Career Network for student Scientists and Postdocs at Yale

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Always Say “Hello” in the Elevator

We’ve made a point to highlight all the events that CNSPY members can attend that help facilitate great networking, but this week we’re highlighting a different type of opportunity – the unplanned one.

What is an unplanned opportunity? It’s exactly what it sounds like… it’s not an event, it’s not a meeting, it can arise anywhere at any time (including the elevator), and it may or may not last for more than a few minutes.

This week we’re featuring a story about a young woman who was on a business trip abroad… when she got in the elevator, she casually said, “hello,” to an unfamiliar gentleman, and it led to an absolutely amazing outcome. Her visions for a new program she was about to pitch not only became a reality, they expanded to a much greater reach than she ever anticipated.

Here’s Liz Linzer’s original blog post:

“I recently traveled to Europe to visit a few of our offices abroad and launch a new, exciting youth employment initiative for 2015. It was a phenomenal trip with a stellar agenda. But one of my favorite and most impactful experiences from the trip was completely unplanned–a result of what has become my new motto: Always say “hello” in the elevator.

“On my first morning in Dublin, slightly jet-lagged, I jumped into the elevator. As I fumbled with my agenda trying to figure out which floor I should be riding to, I realized there was a gentleman in the elevator with me. Without thinking, I piped up, “Good morning! What a lovely office you have here!” (Yes, I had enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee before this.)

“This actually isn’t my office — I work in London,” he responded, clearly a bit taken aback by the random, undeserved compliment and conversation.

“Oh, I’ll be in London later this week,” I said. And then DING, the elevator doors opened onto my floor and I quickly exited to rush to my first meeting. “Well, maybe I’ll see you there!” I called back, trying to close the ‘conversation’ before running off.

“Two days later in our London office, I’m sitting with a colleague having lunch in the cafe, and I look up to see the same gentleman from the elevator pointing at me. “You’re the elevator lady!” he laughed. To which I responded, “Yes, that would be me…”

“To my surprise, he wound up joining us for lunch and was seriously interested in learning about the youth employment initiative we’re working on; coincidentally, his team was participating in a service event that afternoon and then heading off to dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen — a restaurant with a social mission to use the magic of cooking to unleash the potential of young people who have faced enormous challenges. The conversation turned into an invitation to join his team for dinner, where I uncovered that six of his employees were already engaged in social impact at the company and all were eager to participate in our new initiative. It also gave me a chance to build new relationships with 15 members of our offices from across Europe (and brush up on my Dutch)!

“It was clear to me that this never would have happened had I not said anything in the elevator that morning in Dublin. There’s simply only so much you can uncover and plan from half way across the globe, on email. It seems we have to make room for unexpected opportunities to come our way. But more importantly, I think we have to create situations that allow those unexpected opportunities to find us.

“I’ve always found it’s best to own and take pride in one’s slightly embarrassing moments. But experiences like these make me wonder if we should re-frame the now common position of “don’t be afraid to fail” into “find ways to embarrass yourself.” In fact they seem to be the best ways to build authentic relationships and uncover new opportunities. For that reason, I think from now on I’ll always find a way to say “hello” in the elevator.”

Her original post on LinkedIn can be found here:


Her story highlights so many important points that we can learn from:

1) The power of casual conversation and being friendly is incredible!

Many times, it’s the simplest things that can make the biggest difference, but often times, it’s the simplest things that are also overlooked. We are all very busy people – we have to get from point A to point B as fast as possible and get xyz done in a limited amount of time. However, taking an extra three seconds to come out of our own little worlds and recognize that someone else is there too doesn’t require much energy. We should all try to acknowledge others more, and offer a simple “hello” or a “good morning” every now and then. Being friendly and personable goes a long way, and it doesn’t take much effort at all.

2) You never know who is who.

Her story highlights that you never know who you could be standing next to. It might be someone very important in your field or someone who can put you in contact with someone else. By not knowing our surroundings, we can’t take advantage of the situation, but we can always be friendly and open the door to a potential opportunity. Secondly, consider this… no matter who is it, they are worthy of a happy greeting. Being pleasant and unnecessarily nice can brighten someone’s day, and you never know if they’re having a bad day – maybe your simple gesture turns their day around. 🙂

3) Laugh at yourself.

Unfortunately, we are taught that we should never (ever) mess up. Well, we’re all human, and we make mistakes and we have occasional slip-ups. Being embarrassed because of it makes things awkward for everyone – they’re trying not to make you feel bad, but it’s obvious that you do, so they don’t know what to do or say… etc. However, if you can laugh at yourself for fumbling something or brush it off like it was no big deal, you put everyone around you at ease and it really becomes NO BIG DEAL. It shows that you can roll with the punches and that you’re confident that one little flub doesn’t define you. Laugh at yourself and use it to strike up conversation – i.e. “Well, that certainly wasn’t how I intended to start the day! Haha, I’m sorry about that!” (smile!).

4) Make room for unexpected opportunities.

This is the entire point of her post, and it resonates with us at CNSPY. Many opportunities can be carved out – hosted events, planned happy hours, a meeting with someone, etc. But many other opportunities have to be created and improvised on the spot. It can be hard to tell where an unexpected opportunity might be hiding out, but by being open, friendly, and personable, we pave the way for unplanned opportunities to present themselves to us.


These lessons are easy to implement in our own daily lives – no we don’t have to travel abroad to use them! Here’s a few simple ways to increase the chances of a happenstance opportunity coming your way:

  1. Say “Good Morning” to the front desk when you walk in the building.
  2. Strike up a casual conversation in the lunch line – “Do you come here often? What would you recommend?”
  3. Smile at someone in the hallway.
  4. Ask a quick (and quiet!) question to the person next to you in a seminar – “Did he say that was xyz or abc?”
  5. Ask the receptionist for help finding a room, even if you don’t need help – “Could you point me in the right direction?”
  6. Help someone in the hallway who looks lost – “Can I help you find something?”
  7. Say “Thank You” to someone who holds the door for you.
  8. If you’re a commuter, strike up a conversation with a fellow train rider. Commiserate together if you wish! – “Ugh, a long day and more train delays!”
  9. Offer someone a completely unsolicited compliment – “I really like your shoes! Where did you get them?”
  10. And of course… say “hello” in the elevator! 🙂

All of these simple suggestions are easy ways to start casual conversations that may lead to something completely unexpected. You never know who is who, or who has what connections.

In fact, in many situations, we often don’t even know what other people’s professions are… imagine realizing later that the man standing next to you in the elevator was the CEO of DreamJobX Company. You would kick yourself for not introducing yourself!

So… as Liz Linzer says, always say “hello” in the elevator!


** Try it out and let us know how it goes! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

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  1. Thanks Vickie! An excellent reminder to always be friendly, no matter how bad your own day is going. You could miss opportunities by being grumpy.

  2. Christine McCafferty

    January 28, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Hello Vicki
    I really enjoyed your post above.
    I am working as a freelance writer for a Chinese educational publisher (Beijing University Press). We are working on a set of readers for high school students in the English-language learning division. We would really like to publish your post above.
    I have already contacted Liz Linzer to ask her for permission to publish: Always Say “Hello” in the Elevator in our Module entitled Chance Encounters.

    Would publishing your words be possible? We would credit you in any way that you wished.
    As soon as PDF proofs are finalised, I would supply them and you could use them in any way that you wished to promote your work. Please let me know Kind regards
    Christine McCafferty

  3. school of communications and business

    October 6, 2016 at 3:03 am

    benefits and a good exposure informasion elevator , helpful

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