When car service app Lyft launched its ride-sharing program Lyft Line in 2014, it was intended as a way to save commuters money. The idea is simple: You request a car, enter your destination and preferred number of fellow passengers (who have similar routes), and are provided with a fixed price for your trip. By sharing the drive with someone else, Lyft has said, you can save up to 60% on the price. But there's been a surprise benefit for people who book a shared commute — networking. And as we've learned recently, the most effective networking can take place in the most unexpected places. While you might be tempted to plug into your headphones and catch up on email and/or zone out, chatting with a fellow passenger while you share a ride could potentially win you a job. Lyft has heard from women who have landed coveted interviews at tech companies such as Coin while ride-sharing, plus designers who have gone on to collaborate with their ride-mates on projects. With today's announcement that Lyft is expanding to more cities and regions (including Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, San Diego, Silicon Valley, and New Jersey), there will be more opportunities for women to make career connections while sharing a ride. The Line is already available in other major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and D.C.
Not sure where to begin? We've got a few tips on how you can network more effectively in the backseat. Fill out your profile. Like many other service-based apps, Lyft lets you fill out a profile that other people on Lyft Line can access. If you're looking for networking, include your job title and a few other professional facts. This will let other riders know that you might be interested in talking about what you do. Read social cues. "It's no different than being at a bar or party where you're trying to strike up a conversation," says Laura Copeland, Lyft's manager of Driver Communications. "Read the other person's vibe. If you say, 'how are you?' and they look down at their phone or out the window, it's a cue that they're not feeling social." Find common ground. If someone seems receptive to chatting, break the ice the same way you would at a cocktail hour — by mentioning current events or something that's happening in your city, Copeland says. You can bring up key details from your conversation if you reconnect later on. Have an elevator pitch ready. "You'll probably only be in the car together for 10 to 15 minutes, so have a quick, interesting description of what you do prepared," Copeland says. That will help ensure you make the most of everyone's time. (This is good advice wherever you network.)