Sean Hand, ’09, knows that networking can be awkward.
Everyone has fumbled a greeting with a bad handshake. Or endured a long pause, unsure of what to say next.
To make it more bearable to put yourself out there professionally, the La Salle University alumnus launched a website called Awkward Networker in 2015 to share the networking and relationship knowledge he’s gained throughout his career.
“(My wife said), ‘Aren’t you always talking about how networking is inherently awkward and all you’re trying to do is make it less awkward for yourself?’” said Hand, who studied international economics at La Salle.
This passion project started as a blog and has now expanded into a self-help book, That Was Awkward: 7 Secrets of an Awkward Networker, and public speaking appearances.
Hand’s expertise in networking, he said, started at 20th and Olney.
At La Salle, Hand got involved with the Students’ Government Association and the Ambassadors, and worked as a tour guide. In the classroom, he said the faculty’s hands-on and motivating approach kept the curricula interesting. “Economics is a difficult field. It’s so challenging,” he said. “But seeing how all the pieces fit together on a global scale, that was really interesting to me.”
He said his most vital experience came from the Leadership and Global Understanding (LGU) program. The LGU program is an academic minor that prepares students to become engaged citizens and civic leaders at local, regional, national, and international levels. Students are encouraged to be involved in the world around them, whether on campus, in the Philadelphia region, or abroad. The program led Hand, a Philadelphia native, to travel to Vietnam. Hand’s first time boarding a plane at the age of 19 landed in Hanoi, Vietnam.
La Salle also allowed Hand to flex his networking skills with outside organizations. He landed a role at Big 4 accounting firm KPMG through a connection he made while volunteering at a charity event as a La Salle Ambassador. Since then, he has advanced within the company to his current role—Senior Director of Business Development—and found a professional home for the last 14 years.
“(My wife said), ‘Aren’t you always talking about how networking is inherently awkward and all you’re trying to do is make it less awkward for yourself?'”
Occasionally, Hand combines his Awkward Networking work with his KPMG role by representing the firm at speaking events. He is lucky, he said, that the two roles complement each other. It allows him to bounce between two passions that ignite his creativity and productivity.
Hand has advice for anyone looking to build their networking skills: