recruiting process inside and out. He focuses strictly on the high-level job seeker. He gives very practical advice on job hunting all the way down to how to write letters."

"Don't Send a Resume: And Other Contrarian Rules to Help Land a Great Job"
By Jeffrey J. Fox

"Coming from a sales and marketing perspective, the author teaches executive candidates to view themselves as a product and how to find a market for their product."

"$100,000+ Career: The New Approach to Networking for Executive Job Change"
By John Davies

"Executives are changing jobs faster than ever. The one constant in your life is going to be your network, and this book reminds us that networking can enrich your life in more ways than simply helping you get your next job or ahead in your current job."

"The Complete Guide to Executive Compensation"
By Bruce R. Ellig

"It's one of the few books that looks at executive compensation as part of the whole strategic business plan of the company. That's becoming even more important today because of corporate governance issues, changes in regulatory environment and the demands for transparency by shareholders."

"How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization"
By Jeffrey J. Fox

"It's almost a cookbook of how to become a CEO. The author has some great insights and offers a very pragmatic view."

"Leadership Secrets of the World's Most Successful CEOs: 100 Top Executives Reveal the Management Strategies That Made Their Companies Great"
By Eric Yaverbaum

"It's a book of several CEO biographies. Each biography focuses on a specific leadership trait and offers what are essentially fortune cookie-type tips that are easy to read. If you don't want to read one long biography, it's a great way to get individual tips from successful CEOs."

"Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't"
By Jim Collins

"It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that being visionary means constantly coming up with a new vision. [The author] reminds us that what made companies go from good to great was one idea."

"Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking"
By Malcolm Gladwell

"The takeaway I got from this book was how much we know without realizing it and how quickly our brains move and take in information without our conscious mind being involved. This book can help you trust your gut because oftentimes gut impressions are based on real information that we're not consciously aware of."

"The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century"
By Thomas L. Friedman

"It really shows the future and I think that's important for understanding your worth, how the playing field is leveled, how things are going to be changing and what we need to think about to prepare for that. One of the trends we're going to see more of in the future is multi-national corporations and boards. Truly understanding that the world is flat and what that means and having a global perspective is even more important than ever and will in many cases make the difference between being hired and not being hired."

"Good Night, and Good Luck"
Directed by George Clooney

"It's a positive example of the triumph of principles over pressure to compromise. It also demonstrated the leadership of the CBS News organization, which elects to stay true to its mission and its brand."


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