When it comes to our individual professional growth, networking is one of the key ways to enhance our development. Networking encompasses meeting & forming connections with other professionals in a way that is mutually beneficial to the parties involved - nobody is going to willingly be a part of this relationship (or any relationship, for that matter!) if it’s merely one-sided; where only one person reaps the benefits.
COVID-19, its subsequent lockdowns & switch to WFH has significantly impacted the ability to network, due to the inability to meet face-to-face & explore opportunities. Organisations committed to shutting down their offices for numerous months or even completely, & to WFH for the foreseeable future! Working individuals, entrepreneurs & other professionals found themselves stuck at home for months, unable to meet their team members, let alone new people. Obviously, this affected networking, & people were unable to do so efficiently, ultimately making them feel stuck & unable to move forward.
Benefits of Networking
Networking has multiple advantages for working individuals. It brings us out of the rut we might be facing at work, & gives us the opportunity to get support for the personal & professional growth that we should always be striving for.
1. To get help
Ever feel like you’re stuck in your job or aren’t moving anywhere in your life? Coworking spaces allow you to meet people who might be able to get you the help you need! These spaces are rich in diversity, & allowing for the sharing of ideas & tips can open your mind to new ways of thinking & better options that you can use in your life.
2. To make & strengthen connections
Social networking is built on forming solid social connections. These connections are mutually benefitting & can help you move up in your life & work. Both the spaces itself & the events organised by coworking spaces get people interacting with each other & form these connections. Working next to each other over time can strengthen these bonds & over time, you may find yourself asking for advice or help from these individuals or even giving it yourself.
3. To meet new people
It is imperative to note that networking is not beneficial if you only surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Being able to meet & form bonds with people with different opinions & backgrounds are what coworking spaces are known for, & what helps broaden your network.
4. To increase your awareness of new opportunities
It’s an awkward situation to speak to people about finding new work possibilities or avenues to get into when you’re only interacting with people from your job, be it your peers or clients. It’s deemed unprofessional & juvenile to do so, & can even result in termination, but that’s what WFH gets you. Coworking spaces house working professionals from other companies, doing other things & even starting their own businesses with whom you can talk to. Getting the conversation flowing about their work, its benefits etc. can open up your job horizons & even give you the information you need to move forward in your career.
How Coworking Spaces Enhance Networking
Coworking is the solution to the whole WFH scenario! These wonderfully curated workspaces offer its users a safe designated area to work from along with other people who can no longer use office spaces. Its perks allowed people to get out of their homes, & get engaged with not only their peers, but with other like-minded individuals - thus re-initiating the process of networking! Genius, right?
In 2016, Victor Cabral & Willem van Winden conducted a study on how managed coworking spaces affected innovation of its members i.e. how effective managers in a coworking space could be. This study along with its findings show us how coworking spaces can in turn bring about a positive growth in networking…
Management as the connector
The manager needs to have a good understanding of the requirements of the individuals & companies working within his/her coworking space to be able to connect them to each other, breeding productivity & innovation. They can initiate the process of networking so that the individuals themselves don’t have to. Being aware of what your users need is an important asset to have, and effective management can result in employees using the spaces for longer.
Regulating the mix of members
Coworking spaces need to have a good mix of individuals from different professional & personal backgrounds. This is important as like-minded people can only innovate & network to an extent, after which the relationship runs stagnant. Having different thoughts, perspectives & opinions allow for people to brainstorm for new ideas, improve on new ones & form new connections, both personally & professionally.
Design for interaction
It’s important for coworking spaces to be designed in a manner that supports interaction. Coworking spaces like 2gethr have communal seating options, individual seating & conference rooms, giving its users the ability to choose where they want to work. The public spaces allow you to sit next to other people, automatically reinforcing the desire to “get to know your neighbour”.
Tools for networking
When it comes to networking, seating alone cannot bring about conversations. Coworking spaces organise numerous events like dance classes, social mixers & workshops which get different people working alongside individuals they may not know, thus fostering innovation & idea sharing.
Tips for Better Networking
Increasing the boundaries of your network is the aim of the game, but there is a method to the madness - it doesn’t work if all you’re doing is meeting people in the hopes that something will work for you. Nope. Networking is calculated; it’s a long term game. Follow the tips below to get the best use out of it.
Have goals already in place
If your plan is to start networking, have your goals in place before you do. It helps to have a direction to move towards, & your focus can then be “how can I reach my goal?” Goals allow you to have a better idea about who to get in touch with & what bonds to form which can help you get closer to your end goals.
Understand your strengths
As I mentioned before, the concept of networking only exists if it’s mutually beneficial. Having an insight into what you can bring to the table already sets this process into motion because you know what you can give a potential associate. It also makes them aware that you know your worth, & that self confidence is bound to boost your recognition in the networking circles.
Don’t stick to what you know
Always. Be. Willing. To. Learn. Step out of your comfort zone & get involved in new activities & new social structures; you never know when someone is going to notice you. Staying in the same circles limits your ability to network & your circle will always remain the same. Start conversations & truly listen & understand what people are saying around you - you never know when something is going to stick, & when inspiration is going to hit you!
You aren’t only making friends
Sure, the journey of networking can bring new friends into your life, but be aware that the main purpose of networking is to expand your circle to get you further in life, especially professionally. Don’t mix business with pleasure! Just don’t do it. Having well defined boundaries keep things professional, making decisions easier.
Cowork to Network!
Trust me when I say that coworking spaces are the future of work spaces. Their convenience is just the tip of the iceberg, as they offer so much more than what meets the eye. Having the capacity to interact with hundreds of people doing, thinking & experiencing different things can inspire you to do more & be more! So do whatever you can to increase your network. Meet people like you, & people unlike you & make an effort to help as much as you ask for help. Work on your networking skills & watch it take you to places you could never dream of!