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17. How to Build Your Dream Network: Q&A with Author, Speaker, Investor and Networking Expert J. Kelly Hoey

· Career Planning Show

Networking expert J. Kelly Hoey is the author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships In A Hyper-Connected World (Tarcher Perigee/ Penguin Random House) and hosts the Build Your Dream Network podcast. A frequent speaker and source for networking insights, she has been lauded from Forbes (“1 of 5 Women Changing the World of VC/ Entrepreneurship”) to Fast Company (“1 of the 25 Smartest Women On Twitter”) to Business Insider (“1 of the 100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter”) and Inc. (1 of “10 Most Well-Connected People in New York City’s Startup Scene”). Empowering A Billion Women By 2020 included her on their list of the “100 Most Influential Global Leaders Empowering Women Worldwide”. A former corporate lawyer, she’s a Limited Partnership investor in two emerging tech funds, advisor to New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, and can frequently be found on Twitter @jkhoey. Her website is

Resources mentioned in this episode: “Build Your Dream Network” book by J. Kelly Hoey; and “Networks Women Need” upcoming book by J. Kelly Hoey.

This episode of the The Career Planning Show is sponsored by Staples Studio.

If you have a career planning question you'd like us to answer on The Career Planning Show, let us know via or at @AlexRascanu.

The transcript of the interview:

Alex Rascanu: Welcome to The Career Planning Show. Our guest today is Kelly Hoey. Kelly, how are you?

 J. Kelly Hoey: I'm really good, Alex. Good to see you. 

Alex Rascanu: Thank you so much for making the time to be with us. Kelly, would you be so kind to walk us through your career journey? 

J. Kelly Hoey: I went to the University of Victoria. I ended up doing political science and economics. I worked through university, you know, the variety of jobs that people probably imagine and think of, retail and receptionist and... oh, my dad's a veterinarian; I cleaned a clean floors and was weekend receptionist there for a while. Sorry, dad, that was my least favorite job of all time. Then I went off to law school. I did take, I'm gonna say, a year between undergraduate and law school. I was a legislative intern at the provincial legislature. That was a six month stint. The other six months I worked as a receptionist at a fitness club. And then I went off to law school. I had a internship in the Attorney General's office. I had a part-time job at an insurance company; I think there was something with filing claims. I remember they had a really good hourly rate that they paid me, but the work was terribly boring. Then I went off, after graduating from the University of British Columbia school of law as it was then known, I landed a articling job in Toronto. So my life, which had been decidedly on the West coast, became center of Canada at that point moving to Toronto and articled at a firm called Miller Thompson before moving to a firm called Osler Hoskin. While I was practicing law, I got staffed on a big corporate restructuring, and that was the big restructuring of Cadillac Fairview , the real estate developer. I had studied banking and insolvency in law school, but they needed someone to put in some hours and I had availability and it was kind of stumbling into a great area of law that I enjoyed for a while. Law was my career for close to 12 years. I then moved into law for management. I then became the president of a global business network for women. I co-founded a startup accelerator. I was the interim CMO for an emerging tech company. And then finally around my 50th birthday, I said, what's the thread here? And that's why I wrote the book "Build your dream network". 

Alex Rascanu: That's great. You have a number of initiatives going on right now, but if we pause for a moment and we think about "Build your dream network, forging powerful relationships in a hyper-connected world," which is a book that I very much enjoyed, you define networking as a way to go about solving a problem. And you explain that career goals need a  network plus action. How have you used networking effectively in order toget to where you're at right now as an author, a speaker, someone who really focuses on the area of networking to help others find fulfillment in their careers and advance in their careers?

J. Kelly Hoey: I think some of the ways [in which] I think about networking, Alex, dials back to when I started my legal career. And I think about networking in terms of how can you help others? How can you be of service? How can you be in tune to their needs routinely? And that comes from being a lawyer and in a profession which has an inherent tension on how you succeed. On one hand, you have to be doing the work and billing the hours and putting in the time. On the other hand, you have to build relationships to be successful. And both of those activities involve time. So, as a very practical matter, I looked at it and said, all right, how do you combine these things? You know, you can send a better email. You can simply ask someone how they are. You can pay attention to the signs and signals that you're getting from someone and if you incorporate that into your ethos and how you operate, you know, you can build relationships. You can build relationships that last, that don't involve schmoozy cocktail parties or grand investments of time. A lot of us are time-starved, but we care about other people. So I think it's being aware, seeing where you could add value and understanding that those micro networking actions, you know, sending a resource, acknowledging a promotion, remembering a birthday, those actions are very powerful as it relates to building relationships. 

Alex Rascanu: What are some of the tactics that one uses to make a very significant shift in their career, whether it's the kind of move that you made or someone making a very different shift because they find that that's something that they're really passionate about, something that they keep on doing after hours, it's something that they keep on going back to when it comes to them assessing what brings them fulfillment and where they see that they can add a lot of value in other people's lives. Can you share what some of the tactics are that one can use in order to make such a shift?

