Are you a natural networker?
I don’t think anyone who knows me would say I’m a great networker. The fact is, though, most opportunities came just when I needed them, through chance meetings or people I knew. We don’t have to work hard at networking. But we do have to put ourselves out there and be open to it.
A temporary roommate I had in England twenty years ago was also called Andy. He lived with me for less than six weeks, and it happened at just the right time for me. I knew I wanted to make a big life shift, but I didn’t know what. Luckily, I talked to him about it.
Roommate Andy suggested something that changed my life. His sister had just been to Australia on a working holiday, something I’d never heard of. If you’re not familiar with a working holiday visa, it allows you to live, work, and travel in another country for a year or more, depending on the agreement between countries. Young Canadians, for example, can get working holiday visas for Australia, Ireland, France, the UK, and many other countries.
After talking with roommate Andy’s sister, I was in Australia two months later, where I spent an incredible year of working different jobs and traveling the country.
Like many backpackers, I got some of those jobs by talking to other travelers. Then, nearing the end of my year, I briefly chatted to a young woman who was staying in the same hostel in Brisbane. She told me her friend had just got a job in Japan and was leaving the next day. From what I learned in that two-minute meeting, I ended up spending ten years in Japan. The list of connections that led to opportunities continued:
Through an old colleague in Tokyo, I got an interview for a more interesting job that gave me more pay, for fewer hours.
From a friend of a friend, I got a part-time gig writing for the Japanese national English test. It eventually doubled my income.
…Twenty years on, from a connection in Kimberley, I’m contributing to the Ground Floor Cranbrook website and blog, as well as using the space as my office from home.
Basically, all of these things happened by connecting with those around me. It wasn’t some huge effort; it was organic.
THE REASON WHY THE COWORKING MOVEMENT IS CATCHING ON
I love the phrase in the title of this blog, community becomes economy. I can’t claim to have made it up, but I do resonate. Before I heard that Ground Floor was happening, I’d even thought of starting my own coworking space.
Go ahead and Google it – coworking is really taking off in towns and cities all over the place. Why? Well, for me, working from home doesn’t quite work. Coffee shops and libraries don’t quite work. Paying for a room in a business center, to sit in alone, doesn’t make sense for me.
But easy access to a space to work in, with meeting rooms, a reception desk, and a growing number of people coming through that I may end up working with? A no-brainer.
I think this is a big reason why people around the world are clueing in to coworking.
So how can you make best use of your new coworking space in Cranbrook?
I’m new at this, and yet I’m already having ideas and making connections. I figure the more active and involved I am, the more will happen organically. It’s not about selling, it’s about having a collaborative mindset.
JUMP IN AND TRY A MEMBERSHIP
I’m still checking it out myself. I sit in a different spot every time I come. A desk, a table, a sofa. I think I might bring my big monitor next time, or my standing desk setup. It’s worth that little extra effort to set up a comfortable working space.
My colleague Jim has an office here, so we meet face to face about clients’ website projects instead of emailing so much. I’m getting to know other names and faces, and I figure if someone needs to hire a writer, they’ll likely ask around and maybe search the member database. Who better to work with than someone in the same space?
Want to schedule a meeting? We’ll talk instead of sending another email. And of course, who knows who I’ll meet each time I go?
GET TO KNOW THE OTHER MEMBERS, SHARE WHAT YOU DO
Whether you’re a born networker, or the thought makes you want to hide under your desk, working around other professionals regularly has got to make it easier. It might take time – personally, I don’t feel any pressure to go round introducing myself to everyone.
I see some upcoming community events on the board by reception, and some new faces in the member database. I’m updating my profile in the member area, and on Linked In, and I’m finally getting to making my own website. Other than that, I’m carrying on and getting stuff done in a conducive environment.
I’m telling others about Ground Floor, and I’ve connected some people in ways that don’t even involve me. One friend may rent the space on a Saturday in June for a workshop, and another will now be running an ad for Ground Floor in her magazine.
At this point, I figure collaboration is about getting involved and being active, seeing it as a space I share and wanting it to do well. When I have ideas for projects that offer collaborative opportunities, the more that’s happening here the better.
OFFER AN EVENT
I have an idea for a workshop I want to offer here. It’s early stages and I admit to some butterflies in the stomach thinking about it. Yet, before Ground Floor existed, I wouldn’t know where to start and may never have gotten around to it. Now I figure I have a ready-made venue, at the very least, and one where I feel at home and supported.
You’ve maybe come up with all kinds of ideas to give value to clients or meet new ones, like lunchtime talks. But where to host them? Who to ask? Do you have time to figure it out?
If you’re spending time at a coworking space, organizing a Lunch-and-Learn, or an after work talk, it can be as easy as having a word with the front desk. “Sure, we’ll post a message to the members and put it out on our social media. Oh, and would you like to think about doing a guest blog for us? – That guy over there, Andy, he can help you with that if you like.”
Another phrase I love now? Getting in on the Ground Floor.
I recommend it. Hope to see you here!