We’ve all heard the stories: chance encounters, right place at the right time, or a blast from the past. And voila! The unexpected networking opportunity of a lifetime lands in someone’s lap, with seemingly zero effort and all of the reward.

Since many technical writers and instructional designers are contractors, networking is crucial to success. We might question: are these incidents of UNOs luck? The forces of fate intervening? Or do people who report these far-fetched experiences have something else in common?

To make the most of every possible networking opportunity, open your mind to limitless possibilities – and consider these tips so you’ll be prepared, no matter who or what comes your way.

Idea 1 – stand out by wearing a conversation piece. It might be on the subway or at a tradeshow, but if someone compliments you on your scarf or tie or jewelry, thank them – and take the opportunity to start a conversation. A total stranger who appreciates your style could become a networking contact.

Idea 2 – carry plenty of business cards, and take them with you everywhere. For instance, an event as non-business-oriented as a neighborhood cookout can offer hidden networking opportunities.

Idea 3 – ask questions, and then listen. Everyone wants to feel like he or she is heard. Showing empathy, caring about someone else’s experiences, can go a long way toward building a bond – even if that compassion is for someone you ride in an elevator with for thirty seconds. It only requires a few seconds to make a meaningful, and lasting, impression.

Looking for more unique ways to seek out and identify UNO’s? Click here to read an article suggesting unique networking ideas you may not have considered.