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J. Kelly Hoey


New York, NY

If I wanted to advance my career, I had to get into the room where the decisions were made.

Back in 1995, I had a conversation with my boss, mentor and sponsor, who was a senior member of the bankruptcy and insolvency bar in Toronto. I’d just been staffed on my first restructuring, assigned to a large commercial real estate company that kept 200-plus lawyers busy in and out of court for nine months.

He asked if I'd noticed anything about the insolvency community. I had: they were mostly men. The judges. The lawyers. The accountants. The bankers. The trustees in bankruptcy. The people making the decisions on who got the next deal, case, or opportunity—all of these people looked like my boss, a 50-some-odd-year-old white man who plays golf.

Then he asked me if I played golf. How did I answer? "I’ll guess I’ll learn."

I realized what my boss knew: If I wanted to advance my career, I had to get into the room where the decisions were made. My credentials, ambition and abilities had to be visible. My boss was offering me the opportunity to participate in conversations that had previously been closed to me and to network with decision-makers. I leapt at the chance.

That brings us to 2013. Where is the opportunity to play “golf” going on? Much of it is still behind closed doors, but there are more opportunities for ambitious young professionals to be visible and proactively network so we can participate in or become aware of conversations happening between decision-makers. You don’t have to wait to be asked to join this particular game of golf. The opportunity is right there in front of you, it’s simply a matter of willingness to participate.

My question to you is, do you golf? Are you prepared to invest in your career and learn? If you’re already playing, what are you going to do to improve your game?