This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by David Magnani.
A coworking space comes with distinct advantages for remote working professionals. It’s a place to work outside of your home, which helps with work-life balance. Coworking spaces also have resources your home office might not.
But most important, coworking spaces attract other professionals like yourself—solo entrepreneurs, freelancers and gig workers, consultants, and more.
In a traditional office, you’d largely come into contact with people from your same industry. Graphic designers work with other creatives; executives collaborate with other members of the c-suite. The beauty of coworking spaces is that you’re exposed to professionals from different industries.
It’s where a programmer and a copywriter might rub shoulders, or an executive consultant might strike up a conversation with a product developer. You might be working on the Great American Novel, and the marketing pro sitting next to you might have an innovative new way to get it to market.
But it’s not enough to sit idly in a diverse room of creative professionals. You need to know how to connect with them in a meaningful way. Saying hi at the coffee station is common courtesy; learning about what they do and tapping them for insight is a whole other ballgame. How do you make the most out of your coworking experience to grow your professional network?
Make socializing a priority.
Socializing at work has been beneficial—even in a traditional office setting. You form bonds with your coworkers, network with higher-ups, enjoy a more collaborative environment, and generally learn more about the industry.
Coworking socialization, on the other hand, exposes you to people outside your industry, which offers new kinds of opportunities.
The person sitting next to you might not know anything about Shopify, but their graphic design skills would be perfect for your e-commerce company’s new logo. The solo lawyer a couple of desks down might point out a potential intellectual property opportunity when you’re chatting about your newest product idea.
Without taking the leap to socialize, you’ll miss these opportunities. In a traditional office, you’d never have them—not taking advantage of them in a coworking environment means squandering them.
Get to know other coworking regulars.
Once you’ve found the right coworking space for you, the first thing you need to do is show up regularly. Become a familiar face. As you set a schedule for yourself, you’ll start noticing who the other regulars are. There’s familiarity in proximity, which is the first step toward a formal introduction.
Say hi or give a wave. Offer a quip about the weather. Offer up a simple favor. There are plenty of openings for bridging the gap between familiar face and acquaintance. Once you open the line of communication, opportunities abound. Ask about their line of work or the company they work for. Find connections between what you do and what they do.
You don’t even have to talk about work to have a meaningful conversation—it’ll eventually trend there by nature of the coworking space. The point is, getting to know the people who consistently show up can lead to valuable connections.
Ask people what they do and tell them what you do.
It’s easy to say “introduce yourself to the other regulars,” but if you’re introverted or shy, it’s hard to muster up the courage—especially when the other person looks busy. Don’t overthink it. When you’re refilling your water bottle or waiting in line for the bathroom, just ask the person next to you what they’re working on.
Unlike networking events, there’s no pressure to spill your work story and make connections right away. If someone is a regular, you’ll have opportunities to learn more about their work, and share details about your own in an organic way.
Eventually, when someone wants to meet a person who works in your industry, John from Some Startup can point them in your direction, and you can do the same for him.
Let technology do the work.
While tracking technology can be an unwanted Big Brother at times, you can use it to your advantage when building your network. Social networks may start suggesting new contacts who also frequent your coworking space, so if you’ve been too shy to introduce yourself in person, take the opportunity to introduce yourself online.
Keep it professional and friendly. If they accept your friend request, you’ll enjoy the exposure to their network. If they deny it, no worries—just go back to focusing on your own work.
Coworking should be collaborative.
Ultimately, coworking is a social experience. If you wanted to work alone, you could sit on your couch in your pajamas without seeing another human all day. Coworking offers you the opportunity to talk to other people. Better still, it gives you exposure to a broad and diverse professional network!
Whether they turn out to be a new professional contact or even a friend in the trenches, you’re bound to walk away from coworking with a richer network than you’d get working anywhere else.
About the Author:
Mr. Magnani is Managing Partner for M&A Executive Search and Consulting. He has worked in professional services leadership roles for 25+ years serving a broad number of industries.
Since 2014, Mr Magnani has been focused on providing clients the expertise they need to advance their business either via National Executive Search or Placing Interim Executives or Expert Freelance consultants.
Mr. Magnani joined M&A in 2017 and was primarily responsible for building M&A’s highly successful Interim Executive and Expert Consulting business enabling M&A to be one of the few providers that can offer both executive search and interim executives and consultants enabling clients to flexibly and affordably get the expertise they need to advance their business.
Mr. Magnani is considered an expert in enabling the “Gig Economy” helping effectively bridge freelance consultants that have “been there and done that” into companies, and he is a frequent speaker on how both employers and professionals can most effectively leverage the gig economy.