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.


Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.

In a recent study conducted by, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.

Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of, believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.