Networking is an art. Just ask J. Kelly Hoey, a lawyer, entrepreneur, investor, author, and expert schmoozer. The author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships In a Hyper Connected World chatted with SWAAY about the networking learnings she’s picked up throughout a life filled with DIY-community building and purposeful mingling.
Hoey, who began her career as an attorney, said she learned from her own professional shift towards legal management that it took “18 months to build a network of vibrancy, trust and strength.” In her new role, Hoey built programs for junior attorneys, a global women’s initiative and global alumni program, all while bouncing ideas off a community of mentors she had built.
“In each case I was given next to zero resources to make things happen,” says Hoey. “If I hadn’t build strong internal relationships with not only the partners in the firms (my bosses), the associates (my clientele), and my peers, there’s no way I would have gotten what I got done in five and a half years.”
After co-founding a startup accelerator and holding a role as an interim CMO with a startup, Hoey then moved to becoming an influencer, author and investor. After so much varied experience helping to build the companies of others, Hoey said she was ready to document all that she had learned, and reach the masses.
“When I started telling people I was going to write a book, it was this collective sigh of relief from my network,” says Hoey. “They all wanted me to do that for years.”
“Sometimes when you think about what you should be doing, look around and see how your network responds," says Hoey. "They may see the potential before you do. Maybe it’s that outside verification or maybe they see something in us and it gives us confidence, or maybe we never looked at ourselves that way because of our own blinders we’ve put up. Either way, pay attention to your community.”
Hoey began blogging and created a newsletter to get her advice out, but soon realized there was much more she wanted to share.
“I needed a way to scale the advice I’m constantly asked for because there are only so many coffee dates I can go on,” says Hoey with a laugh. “It was just not proving to be enough. I needed to consolidate it all in a book. The book solved my frustration with a lot of networking advice out there that promises ‘How Introverts Can Network Like Extroverts’ or “10 Ways To Become An Expert Networker in One Day.’ If it were that easy we would all do it."
Here are eight of Hoey’s simple rules for networking success.
1. Be Picky
Pick your networking opportunities for times when you know you can really dive in and give them a lot of attention. Get involved, ask a lot of questions, make suggestions. Really assess how your involvement in any organization or event can enhance your career. Think about your levels of engagement and what makes it meaningful and helpful for reaching your goals. What you get is what you give, so make sure wherever it is that you are giving your energy, time, resources, and focus to will have results that make it worth it to you.
2. Engage Your “Why” Filter
I believe networking is all about problem solving. What’s the goal? What’s the focus that you have right now? Do your actions somehow contribute to that? If you decide to go to a conference you must know why, and be aware that the "why" changes. Do your research. There is an abundance of events and you have to cut through the marketing clutter. You need to find the secret menu. See what the value is and go from there. The one thing we haven’t been able to hack is more hours in the day. So always ask yourself if you are spending your time wisely, because you have a life to live and a company to build.
3. Align And Update
If you are a founder or business owner then that’s what you are across all platforms. I think the number one mistake these days are when founders have profiles that read they are a founder, speaker, writer, and a million other things. If you have a scalable business model then you should portray and network yourself as doing one thing and that is building that business. Remember that networking is every single human interaction. From your email signature to your Twitter to your LinkedIn headline, it should all match and be one message. Also make sure your social and your website are all up to date. It’s your business, so make time to do it. Investors don’t want to hear “I didn’t have time.” You will be in a better position to have people help you market and build your brand if you’ve done it for yourself.
“Always keep in mind that only one to three percent of founders who have an opportunity to pitch angels or vcs ever get funding. You have to be strategic. Have communications that show what you are doing to build your business. Hold their interest so they come back to you on their own.”
4. Sync Your Info
If you see a job that interests you, first search to see if you know anyone there. Remember that the power of LinkedIn comes from having a full profile. Also remember that human resource teams will be checking your credentials against the resume you submitted so make them identical, at least in dates. They will also be checking your resume with who you know. Have the right keywords in your profile to attract recruiters looking for candidates with your expertise, and make sure to follow the companies you are interested in. If you think you don’t know someone at a particular company, follow the business on LinkedIn and see if there are any former employees in your network. Even if they no longer work there you can reach out and ask for pointers.
5. Ask The Real Question
Don’t be afraid to say what you really want to say. When you ask someone just to "catch up” it can be very frustrating. Pussyfooting around will not get me on a call. Think about who in your network are those mentors who make up a strong sounding board and say “Can I chat with you? I’m applying for a job and wanted your feedback.” They may know people at that particular company. It’s also good to get hyper specific. Think of it like shooting practice. If you tell people where your bullseye iis it gives them a radius to help you. Mentors don’t know where to aim with a general “I’m looking for a job.”
6. Weed Out The “Death Eaters”
Those people who suck the life out of you I call the “death eaters.” Sometimes, as a founder you just need to be able to say no. I like to say "no" is a complete sentence but of course you have to be more tactful. When you have a lot on your plate, stay focused on what you need to do to grow your business and decline politely if you realize this person is not adding value.
7. But Don’t Cut All Ties
It's harder when you have someone who has been helpful. Sometimes you have to just accept the upside with the downside. If the person has been a great mentor or done a lot for you in the past, you don’t need to cut them off completely just because the relationship is less helpful at this moment. Perhaps just move it to weekend or a brunch, sometime outside of the times you are working.
8. Research Your Investors
Research the investors you really want to get way before a fundraise. Think of the people who are going to help you grow your business. Come up with an edited list of the ideal investors and where you fit in their fund. After you have a list get online. See if they have a blog, or newsletter and subscribe so you get to know their communication style. Check out their website, follow their Twitter accounts. Start to get to know them as individuals, because in an early fundraising stage we are investing in the individual, and its best you seem them as such as well.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."