Share your peanuts: Networking on the road

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Now more than ever it is important for recent grads to leave their comfort zones and talk to everyone they possibly can.

Sure, we’ve all heard networking is extremely important to create opportunities for ourselves and it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

However, recent grads might limit themselves to network with others in their field or in close proximity (relatives, friends, co-workers, superiors, etc.) when endless opportunities are among everyday people – many of whom you have never met.

Let me share two great stories that have helped me tremendously in my search for gainful employment. Both are examples of connections I have made by speaking with two complete strangers in random places and each has generated beneficial results.

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Whether you're traveling for business or for pleasure, open yourself up to meeting new people. You never know if the person sitting next to you on that bus or plane could be your next mentor, boss or best friend.

Share Your Peanuts
During my umpteenth flight from Toronto to Halifax after a weekend jaunt, I had little interest in speaking with anyone. I wanted to plug my headphones into my iPod and slip away into a deep slumber. Luckily, my seat mate had other plans.

A lady soon appeared in my row and we began chatting. She is a successful VP of sales at a reputable firm in Toronto and knew a thing or two about the business community.

Our small talk soon turned into a full-blown mentoring session where she offered advice for a future career in business and marketing. We discussed career options, opportunities in furthering my education and personal experiences the entire flight.

Upon departing, she offered me her card and a few weeks later, we met for lunch. Her guidance came at a very important crossroads in my life and we remain in contact to this date.

The Guatemala Connection
It’s not everyday that you meet someone from your “neighbourhood” on a remote avocado farm in Guatemala. However, in December 2008, a friend and I were nearing the end of a backpacking trek around Central America.

We decided to spend a few days at an extremely remote avocado farm in Antigua. During our second day, a group of cyclists stopped in for the night as part of a week-long mountain bike tour.

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Canadian businesspeople travel all over the world. Networking can happen in the strangest places - like on an avocado farm in Guatemala.

We began chatting and I quickly learned that two of them own a cycling events company in Ontario that is a major player on the mountain bike scene.

Well, was I excited! (Not to mention a little taken aback by the realization that “it is a small world after all.”)

You see, I was always planning to become involved with the mountain biking scene upon moving home to Ontario post-travels and it felt as though these two fell right into my lap!

I picked their brains all night about possible opportunities with their company’s events and network of friends. They were also hilarious and not too shabby at Mad Gab so it didn’t take long for our encounter to turn into a friendship.

Since returning to Ontario, I remain in contact with them and we have made plans to work together for some of their events this upcoming season.

Both of these stories have the same message: never discount the opportunity to seek out connections when placed in a situation where new people come into your life, even for a short period of time. You can find some wonderful opportunities in the oddest of places, you just have to try. Everybody has a unique story and experiences that can be very beneficial to your job search especially in trying times.

Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to discuss your future goals and ambitions. You never know where it might lead…

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