Dear Sophaya: I work in a co-working space, which I love. What are some of the successful networking stories for those who work in these spaces? Any tips?
From: co-working Kate
Many of the Sophaya team members use co-work spaces in their local area – we all agree, co-work spaces are great. We polled our group and here are a few tips for you.
Pick the co-work environment that’s right for you
Think of choosing a co-work space like you would picking a neighborhood, buying a condo or renting an apartment. There are lots of practical considerations: Are you safe walking around at night? Will there be hell to pay if you eat the last banana in the bowl? Who cleans the bathrooms and how often does it happen?
There are lots of different co-work options these days and choosing the right space is kind of like dating. Some are more formal like Regus – fully appointed, complete with conference room access and even a front desk concierge service. It’s pricey, but if you want the trappings of formality and you are willing to pay for it, it’s a viable option. If you want professional but hip and trendy, WeWork comes with lots of amenities and scales as you scale. There are also lots of independents like Sprout where I am in Providence, RI, that offer more eclectic surroundings. Where you land and the co-work space you choose is related to your question because networking in each of these settings requires a unique approach that best fits the environment.
Learn the local etiquette of your new neighborhood
If a co-work space has been going for a while, it’s developed a vibe. There are also probably rules – written and unwritten – in existence. Find out what they are and honor them. If you are the new kid on the block, it’s the polite thing to do. If the rules are undesirable or too restrictive, re-read paragraph one – maybe you aren’t in the right place for your personality. Once you get familiar with things and become an active, involved member of the community; then you earn the right to comment on and even influence the culture. But this will take time and investment on your part.
See if your co-work space hosts events, if they do, attend them
Many co-work spaces actively host events during lunch and off hours to facilitate mixing. The Cambridge Innovation Center (a.k.a CIC) located in trendy Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. has a whole social calendar. These types of events are often no cost and available to anyone renting in the co-work facility. Check with your co-work space to see what they have available….if they aren’t doing anything yet, maybe it’s time for them to start! Volunteer to help organize something.
Leverage your common spaces
Co-work spaces generally have shared kitchen/common areas that people can gather. When you are in these spaces, make an effort to say hello to others and to introduce yourself. You don’t have to intrude on someone’s personal space, but if you see the same people frequently and you don’t say hello that’s even weirder than sticking out your hand and saying “hey, how are you doing?” Co-work spaces add common areas so people can mingle. If you trudge through silently without making eye contact, it sort of defeats the purpose of renting co-work space to begin with…so be bold. Stick out your hand and say hi.
Respect work hours and schedule time
Co-work spaces are workspaces and people who use them are there to do work. Interrupting people during work time without their permission isn’t cool. If you make friends in the common areas and during events, don’t assume this gives you permission to barge in on people unannounced unless they tell you that’s ok. Just like in any business interaction, schedule time during business hours or use IM as a means to ask permission to connect.
Working in a co-work space is very similar to living in a dorm at school…it requires give and take from the residents and behavioral norms that respect the group. Yet, co-work spaces are also vital, active environments where partnerships, business relationships and friendships are built every day. With a little effort on your part, you can take full advantage of everything your co-work space has to offer!
Tell us how it all works out!
Photo by HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan