Networking is a loaded topic for many job seekers. Everyone knows they need to do it. However, most people have negative associations with it. But what if you could start networking in your everyday life without thinking twice about it? Accidental networking is a real phenomenon. Basically, it’s what I used to call “being a people person.” I always seem to be that person strangers talk to or approach for directions. Likewise, I have no qualms about asking someone where they got their shoes, if they like the book they are reading or what menu item they ordered if it looks appealing. Accidental networking isn’t meant to replace more traditional networking. But the value it brings can be impactful and it requires so little effort.
When people ask me about accidental networking, I like to recall a time when my friend and I had a random conversation with a group of people during lunchtime in midtown Manhattan. Once we parted ways, I looked at the business card one of them had handed me. I happened to be speaking with the CEO of a company I was interested in working for. Eventually, I followed up with him, had two interviews and received a job offer.
Accidental Networking in Everyday Life
Little moments of connection happen all the time… if you’re open to them. A brief conversation with someone while waiting in line at the bank or a funny exchange at a coffee shop can lead to larger opportunities.
Here’s a more recent example. Over the weekend, I was unexpectedly forced to take an Uber. I didn’t feel like spending a lot of money to get where I was going. I was pretty cranky. While the last thing I wanted to do was share a ride with a stranger, I selected Uber Pool to save a couple of bucks. The Uber arrived with a passenger already in the car. UGH. To my surprise though, we actually ended up having a really nice conversation. We discovered similarities in our professional lives and she has a friend looking for work that I might be able to help! You can bet we connected on LinkedIn right there in the Uber. I left the ride feeling so much better than when the car initially pulled up. In fact, I was thankful to have had the experience and to have made the connection.
When we don’t have blinders on or headphones in our ears, in a small way, these encounters at the very least are little reminders of a shared existence with our fellow man. If that’s too philosophical, then plainly put, they’re just pretty cool.
So now I’m challenging you! Be open, take your blinders off and embrace the small encounters for what they are. If you’re lucky, who knows where they might lead you.