Network without trying

Wiley

(MoneyWatch) Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. Waiting to pay for your dry cleaning. Sitting at your child's bus stop pick-up spot. All of these seem like boring stops in your everyday life, right? Not so, according to a new book, "Talk to Strangers: How Everyday, Random Encounters Can Expand Your Business, Career, Income, and Life." Author David Topus says these are all potential networking opportunities -- every bit as useful as a formal meet-and-greet events. 

Here's what he has to say about turning chance encounters into opportunities to gain information, contacts, or even a new job.

Why is casual networking -- done as you go about your day -- even more effective than the traditional kind?

Topus: You see the same people again and again at formalized networking activities, where in a random everyday situation you'll meet fresh people. Networking events also tend to attract people who are looking for things, not necessarily the people who have things to give out (like jobs and investments). Finally, people who have influence may tend to stay away from those kinds of events. When you meet someone in a random situation who is influential they are often less guarded.

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What are some possible networking venues?

Topus: You could meet someone in an elevator, standing in line in the supermarket checkout, at Starbucks, and certainly sitting on an airplane. You can even meet someone standing on the sidelines watching your kids play soccer. You never know who is influential -- you have to assume that everyone is worth meeting, and that you can improve everyone's life somehow. Approach everyone equally.

Why are planes such a great place to network?

Topus: When you're on a plane you have uninterrupted time. If you're sitting next to the person you clearly have lots of uninterrupted time with them. The environment is naturally conducive to random connecting. If you're sitting in first class, you [often] find people of influence.

How might someone initiate these random encounters?

Topus: Say something that is engaging and reasonably intelligent, and maybe somewhat revealing. If you're in a travel venue and someone has a big suitcase, you might say, "That looks like a long trip, where are you headed?" If you're in a coffee shop and somebody is working on their laptop, ask about the technology. "How do you like your MacBook Pro? What kinds of stuff do you do with it? What kind of work do you do?"

Do you practice this casual type of networking in your everyday life? Please share in the comments section.

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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