J Kelly Hoey – Networking Expert

Kirsty Turbott

I first encountered J Kelly Hoey in July when she spoke about networking as part of a virtual internship I was taking part in. I was immediately struck by her ability to captivate her listeners and how enthusiastically she spoke about her work. J Kelly Hoey’s talk was one of the first sessions I watched as part of the internship, and was by far the most engaging, and, in my opinion, the most inspirational. I took away so much from listening to her talk, and not just tips on how to network, but a newfound motivation and desire to connect with people. It was thanks to her advice that I developed the confidence to build up my own network and to reach out to other successful professionals that I admired. It was therefore definitely one of my first Notable career milestones, and an incredible honour to sit down (via Zoom) and talk to Kelly about her amazing career…

Kelly Hoey is an author, speaker and networking expert currently living in New York. She began her career in a corporate law firm where she spent eleven years working as an attorney, before moving into law firm management. She then became the president of a global business network for women, and finally got into the world of start-ups. In around 2014, Kelly explains that after stepping back and looking at “the common threads” throughout her career it became clear that building relationships and creating networks were where she thrived. She describes this as finding her ‘superpower’. She stopped ignoring what people always asked her for and embraced the fact that networking and building relationships was where she excelled. “Stop and see what your network sees in you,” she explains. What you may find easy or obvious, may be what your colleagues are struggling with.

So, why is networking so important?

“You hire or work with people who you know, like and trust.”

With so many people looking for jobs and opportunities, and so many people therefore applying, if your name can appear to be recommended by a reliable source, i.e someone in the company you are applying to knows who you are, you will be saving someone a lot of time, while also making your name stand out. Kelly compares this to when we are looking for a restaurant to eat at, or somewhere good to visit; in these situations, we would ask our network of friends and family for recommendations. Hiring managers are no different. “A spreadsheet list of all the qualified candidates is given to a hiring manager. They have a list of 10, 50, 120 names of qualified applicants.” How they chose the right person out of that list, as Kelly explains, is difficult and can come down to a completely random factor. So how then, do you make your name stand out? 

Kelly’s answer to this is to think to yourself, “if I’m qualified for the job, there’s an online application process, […] in parallel to this, let me find someone at the company who I can talk to about this.” By doing this, you are not by-passing the application process, you are simply “helping someone out on the other end.” You will help the hiring manager who probably doesn’t want to sit and look at all 120 qualified applicants’ CVs and cover letters and you will be getting your qualification off a spreadsheet and into a job. You are still being hired on your merits but helping the company and showing that extra desire and initiative at the same time.

Kelly also explains that when we are looking for a job, it is very easy to focus on our own needs. What we don’t often think about, is that the company and the hiring manager also have a need: a need to fill the position. If you can get your name on their radar, through word of mouth or through a reliable introduction, you will be saving them time. “If you know you’re qualified, and you know someone at the company, use it.” 

Kelly admits to taking a slightly different approach to networking. She explains that we shouldn’t think of networking as something we do only when we need a job. She believes, “networking is where we show up every single day.” 

Networking is how you present yourself and how you use your social media on a daily basis. It’s about building relationships and taking every opportunity to connect with people. It’s about how we interact with people and realising that social networking and “in real life” networking are the same thing. It’s about getting your name out there. 

As a first step into the world of networking, Kelly explains that the first thing to think about is all the ways in which people can find you (i.e LinkedIn, Instagram…) and are you using them to their fullest? For example, one networking fail that Kelly mentioned was not having a profile picture on LinkedIn. It sounds like a small thing, but really does make a difference. 

On the subject of LinkedIn, social media is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives, and especially this year, we would have been lost without it. For Kelly however, social media has always been one of her ways of connecting with people. When I first listened to her speak back in July, she said something that has really stuck with me and has given me a new understanding of social media; she said: “Twitter is the world’s cocktail party, so be a good guest.” 

I asked her to explain this slightly, and she explained that it’s about contextualising your networking. LinkedIn is the office, Facebook is for friends and family, and Twitter is the cocktail party. The information you would share, and how you share it, is different depending on your environment, “same information but the dialogue is different.” Essentially, how you interact with people is different depending on whether you’re in the office or the pub with friends. You might share the same information, but you would talk about it differently.

I also asked her about the changes she has noticed since networking went virtual. As you would expect, she pointed out how valuable social media is, and how over the last few months, even the most technophobic amongst us have turned to social media to stay connected. It is no longer just “something for the kids”, it’s how we connect and engage. 

Kelly went on to explain that, in her opinion, the people who are the most successful in terms of social media and networking, are the “amphibious” people; they are the people who move seamlessly between online and in person networking and therefore present themselves exactly the same way online and offline. They understand that you can build genuine relationships online without having met in person, and when you do meet them, they are the same as they are on their social media. An example of this is Kelly’s friendship with the author Tom Peters. They met on Twitter and after having followed him for seven or eight years, Kelly describes Peters as a friend and mentor, who even wrote the foreword to her book. Throughout their friendship, however, they have only actually met in person once! 

Furthermore, while this year has shown that social media isn’t just for teenagers, but is a very genuine and useful tool to keep us connected, one problem that the younger generation still faces though, is that being “digital first”, we lack the same understanding of human dynamics that the older generation has. Kelly goes on to explain that it is very easy to confuse the internet’s ability to immediately connect us with our actual ability to connect with people. For example, when we connect with someone online, it is easy to think “now we’re friends” when in fact, you’re not. In real life, you wouldn’t approach someone you’d known for all of five minutes and ask for a favour, so why would it be any different online? Building relationships takes time. Behind the emoji or profile picture, is a real person, something that perhaps our younger generation struggles to understand. 

I’m sure by now you will have noticed that Kelly Hoey gives some pretty good advice, so I was therefore curious to know what the best advice she had ever been given was. She said quite simply: “Don’t have a plan B. If you’re focused on plan B, you’re not executing plan A.” 

I also wanted to know how she has stayed motivated and positive throughout this difficult year, and after a pause, she said, “I know we’re going to be better on the other end. And I want to be part of that.” She compared this time of pause and reflection to the benefits of a gap year. This year has allowed us to truly think about what matters to us, the people we want to be around, and what we really want out of life. 

She does acknowledge, however, that tangible loss aside, there is an ambiguous loss that we are all grieving. Her example, and one that resonates a lot with my friends and me, is the loss of a graduation ceremony. We have all faced loss this year and we need to recognise it as a legitimate loss and grieve it so that we can move on and think, okay “what’s next?” 

Interviewing Kelly Hoey, as I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, was an incredible honour and I am still pinching myself ever so slightly! On behalf of the whole Notable Team we are incredibly grateful for not only the interview, but Kelly has also very kindly donated a networking masterclass for one very lucky winner and five of their friends as part of our charity raffle for CALM; I am sure this will be an amazing opportunity to bring all of your networking questions to the expert herself!


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