Interior Designers: You Should Embrace Networking
By Lindsay Field Penticuff
Kelly Hoey didn’t start her professional journey as an author, speaker, and networking expert. In fact, she started out as a corporate attorney, practicing for 11 years before moving laterally into a role that would eventually take her career on a path to being the first president of a global network for women.
And there, she says, is when things kind of “blew open” in terms of her exposure to broader and different networks, exposing her to new skills and talents to build her career.
Hoey’s book, “Build Your Dream Network,” came out in 2017. It’s a modern roadmap that helps readers create and cultivate meaningful connections so that they can stand out from the crowd and achieve their goals—big or small.
“You hear the word networking and there is all sorts of baggage that hangs on it, and all sorts of ideas of what it is, how you do it, the context and what it means,” Hoey says. “And for some people, you hear the word and it’s a horror story, and for others, they think it’s a party and it’s great.”
She first realized this in the early 1990s not long after starting her legal career. At that time, she determined there are two forces to success, but they were diametrically opposed: billing hours, which meant you were behind a desk a lot; and building relationships, which required face-to-face interactions.
“These things were in conflict,” she continues. “That’s when I started saying that every phone call matters, every email matters, every letter matters. Remembering things about the clients or potential clients matters. I changed my mindset. How you show up every day and how your reputation precedes you by how you routinely engage with people typically matters more than how you show up once.” J.Kelly
And it’s forming these relationships—with clients, peers, and the community—that Hoey believes interior designers should embrace.
“Ideas and innovation come from engaging with networks, in particular diverse networks,” she says. “And by diverse, I mean people who are cutting across industries and sectors; not everyone doing the same work you’re doing. You can get ideas from not just staying within your really hyper-focused niche.”
Other benefits of networking include finding mentors and support, gaining new opportunities with your profession, collecting feedback that can encourage you to explore and expand your profession, and mental and physical health and well-being.
“Engaging with networks, even if they are an acquaintance level, does a lot, in particular, for our mental health. And, I think we could all probably recognize that after the last two and a half years,” adds Hoey.
When thinking about the best ways to find networking opportunities that fit you, Hoey says you have to consider what you’re hoping to achieve with these networking ventures.
“When I’m thinking about someone in the design industry, and they are thinking about their network, I recommend they audit the network they have,” she says. “Do they have enough industry colleagues in it? Are they aware of what’s going on in their industry? Specifically for the interior design industry folks, having that broad network and peers in the design industry, that’s your professional growth.
You’re going to get insights on vendors. It will help speed up your learning and your discovery of things when it’s coming from these verifiable sources.”
But what if you get nervous or anxious about going into a networking setting?
“Think about why you’re walking into that room full of strangers,” Hoey says. “What is the gap in your networking, knowledge or business that you made you say to yourself that you have to go do this? Once you know why you’re walking into the room, you’ll understand why you’re doing it.”
When writing her book, Hoey also included case studies of how people have grown their businesses, changed their careers or moved up in the corporate ladder thanks to networking opportunities.
“It turns out that most of the people I interviewed for my book are introverts,” she says. “And my theory is that in this day and age, where we have so many competing demands for our attention and our time, people who are more considerate, focused, intentional and purposeful in how they engage and how they reach out are better network builders than the person who is the life of the party, so to speak.”
To learn more about Hoey, visit jkellyhoey.co. She will also be featured on an upcoming podcast—Designing Your Business—with host, DSA member and interior designer Amanda Arcone.