This week’s blog written by Jerry Acuff, CEO & Founder.

Chance encounters. We all have them—we sit next to someone on the train or stand in line behind a person when grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning.  How many of these could be missed opportunities for networking and connecting?

If we don’t engage that person, we might never know. But why should we talk to them—and perhaps continue to engage them? What difference can it make? As Whitney Johnson describes in her recent blog, An airline cancelled my flight and put me in a van. Along the way, I got lots of lessons on how *not* to network, it has the potential to be life changing.

Johnson explains that due to a cancelled flight, nine airline passengers were taken by shuttle to an airport about 2 hours away. During that shuttle ride, she and another passenger learned they lived within three miles of each other and he asked for a ride home. During that 45-minute drive, this fellow passenger, who was graduating in one month, shared his life story—his education, his major, where he grew up, what his parents did, and his own career aspirations. The whole ride focused on him—even though Johnson tried several times to initiate a dialogue.

Johnson said that during that entire ride, this student never asked anything about her, not even her name. And because he never asked her one question, Johnson didn’t share that she could have helped him with a possible job opportunity.

Talk about missed opportunities! That chance encounter could have led to an interview for a great job in his field. And he needed one! During his monologue, he mentioned that both he and his parents were concerned because he hadn’t landed a job and his parents were lamenting how much they spent on an expensive education at a private college.

Johnson contrasted this story with one about a childhood friend, who met his employer on a train ride. After talking, they kept in touch and now her friend is working at a job he enjoys—all because he took advantage of networking.

I think there are some great lessons we can learn from this story:

  • We never know what opportunities life might offer.
  • We should treat everyone as if they are important—because they are.
    • We never know who is connected to someone who could help us—or how this person just might ignite an idea that could make a difference.
  • Talking to others can be enlightening and educational.
    • Some of the best ideas have been adapted from other disciplines.

Open yourself to engaging others. It doesn’t have to be a formal networking event. In fact, your greatest opportunity just might be a serendipitous encounter when you get your next cup of coffee.