The Power of Airplane-Networking

You wanted to check-in for your next flight, and only the middle seat was left? While most people might consider this bad luck, that “undesirable” middle seat could be the key to your future success.

Friday afternoon. It was one of these weeks, and I was gutted. I have never had so many ups and downs in seven days. I was completely unsure about what the future held, yet had to catch my flight from Dallas to New York City for the next super-busy week. I barely arrived on time and was glad to be finally seated and secure. However, it was a middle seat in a fully packed airplane; the worst seat you could think of. “This has been the worst week for a long time,” I whispered.

To my surprise, it turned out to become one of the most successful weeks in a long time. Why? Because of the power of Airplane-Networking.

After I had sat down my seat neighbor asked me why my week was so stressful; the opener for an intense three-hour conversation. It turned out my seat neighbor is the founder of a boutique hedge fund in NYC. I used to lecture about securities trading. He loves entrepreneurship. I have a Master’s in Entrepreneurship and am very involved in the entrepreneurial community. We both order food via “Hello Fresh”. You got it! In the three hours we had found so many common interests that it felt like having a friend that I have been known all my life sitting next to me. Eventually, shortly before leaving the airplane he offered me a full-time position at his company, the unlimited use of his office space in Manhattan for any entrepreneurial activity and the introduction to other people he knew that share our interests.

Well, that happens once in a lifetime, you might say now. I guarantee it does not!

Since then I have met countless awesome people in airplanes.

- A mining equipment entrepreneur from Chicago, who later on gave me great feedback on my projects.

- On my way to Dublin, an angel investor who took me to some of his investment talks.

- A back-end web developer from Austin, TX who is now a good friend and project partner.

- A Ph.D. engineer developing autonomous cars for Audi who connected me to his network.

- On a flight from Dallas to Frankfurt, a woman from the LIDL US expansion team. Since then I have been helping her learning German and understanding the German “way of work”.

Of course, these are just a few examples among many. There is not only a story to tell for every single flight, but also for numerous other situations I have had since then.

So why does that happen? The answer is easy. Nowadays everyone has a busy schedule with no time for anything or anyone, but there are situations where time is not a constraint: waiting lines, flights, car-sharing rides, the daily commute via train, metro and bus rides.

Situations like these are grossly untapped resources and provide major networking opportunities, which I have experienced firsthand. So, the next time you are in one of these situations, put your phone away, look to the person next to you, and remember “The Power of Airplane-Networking”.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.