The mysteries of networking – part three

Everyone tells you to ‘network’ to find a job. And yet the majority of us freeze at the thought of connecting with strangers to obtain information about careers. And it’s not just being shy. Most professionals who have made connections to establish business relationships find it difficult to translate those same skills to find a job.

Summer gives us an opportunity to ease into the process. We tend to think of networking as a formal meeting that involves lots of preparation in advance. There’s another approach that involves the chance encounter and spontaneous conversation away from the workplace. Vacation travel can offer unique alternatives to test your informal networking skills.

Last week while I was waiting for my delayed flight at Newark Liberty I observed a conversation between a pilot and a passenger in the boarding area. At first there was the normal exchange, sharing travel disruptions past, but that was followed with introductions, exchange of business cards and a more in depth conversation about work and life. Amid the chaos of summer travel two professional were networking.

It starts with curiosity and a desire to be continually learning.

While you are traveling, relaxing on a beach or hiking in the mountains be receptive to an opportunity for unexpected connection. Take a few minutes and disconnect from your electronics and observe your surroundings and fellow travelers. Test your ‘talking with strangers’ skills by noting something about an individual and initiate a conversation. It could be as simple as a comment to someone wearing clothing with a logo of your alma mater or favorite sports team.

These random conversations may not result in information directly related to your career advancement. But if you believe we learn from the wisdom of others, the conversations will yield valuable clues to experience, failure and success.

Nurture these informal connections along with those directly affiliated with your career field. Keep in touch via social networking. Never underestimate the value of your informal network to inform and influence your career choices.

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