We’ve recently written several pieces about how coworking as a movement is growing and spreading out from the original big-city breeding grounds of the concept. But awareness and growth doesn’t mean all a remote worker or freelancer needs to do to access the concept’s well-chronicled benefits is trot down to her local space and sign up.
Joining a coworking space is obviously a necessary first step, but it’s not enough to get the maximum benefit out of participating in the movement, according to a recent post on the blog Freelance Switch. If you want joining to really boost your career you need to approach your new workspace with a bit of networking savvy, writes Genevieve DeGuzman, the co-author of Working in the UnOffice: A Guide to Coworking, who also spoke to WWD earlier this year about her book. Among her tips:
- Don’t force it. “Prepare a short introductory spiel — your name, and what you’re working on,” and “don’t forget the niceties” like a warm smile and open body language, writes DeGuzman on Freelance Switch. She even suggests a box of cookies as an icebreaker. But when we spoke to her earlier this year, she also stressed that you shouldn’t go on a self-promotion blitz. “Fun and community aside, people are coming to a coworking space to get work done. A lot of members recommend waiting until after-hours events to put on the charm. Or ask someone to lunch or to fuel up on coffee in the kitchen. Bonding and networking this way is less obtrusive.”
- Take responsibility. Some of the biggest benefits of coworking come when you find collaborators and clients at your local space, but it’s not the job of the space to make sure those connections happen. “Coworking works best with self-starters who actively seek out others for conversation and collaboration,” write DeGuzman, so don’t shun casual chats as productivity busters. “The sooner you get to know your coworkers, the sooner you can start building the relationships that can lead to collaboration. While small talk may seem like unproductive behavior, the ten minutes here and there adds up. If people have a congenial relationship with you, they’ll be more likely to discuss ‘work-related’ matters later when you have questions or need help,” DeGuzman told WWD.
- Make your peace with the chaos. Your coworking space is probably going to be louder and busier than where you were working before. That will take some adjusting to, writes DeGuzman, as you learn the rules and locate the photocopier. She also stressed to WWD that the atmosphere may feel odd at first: “If you’ve been slaving away in the cubes or working in isolation in your home office, being exposed to so many different people can be disconcerting. Many members have to adjust to talking on the phone with people within earshot.” But DeGuzman’s research showed that when people persist, they often grow to love the bustle. For instance, a member of Gangplank told her the space “can be noisy and chaotic at times, but that’s part of what makes it work: you overhear things. You find opportunities to jump in and help someone.”
Veteran coworkers out there, do you have any tips for newbies looking to get the most out of their space?
Image courtesy of Flickr user Citilab-Cornella