I was riding the bus recently and a gentleman who seemed to be around the same age as me sat in the seat next to mine. He started reading a book called Treasure Hunt: Inside the Mind of the New Consumer. The title immediately prompted my interest, so I cautiously interrupted him to ask what the book was about and why he was reading it. I found out that he worked for a youth engagement company and he was researching new ways in which young people communicate both on and offline.
In our short conversation, we discovered that we not only have a number of mutual acquaintances, but that in our respective jobs, we struggle with a number of the same challenges. We took this as an opportunity to exchange business cards, and we committed to sharing resources and tips with each other in the future.
I think what this experience demonstrates is that we can’t be afraid to proactively engage with people, whether on the bus or not, and that in terms of career development, you have many opportunities to network with people beyond strictly “networking events.”
It is very rare for strangers to talk on the bus. I would almost argue that this type of engagement is almost none existent. You’re supposed to get on the bus, look down, read your book, play on your iPhone, but certainly not talk to the person next to you.
For some reason, we’re hesitant to simply strike up a conversation with someone unless we know we have something in common (e.g. went to the university, same profession, etc.). Somehow, we forget that the thing that we have in common is that we’re both humans, and we have the gifts of speech, the ability to reason, and social intelligence, that exclusively human capability to navigate and negotiate complex social relationships.
Not only that, we forget that there’s the potential to learn something in every encounter we have with somebody new. That’s pretty awesome when you think about it. I like how Jeff Haden puts it: “You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspectives and points of view. That stuff isn’t important, because it’s already yours. You can’t learn anything from yourself. But you don’t know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who they are, knows things you don’t know. That makes them a lot more important than you–because they’re people you can learn from.”
From now, make an effort to find ways to engage with new people; you never know what new connections or new knowledge you’re missing out on.
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