Ahh, networking: Perhaps you tense up at the idea. Or maybe you get excited by the chance to connect with others. Regardless of your view, it’s safe to say it can be an essential factor in advancing your career. And if you work in a coworking space, which are usually chock-full of thriving individuals working in a variety of jobs, there are few better places to nurture professional relationships.
“Networking allows you to build connections with other professionals in your field, in another related field, or in a completely different field that you may not have known you needed,” says Torris Pierce, Life Time Work leader at River North at One Chicago. “It gives you the opportunity to increase your own visibility, have impactful connections, and help your business grow.”
To help you take full advantage of these opportunities, Pierce shares some practical tips.
1. Be natural.
“One common misconception about coworking members is that everyone is extremely outgoing and extraverted,” he says. “But a lot of members still experience anxiety about approaching someone or introducing themselves. I would advise everyone to first initiate friendly and casual conversation, one that’s not focused entirely on work.”
Give the other person a chance to talk about themselves or break the ice with small talk. This allows for a more organic connection.
2. Work in the common areas.
“Members who spend time in the communal workspaces have chances to initiate amiable conversations with others throughout the day,” Pierce says. (Be mindful, though, of when not to approach someone — see tips for what not to do below!)
3. Attend events.
Whether it’s a social or fitness event, or a gathering designed for networking itself, just show up. “Events allow for natural interactions with other members of the community,” he says. “From a social happy-hour standpoint, these environments can be a lot more relaxed with food and drinks around, and the opportunity to socialize may come easier.”
4. Take advantage of networking-specific events.
“To give an example, we recently hosted a speed-networking event at Life Time Work River North, which was our little twist on ‘speed dating,’” Pierce says. “We started with a questionnaire card game, where each person would answer a question about their past or what they liked to do for fun while having a drink and keeping it casual. Then we talked about what we do for work. Afterward, guests could exchange business cards and offer to connect or collaborate later if they desired.”
5. Host your own event.
“Don’t be afraid to host your own function at your coworking space,” he says. “We recently had a member host a holiday-type party and it turned out to be a huge hit! We played holiday games and members felt like part of the community. It opened a lot of opportunities for members to network in the space and introduce themselves to people that they previously would have never approached.”
3 Networking Don’ts
Keep these tips in mind to avoid awkward interactions.
- Don’t start a conversation based on work. “When you meet someone, if the first thing you say is, ‘Hi, my name is Torris, and this is what I do for work, how about you?’ it can come off a little forced. People can feel that,” says Pierce.
- Don’t approach someone when they’re on a call. “Avoid introducing yourself to someone if they’re clearly on the phone, on a video call, or have their headphones in,” Pierce says. “This is a huge no-no. I’ve seen it happen in real time and it’s really cringey. Similar to approaching someone on the fitness floor if they’re in the middle of their workout, just don’t do it.”
- Don’t sound too “salesy.” “No one wants to feel like they’re being cornered by a salesperson,” Pierce says. If you approach someone with a clear agenda and that becomes known, the other person most likely will notice. In a coworking environment, it’s important that individuals feel they can still chat casually with one another without someone always having ulterior motives.