Serendipity is when what looks like a chance event results in a happy accident or beneficial outcome for you. It often defies logic and can't be easily explained.
But if you keep an eye out for serendipitous circumstances, you may be surprised by how often chance encounters occur that hold great potential to impact and shape your career. While serendipity might seem like mere coincidence, with keen observation and intuitive thinking, the potential benefits of following the leads it provides can be exponential.
Look at Google, for example. Nine months after the company's inception, co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page had to choose between focusing on their new search engine or their Ph.D. work at Stanford University. They opted to continue their studies and made an offer to sell Google to Yahoo for $1 million. Of course, as the story goes, Yahoo and a number of other companies declined.
Thanks to that fortuitous rejection, Google is now one of the most profitable companies in the world. It may not have seemed like a lucky development at the time, but if Brin and Page had sold Google, the Internet--and likely their bank accounts--would be very different today.
The key to capitalizing on serendipity is to stay open to it. Navigating chance meetings or situations by trusting your intuition to help you create deeper connections can turn random exchanges into viable business opportunities.
Here are three simple ways to identify and move quickly to take advantage of the opportunities spontaneous interactions may present:
1. Be alert. Seemingly chance encounters can crop up at any place and at any time. For business professionals, these experiences can happen on a flight, at a networking event, when following up with the author of an article you read, or even through a LinkedIn invite.
For example, when I worked for Apple Music, I became "pen pals" with musician Peter Gabriel and his manager, Mike Large. We had never met in person, but once, as I was getting ready to board a regular flight to LAX, I spotted both of them in the boarding area. No one else recognized them. After I introduced myself, we spent the entire flight catching up like old friends (and laughing at the items in the SkyMall catalog on board). That spontaneous run-in not only allowed us to deepen our existing connection, but it also led to exploring more business opportunities.
You can take steps to increase these types of chance encounters, too. Try hosting events that bring people from different departments or backgrounds together. The interactions among a diverse group of people can spark new insights and ideas for your company that might not have come to fruition otherwise.
2. Introduce yourself. Industry conferences are a great place to cultivate new ideas, but they're also prime occasions for networking with professionals in your field.
If you thought a speaker was especially enlightening, don't just jot down notes--walk up and introduce yourself and your business, and talk about how you might be able to help each other in the future. There's no guarantee that the connection will be profitable, but you can at least add someone influential to your network.
3. Explore commonalities. When you cross paths with someone you feel could be influential in the future, be sure to explore what and who you might have in common and how you may be able to offer value to one another.
Establishing mutual connections from the get-go builds credibility. With a better sense of trust, you can more naturally and authentically transition the conversation to common areas of interest, potential business opportunities, future referrals, or an introduction to another valuable affiliate in support of each other's success.
Although there's no way to anticipate a chance encounter or know exactly how it might benefit your business, in many ways, that's the whole beauty of it. If you keep your company's goals top of mind and stay open to discovering new connections and opportunities through serendipitous experiences, you never know what you might find. Never overlook the opportunity of offering value to the other person as well. It's the law of reciprocity in action, and it goes a long way if it's authentic and offered with generosity.