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.
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.