The opportunity to network is all around you. Are you paying attention?
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Networking
Networking doesn’t just happen at formal networking events. In fact, most of the really good networking is all around you. You just have to be ready for it. I went to Sydney and Bali recently. I love travel, but I especially love international travel! And because my husband and I have different airline allegiances, I sometimes find myself meeting up with him at our destination – as was the case on this trip. Sometimes when you travel alone, the opportunity to meet really interesting people can be so much greater. Do you have any idea how many people you can meet on any given trip?
Let me give you a little glimpse into where the opportunities might lie.
The first person I met was at the Red Carpet Club Lounge at LAX. We were both headed to the coffee machine. But this was no ordinary coffee machine. This looked like you needed some type of Masters of Barista Science from Starbucks University in order to figure out how to work it. As we were discussing whether either of us had such training (the answer was a resounding no), we took the opportunity to find out what each other did. His job was far more interesting than mine. He works for the President. Yes, the President! How cool is that?! I can’t wait to follow up with him – maybe schedule a lunch with him and his boss.
Then, on my flight, I met a woman who lived in Australia and had been to Bali many times. Got lots of good ideas from her. Plus, she had the inside scoop on our seats – which were too close to the cockpit and very noisy. We had an option to move to some other seats and she volunteered us. Boy was I lucky to have met her! On the train from the airport into central Sydney, my husband and I met a woman who works for the Tourist Board of New South Wales. She was nice enough to send us some great tourist info to our hotel.
On to our Banyan Bike Tour of the rice paddies in Bali (which was incredible…and a MUST DO if you’re ever in Bali). We met a photographer based in Australia (who could use the NSW Tourist Board contact), and his wife, who works for a charity based in Colorado (where I live). Then we met some other people who are moving to Portland, one going to work for a big advertising agency that works with Nike. Definitely a good contact there. Plus I’ll be in Portland in a few months, and it will be good to reconnect.
On the way home, I sat next to a really interesting man who runs Global Risk for a major bank. The conversation was fascinating, and his job is really very cool. He was extremely interesting to talk to (and both his birthday and anniversary are next week – so it’s a great opportunity to follow up with him). Plus, I met someone else a couple months ago who would be good for him to meet.
After that, while waiting for our bags at the pre-customs baggage claim, I met a guy who works for the company that makes Happy Meal toys for McDonalds. He’s from Australia, but based in Chicago. Seems like someone I should know. Then, in the line for customs, the guy behind me – turns out he runs a number of businesses throughout the world, but also used to run a CEO network in Australia and New Zealand. Might be a good person to know for when we go international.
Finally, on my flight back to Denver, I sat next to someone who manages a coal mine. This was really interesting because just two weeks ago, I met some executives from a mining services company – so I had a little more frame of reference for his business. In fact, he should meet the folks from the mining services company. I’ll get that set up for them.
I probably could’ve met a few people in the gate area, but my connection from LAX to DEN was really short and I made it to the gate just in time for boarding.
The point here is that there’s opportunity to meet all kinds of people. You never know who you’re going to be standing in front of or behind, seated next to, or hanging out in the same area. It’s not like I’m standing around introducing myself to everyone around me. But while people are just hanging out, they’re bored. They’d love to have someone strike up a conversation. You just have to be on the lookout for an opening. You have to have a friendly face on. You can’t be talking on your phone, emailing someone or listening to music. You have to be in the moment. Completely aware of your surroundings and the opportunities they present. Because trust me, these opportunities will present themselves to you. Maybe it’s time to start paying attention.