Meeting Strangers: How a Stranger Helped Me Land My First Job
Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.
Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of our Daily Origami series titled Strangers You Meet Between Places. Here’s Part 1.
Some of the most fortuitous events in my life happened while I was traveling between places. When waiting in transit, my philosophy has always been: what’s the harm in striking up a conversation with a stranger? It’s basically a super low stakes game, with virtually no downside.
Besides, if the conversation doesn’t work out, the chances I’ll ever see them again are slim to none.
But first, some context: it was February 2013 and I was at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, waiting to board my flight to Boston. A few weeks earlier, I’d finally decided to move to Boston and begin my job search there. I was anxious because I’d been unemployed and living with Ivan in Toronto for the past six months, getting nowhere in phone interviews. It was clearly time to put some boots on the ground and start hustling.
How a Stranger Helped Me Land My First Job
At the airport lounge, I decided to move over to the “business section” to start my next batch of resume submissions. I saw a friendly-looking, well-dressed woman in a business suit, so I sat near her. Randomly, the television by us was showing footage of ski-jumpers, which sparked a conversation:
Her: I can’t believe people are willing to do stunts like that!
Me: There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there. Chasing the next high.
A few moments later…
Her: So, where are you going?
Her: Me, too! I work in Cambridge.
I started peppering her with questions about Boston: What is it like? How do you like it there? Are the winters as tough as people say?
Me (offhand): Oh, and I forgot to mention - I love your dress. You look fantastic.
...and that was when she burst into tears.
Her: Thank you so much! I was actually feeling really self-conscious. To tell you the truth, I just found out I’m pregnant, so you caught me at an emotional time. I was just thinking about how I was going to deal with work and maternity leave, how I was going to tell my boss...
She was bawling at this point. It was mega awkward. I’m sure the people walking past us thought I’d been bullying her.
After a few moments, she finally calmed down.
Me: Congratulations on the wonderful news! I’m sure your boss will be understanding. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for such a wonderful life event.
Her (still sniffling): Thank you. So, why are you going to Boston?
I told her the truth. I’d just graduated from a state school in New Mexico and was looking for my first job in Boston. I had no friends or connections, but I felt like this was a move I had to make.
And that was the moment my entire life changed.
Turned out this woman worked as an account executive for a major tech research firm in Boston. We kept in touch over the next couple months, as I struggled to stay afloat with multiple temp and retail jobs. Eventually, she was the one who referred me to my first salaried position.
Even now, I’m stunned by the ripple effect of this one encounter. Had it not been for a total stranger, I probably wouldn’t have a job in the high-paying tech industry. Without that first role, I wouldn’t have met my current mentor who hired me to lead his marketing team when he moved to a LA start-up.
In fact, I wouldn’t have any of the privileges I enjoy today: flexible work hours, excellent health benefits, the very idea of going on a round the world trip.
It’s experiences like this that make me think a year or two abroad might not be a vacation; it might turn out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.
All I have to do is reach out my hand.