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Career Conversations: New to Networking? Here’s Advice from an Expert

Career Conversations

Eric HernandezBy Eric Hernandez, Customer Success Manager, CareerBuilder

In our busy lives, having a reputable network has become a huge part of our professional lives. Networking can provide a range of benefits, such as exploring a new career path, starting your career, and even starting new friendships.

Networking—or as I like to call it "just a quick chat"—presents itself in multiple ways: one-on-one meetings, attending an event, connecting via social media, or even talking to someone you ran into in a public setting. Any situation that involves interaction with other people presents an opportunity to build a network.

Go to Networking Events

Everyone at a networking event is there for the same thing, so don’t hesitate to start the conversation. Focus on these three things: have a firm handshake, be straightforward, and look for opportunities.

  • Have a firm hand shake. A first impression is the one thing you can't redo in life. Giving a firm handshake gives your audience the impression that you are there for business. Let's face it, that's what networking events are for. Building business right!
  • Be straightforward. Don't feel embarrassed to jump right in, stick out your hand, and say "Hello my name is_____. I'm here for _________. How about yourself?" Give a chuckle or smile as well. Feeling confident and owning it is very important, and in this setting, you should feel both.
  • Look for opportunities. Remember, you don't want to come off as too aggressive, but you do want to start with a smile. If you're an individual looking for a new career, you don't want to sound like you are reading your resume to a total stranger. You want your audience to be interested in you and ask questions. During my career path, I have found that at network events everyone is looking for something! Either new business or a new career or free drinks. After this, the rest will fall into place!

Using Social Media

Call me old school, but I enjoy speaking with someone in person. You get much more from a one-on-one. You can read their body language, see how engaged they are, and if there truly is a professional connection. You don't get that luxury over a tweet, email, or direct message. You get the "PC" answer. As I mentioned before, confidence is key, but doing your research is just as important. This is where social media comes into play.

To me, doing my research isn't just knowing a person’s background that they share on LinkedIn. It's knowing what place they got in the race they ran, or what instrument they played during their garage band tenure. The more you know about someone, the more confident you feel. Why is this important? Because it leads to the best step: finding common ground and a connection. Doing your homework and finding that common ground is only going to make the conversation easier.

No matter the social setting or type of networking event, confidence, a firm handshake, and your research will better equip you for the battle ahead. Always remember, building your network comes in many ways and you will need to be able to adapt.

Eric Hernandez spent eight years working for a private staffing company as an account manager and lead recruiter. As a first generation immigrant, he has a passion to mentor young professionals to find their career path. With his strong network of financial institutions, Eric excels at guiding new graduates into their first employment opportunity. Currently, he is at CareerBuilder as a success manager, working enthusiastically with high-profile clients optimizing and automating their business processes. When he is not working, you can catch Eric at Wrigley Field cheering on his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. 

Career Conversations is presented by the Stuart School of Business Career Management Center.