J. Kelly Hoey: Right. Well, first of all, realize that that kind of change doesn't happen overnight. The first tactical thing you have to do is get in that mindset. And, if you do that, then you're going to start planning forward to making that change. And this is where I'd say, all right, take a look at people who are already in the roles that you're seeking to move into. What's the skillset they have? What are the networks and organizations that they belong to? And what are they reading, thinking and talking about? So go and look, do you need to fill in some gaps in your resume by taking courses or reading books? You're your own best investment;  invest in your education and invest in the knowledge you need in that future role. Go and look and see, all right, what are the meetups, the groups, the associations, what are the things that people who are in roles that you want to be in? What are they attending? What are they listening to? Go to immerse yourself in that, so that when you do go and seek people to talk to about that industry, you've already immersed yourself in it. And then, when you've got all this information, that's when I'd start seeking out informational interviews. Because at that point, Alex, you can have more engaged conversations around why you're moving into that role, as opposed to, hey, I'd like to do this you know, hoping someone's gonna just, you know, sprinkle some magic career glitter on you and make the change happen.One of the case studies in the book where this happened further in his career is Joe Styler in that case study, page 75. He's at GoDaddy, but he was in a front-facing kind of customer service role  and he realized he wanted to move into a different area that involved a different skillset, different networks, both internally and externally, and a whole lot of different information that he wasn't absorbing on a daily basis in the position that he had. So what Joe did was "how do I improve my sales skills?" and he invested the time and found mentors to do that. He figured out, you know, who worked in that department at GoDaddy and built that internal network to do that. So that would be the equivalent of someone finding people and having informational interviews. But he really started talking to them after he'd invested time in learning and understanding what goes on in aftermarkets, and that meant spending his own time and his own dime, going to industry conferences to see what the industry was talking about. So he was on top of the trends and the development. So when he finally landed that dream role that he wanted to shift and move into, he was already up to speed. He didn't need a new manager to sit him down and say, okay, you need to join this organization and, by the way, you didn't do a lot of sales in your last role so we may get you some sales skills. No, he came fully equipped, he had support networks and he could just hit the ground running. 

Alex Rascanu: That's great. Given that you're covering one particular person's story which you shared in the book maybe we can go over another story and that's the story of Sandy Cross and how she was able to progress in her career within PGA of America. Are there a few things that stand out to you that perhaps could be useful for someone who is early on in their career and is trying to figure out what  are some steps that they could potentially take in order to progress within a certain field once they identify the particular field?

J. Kelly Hoey: Well, one of the things that's interesting with Sandy's career, her career has been at the PGA, but she started there and this is not in the book, but I know from talking to Sandy, she started there in a temp role. So you can get your foot in the door, you know, being curious, thinking where you can add value, this is where looking around and seeing what is going on, being proactive, that's where you can create these opportunities for yourself. And along sort of the similarity with Joe story, where can I find more information? I think we can enter temporary roles with a temp mindset. I mean, another case study in the book is Janet Hanson who was at Goldman Sachs. And she originally went there on one of those university work-s tudy kind of things and she was hired into a group that was doing work that she didn't like. Right? Here I am at this great firm, I have this great work study, but I don't want to be in this group. So she looked around to see what other groups were doing and she found that there was one that had lunch and learns, and she convinced the managing director of that group to let her attend. And he was very adamant; he's like, we don't have people from other groups. She's like, I just want to learn. He's like, as long as you don't open your mouth. And she's like, I won't. You know, what do you do to get in the room? And she kept showing up at these lunch and learns, taking massive amounts of notes, didn't say anything, and she ultimately got a job offer to come back in that group. So, you know, sometimes when you're in a temporal or your summer internship or work study, and it might not be perfect, this is where... where else in an organization, can you go and learn and build relationships and create opportunities for yourself?

Alex Rascanu: Speaking of women and advancement in careers, it appears that women who go far in their careers have structurally different networks than men who go far in their careers, as well as other women, and they use networks differently. This is something that you're exploring more deeply as you're preparing to launch your next book. What are some networking related insights or career development tips that you might be willing to share on this particular topic?

J. Kelly Hoey: Yeah, there's some really interesting research. Some new research plus a lot of old research on this, but some new research that really laid out in particular that successful women have in use two distinct networks. One is a broad, I'm going to say shallow in the sense that it might be more acquaintances thinking about like being at school and you're part of , maybe, you're studying economics and you're part of an economics group and you know people because of various activities in those classes, and maybe there's some other clubs and activities where you see them, but they're not your best friends and you don't pour out your heart and soul to them, but they might tell you about things that are going on. And because you're active and involved in your university studies, this information is reliable. That's that broad, shallow network. So these successful women, they have that network. They're there, they have visibility. They have their ear to the ground in those public flows of information. And they can see what's going on with people who are colleagues. And like I said, not your, not your BFF, but people you know and you see. They also have a narrow deep network of primarily other women who are like-minded and have diverse non-overlapping networks. So let's unpack that. That's like having your personal board of directors who also are pursuing their careers, who aren't just going to tell you, "Hey, Alex, you're the best thing ever. You just go for it." They're going to look at you and say, "yeah, that presentation was terrible. You got to up your game." Or they're the type of people who have information that you say I'm applying for a job at, you know, fill in the blank. They say, "I interviewed there recently, this is what happens in an interview." There are people who provide you with sort of non-public insider information or they have different networks they can tap and they do tap to give you that information. Sometimes people will say they have an inner network, but I'm like, "yeah, your friends and that you've had since grade school and your parents, they love you. And they're going to tell you everything you do is swell." This is a group of people who are going to give you some hard truths. This is a group of people who have your back in a different way. And it's interesting how the importance of that along with factors like grit and focus are really critical. And it's interesting, the number of women that I'm talking to, they're sort of like "Ooh, wow. I'm  kind of doing that Kelly." And I'm like, yeah, but this is what study after study is showing that successful women do this.  There's nothing wrong with being very intentional in planning your career. There's nothing icky or  Machiavellian or schmoozy about it. It's just start. 

