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Book review: Expert advice, stories in ‘Build Your Dream Network’

build-network“If you think you are the smartest person in the room, you are truly an idiot.”

That’s some of the advice that J. Kelly Hoey teases from her fellow networking experts in “Build Your Dream Network,” available in paperback for the first time this year.

Hoey wants readers to know that successful networking is not just schmoozing with random strangers; rather, it’s about focusing on making powerful connections and thinking of networking as a way to solve a problem.

Using examples from her own career path, Hoey weaves a tale of how, at each phase of her career, she recognized that her existing network needed to grow in order to make the next phase possible.

Hoey describes her desire to move beyond being a partner in a law firm to a position where she could help other attorneys succeed. Her existing network wasn’t up to that task, so she needed to build an entirely new one, connecting with people on the management side of the legal profession. It took her 18 months, but she credits her persistent networking with a job offer at White & Case LLP for which she was the only person interviewed. She made her dream job happen by keeping in touch.

Later on, she became a member of 85 Broads (now known as Ellevate), a women’s business network, and before a year passed, she was the organization’s president. Her network connections continued to grow as her career and her networks kept changing. She began to make angel investments in emerging technology, eventually becoming a partner at Women Innovate Mobile, a startup accelerator.

Hoey says success found her because of the strength of her network, and because the people in her network know what she does. Reading her story can serve as a reminder of how vital networking is to an upward career.

Hoey’s progression from law firm partner to an angel investor who everybody wants to know is a great lesson, but part of what makes this book so ideal for someone wanting to really understand networking is the notion that hers is not the only story worth telling in her book. Instead of focusing exclusively on her own experiences, Hoey wants her readers to learn from the experiences of people in her network.

If you think about it, that’s what networking is. It’s not merely about you. Few people enjoy knowing someone who can’t stop crowing about their own greatness. An important part of successful networking is generosity.

That’s how entrepreneur and mentor of entrepreneurs Devon Brooks’ quote about not thinking you’re the smartest person in the room ended up at the top of this review. Hoey may even be the smartest person in her book, but because she’s generous, letting readers learn from others’ expertise, there’s no inkling that she thinks so.

Readers who feel that they need to start focusing more on networking will find practical guidance in this book. Readers will also find advice about how to choose which networking clubs to join, how to make human connections on social media, how to strategize so your connections can help you reach your goal, and common failures to avoid.

In addition to interviews with other networking experts, the book also features hand-drawn illustrations, an interesting, organic contrast from the cleanly-set type of the words. In a way, that reinforces one of the book’s lessons that as much as the technology used in networking has changed, it’s not as important as the fundamentals of what what makes a network successful: old-fashioned generosity, persistence and follow-up.

Build Your Dream Network
Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-connected World
By J. Kelly Hoey
TarcherPerigee. 256 pages. $15.

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