In a connected world, opportunities are more about who you know than what you know. Whether it’s a job, making a sale, or finding your next great new hire, you’d be a fool to miss some great opportunities to build your network.
With the growth of platforms like LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever to connect with folks. Unfortunately, we’re lazy and pretty much suck at it. It’s become too easy to click a “connect” button and try to build your network absent a real connection. Every week I get a bunch of requests to connect. Unfortunately they have zero context. No note. No explanation as to why someone wants to make the connection. That prompts a really fast “ignore” response from me.
But what about connecting outside of social media? It’s a lost art. Our noses are in our phones all the time and we miss opportunities to make great connections all around us. With a little effort, though, you can forge some great connections and build a network of people you actually know personally.
There’s one place I’ve found that’s better than anywhere else to build my network: the airport.
I spend a lot of time in airports. A lot. I recently spent 21 hours on planes to come home from Singapore. And that was just the return trip home. I could treat that as dead time (and many times I do – I watch movies, read books, and sleep). But if I have the energy, I look at it as a chance to build my network.
For example, when I was going from Chicago to Tokyo on the first leg of my trip, I stopped in the United Club to ask where their international business class lounge was. The guy in line in front of me was asking the woman at the counter the same thing. When she told him where it was, I remembered the location. He seemed confused though. I told him to come with me because I knew where it was.
While we walked, we chatted. It turns out he’s an executive at a global corporation. Hmm… most of my clients are global corporations. I asked what he did and what he was working on. He was headed to Africa to work on some major projects. When he asked what I did and I told him I ran a leadership training firm, his comment was “That’s funny… I was just speaking with my HR and L&D team about some leadership training needs we have. I’d love to learn more about your services.”
We had a nice conversation on our way to the lounge. I gave him a brief overview of our firm but then steered the conversation back to getting to know him as a person. There would be plenty of time in the future to send him information about our services. I was much more interested in getting to know him and the work he does. Once at the lounge and after a short discussion about how good the food was, I left him to his work. He went and took a seat in a quieter area but still where I could see him. I hopped on my laptop to do some email. A few minutes later, I received a LinkedIn connection request from my new friend. We looked up, smiled, nodded, and went back to work.
Now, I have no idea if anything will ever come of our chance meeting. But at least there’s a chance something could come of it. All because I decided to have a conversation with a fellow traveler.