Alex Rascanu: Yeah. And that makes so much sense. When I was young, I used to play chess. Strategic thinking and figuring out what pieces to move on the chess board plays out in the corporate environment. Be inspired by someone and, and learn from what they're doing, find a way to be part of their network. When you're inspired by someone, it doesn't feel sales-y. You're just trying to learn from someone who inspires you. If you can find something that brings you joy, and you enjoy being part of that group and it helps you advance in your career, then that's amazing, and you go home with joy in your heart right after having those encounters. 

J. Kelly Hoey: Yeah. I mean, I wish we could rebrand networking, the word, because then that's what I say to people. We need to rebrand it because there's no other word. Anything else sounds equally icky and obnoxious in my mind. But it's such an important activity.  When you're being intentional and direct in your networking needs, rather than thinking that is being something bad ,think about it this way. We are starved for time. We live in a 24-7 world. We have competing demands on our time. Those people who are much more thoughtful because they have thought through what they need. People who are much more purposeful and intentional in my mind are far better. Networkers. I think it's also understanding for all of us that. You can't build the career network you need, if you insist on having deep, emotional bonds with everyone you meet. There's just not enough time. There's not enough hours in the day, or the week or the year to do that, but you can be of service to someone else who you know on an acquaintance level. So particularly for women, we have to get comfortable with building -I want to say- acquaintance light- touch that broad narrow network and we need to get very comfortable in using it.

Alex Rascanu: That's great. One question I wanted to ask you was around your experience as an author, having written and published "Build your dream network" and you're now on the journey of publishing your second book "Networks women need"... are there any lessons that you've learned , things that you think worked really well and anything that you wish you never did, or it was just a complete waste of time? On the one hand, someone just needs to make a commitment and write the book. But on the other hand, there's so much more to being an author. Would you mind sharing some insights that you've gained along your journey of being an author? 

J. Kelly Hoey: I think the things that have surprised people, because lots of people have amazing ideas and lots of people are amazing writers... I think it surprises people the amount of the burden of selling and marketing the book, how that falls on the shoulders of the author, whether you choose to go with a publisher, or self-publish, or use a hybrid model. So things that you do throughout your life up to that point where you decide you want to publish are very critical. Do you have networks and relationships you can tap into who will want to promote you and your book? Are you familiar with digital channels and social channels, and do you have a presence there that when you announce you've got another book, you're not just yelling in an empty shopping mall so to speak. Those  things I'm going to say get your voice out there. When I started blogging, I didn't imagine it was because I was going to write a book. My motivation was entirely different. I started writing for national publications because my literary agent said "that's the one thing you haven't done; you've been quoted in national publications, but you haven't written for one. And before I submit your book proposal, you need to do that." There is this element of writing a book that it doesn't sit in isolation to all these other pieces and building blocks that you pulled forward from your career. So, like anything else, you've got to plan forward on these things. I sort of accidentally discovered... I had built the foundation to be an author without thinking I'd ever be an author... but the lesson from my publishing journey is start building those blocks before. We started this conversation talking a lot about people who are in undergraduate [studies], they're looking ahead. Those things you started doing when you graduated from high school and you thought, "okay, I'm going to go and do my undergraduate degree and it's going to be three years or four years ,and I'm going to study these things. And then after that, I'm going to do this." That kind of planning forward , maintain that muscle throughout your career. Think about, "okay, what's the next skill set? As I'm doing this thing I'm doing right now, how do I step into the next one by starting to get involved or reading those materials or starting to meet those people?" Maintaining that as a habit will really put you in good stead going forward. 

Alex Rascanu: Thank you. This has been very inspiring and insightful, having the opportunity to speak with you. How can someone be in touch? How can someone follow some of the work that you currently doing as an author, as a speaker, as a networking expert? 

J. Kelly Hoey: Well, my social handles are all active and busy. The ones with my name on it, that's me behind it. So if you message me on any of those it's me, and if you go to my website there's access to everything. My website is, and the blog there links to all podcast episodes, social handles, everything. 

Alex Rascanu: That's great. We'll definitely link to those social handles and your website in the episode description. Well, thank you so much, Kelly, for your time.

J. Kelly Hoey: This has been amazing. Thank you.

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