J. Kelly Hoey On Cutting Through The Networking Clutter


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.

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How To Treat Yourself Like A Queen

Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!

I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.

The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.

Reflecting On Myself

Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.

This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.

Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!

1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.

This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!

2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.

Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.

3.) Appreciate how far you have come!

I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.

4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be

If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!

This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.