#BeenThereLearnedThat with Kelly Hoey: Build Your Network

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By Kia Robinson

Kelly Hoey has a wonderful way with words and an even better way with people. In 2014, Hoey was listed as one of the top 100 most influential women on Twitter and there’s no surprise why. With over 20K followers, Hoey uses her 140 characters to share her passion for women in the tech space, entrepreneurship, startup companies, and the importance of strategically growing and tapping into your networks. Her vast experience in all these spaces led to her writing Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World, where Hoey delivers real and actionable advice on how to foster real relationships in a bustling digital culture.

For years, Hoey has been learning, growing, and executing networking strategies that have proven to be extremely helpful in her career. During our conversation, Hoey pointed out, “The biggest misconception is that you only need to network when you need something – hence why people dread or avoid networking.” She’s right. Networking isn’t just about what others can provide for you nor just about what you can provide for others. The art of networking focuses on how relationships can be mutually beneficial ensuring everyone wins in the end. Knowing when and how to effectively tap into your network is a skill many have yet  to master but Kelly Hoey is here to teach us how.

TLC spoke with Hoey about some of her biggest lessons, advice she’d give young adults, and tips on networking in such a digital age.

Graduating college can be a very confusing time as many are trying to navigate adulthood. What is something you wish someone would have told you as a recent college graduate?

You’re going to build a career at your own pace. You cannot control what others are seeking to achieve nor the point at which they achieve success – so instead of looking around comparing your career momentum to others, look inside. Stay focused on what you can control – developing your skills, being curious, building your network and pursuing your own career milestones.

What is one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

Be more proactive in seeking out critical feedback and drop the fear of receiving poor feedback. Feedback is essential to career growth. Without it, you’re left to wonder if “you’re on the right career track” and hesitant to stretch yourself by taking on new challenging projects.

You have a very admirable career journey and you’ve held many leadership roles in your career. While I’m sure there have been many, what is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?

Leadership is earned by the actions you take. It is not a title or destination: it is a position earned by the way you choose to pursue your career journey every day.

In a Forbes article written in February, you shared, “A single networking contact could never have opened all the doors or seen the potential in me that my actual network has.” To that point, what do you believe is the biggest misconception about networking and building relationships?

The biggest misconception is that you only need to network when you need something – hence why people dread or avoid networking. Networking is every single human interaction, from voicemail to volunteering. It is in those daily interactions that we truly connect with other people and build the foundation for our future potential. Those who engage with us regularly see what we are capable of as well as what we are committed to. If you were to change one aspect of your networking behavior, my recommendation would be to engage more fully with the people around you.

Today social media is huge part of communication. What are your thoughts on the intersection between networking and social media? How can people better leverage connections made on social media?

Start focusing on how you can be a better listener (which will make you a better communicator) on social media and stop worrying about how to leverage social media as a technology or marketing platform. Social media is another ‘networking room’ where people gather to connect. How do you interact with people in a social setting (such as a bar or cocktail party)? To me that is Twitter. When you start thinking of social media platforms in a way similar to physical spaces where people come together, it is easier to imagine how to “work the room”.

What encouraged you to write Build Your Dream Network?

My network. I wrote Build Your Dream Network to answer the question(s) on networking that I’m frequently asked. And the enthusiasm of my network for how I express myself “on paper” was the encouragement I needed to undertake the daunting task!

What are two pieces of advice you’d share with young adults who are planning to embark on their career journeys?

First, build your expertise. Be a life-long learner. Stay curious and make developing your career knowledge and skills your priority. Second, build your network. A network will take your career ambitions and goals much further than any help-wanted ad or job application form ever will. And a bonus third piece of advice: build your “yes-me” fund. This is in part financial, it is also banking goodwill in your community so you can exchange services or seek help from others when you’re seeking to change careers or pursue a new venture.


Kia is a recent college graduate that's simply trying to grasp the concept of "adulting". She enjoys hugs, quotes, a good book, and all things motivational. Her favorite book is The Alchemist and she can watch Girlfriends all day long.