Opportunity is sitting next to you

I want to share a quick story about the time I landed an internship after a plane ride from San Diego to Atlanta.

It was in October of 2014. My friend, Seth, and I had just finished a four day trip to San Jose for the Net Impact Conference, a conference that brings students, young professionals and industry leaders together to tackle the word’s toughest social and environmental problems. Seth was president of the Sustainability Club at Morehouse, and I was leading an initiative to help end the world’s water crisis. This was also our junior year of college, and we saw this trip as an opportunity not only to further the work we had been doing on campus, but to finally land our first big internship before our senior year. The dates for the trip fell during Morehouse and Spelman’s homecoming, and also during Seth’s 21st birthday, but again, we saw this as an opportunity to really make an impact on our future, so we decided to skip the turn up.

Seth and I on his 21st birthday at the conference.

In short, the trip was a blast and as our plane taxied down the runway en route to Atlanta, we both felt really good about our chances to land an internship. We had given our résumés to several recruiters, and our wallets were filled with business cards. We made the most of every opportunity we possibly could at the conference. Then, I looked over to the gentleman sitting in the window seat, and I struck up a conversation.

Me: “Hey, my name is Scooter…you excited to get Atlanta?”

Him: “Hi, I’m Erik, and it’s actually my first time going to Atlanta.”

There it was — an opportunity. An opportunity to connect. Seth and I hopped on it. We gave Erik suggestions of places to eat and visit during his trip. Erik was a recruiter for Qualcomm and he was going to Georgia Tech to recruit electrical engineers for their summer program. We learned very quickly that he wasn’t familiar with our school, Morehouse College, and there was the next opportunity, to become great ambassadors for our school. He asked us what we were doing in San Diego — another opportunity to share what we had just learned while at the conference. Erik and I ended up talking the entire flight about an array of topics from technology, sports, the world’s water crisis and more. At the end of the flight, Erik praised me for my knowledge and enthusiasm about technology and marketing and gave me his business card. He encouraged me to follow up with him about coming back to San Diego for an internship at Qualcomm. Another opportunity.

Erik and I during the Qualcomm internship

He was honest on his word, and that following summer I was marketing intern on Erik’s team. Qualcomm has one of the finest intern programs in the country. I met some awesome people from several different schools who I still keep in touch with to this day. It was one of my best summers to date.

Opportunity is sitting next to you. The opportunity to connect, share your experiences, make someone laugh, learn something new, teach something new and find the thing you’ve been looking for is around you at all times.

How many times have you been sitting next to an Erik and didn’t know it? More importantly, how many times could you have been Erik?