On a lunch ride last week, one of the riders who joined our group looked really familiar to me, but I also knew I had never ridden with him before. So today I sent him an email and asked him if he ever lived in Minneapolis. Turns out he had, and the two of us had briefly worked together years ago. Now, the two of us live within a mile of each other and ride with some of the same people. Chances are good that we'd have never run into each other or remade that connection were it not for cycling.
I spent two years of my life and more money than I care to think about getting an advanced degree from a fairly reputable institution of higher learning. While the education has been valuable, presumably the greater value of such an endeavor comes from admission to the alumni network. I won't deny the benefit of these connections, but based on my experience from recently re-entering the job market, it seems that my network of cyclists and skiers has proven equally if not more worthwhile.
Case in point, the first contact that I made at one of the companies I am targeting was someone with whom I've connected because we're both cyclists and know some of the same people. Other contacts I've made within the company have also turned out to have a cycling connection. Either everyone who works there rides bikes, or cyclists seem inclined to help other cyclists out. Or maybe they're just looking for more people to join them on lunch rides.