Networking Within Your Own Network: Why the Grass Isn’t Always Greener by Stephanie Austin

Coffee is amazing. There’s no argument there. However, the adrenaline-jolting jump that most of us enjoy in the morning doesn’t have to be the only benefit. For freelancers, entrepreneurs, office workers, working moms and everyone in between, the pilgrimage to the coffee station at work or local neighborhood coffee shop often provides a stellar opportunity for networking and personal connection. In fact, it is this drive for interaction that motivates more deeply than we know.

 

The Medici family’s Renaissance-era power cannot be denied. From shipping to construction to trade, if it impacted the economy or government in Italy, the Medicis were likely involved. One of the great lessons learned from that influential family was the value of out-of-the-box interactions. To build a famous domed structure in Florence, a construction expert for the Medici family went outside of his normal construction network and connected with a ship-building expert to develop a unique understanding of how curved wood acts under pressure. It was this type of thinking – looking outside of your industry for inspiration – that allowed for new innovation and experimentation and, in the case of the construction worker, the creation of the dome on the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral.

 

This is the magic of networking. If you approach a situation as an opportunity to make new connections and gain different perspectives – rather than just a chance to hand out your business card – the unexpected value you gain can be significant.

 

This brings me back to coffee. Whether it’s walking to the printer in your co-working space, refilling your water bottle in your office’s shared kitchen or leaving your home-office for your daily Starbucks run, the people you meet can all carry with them the secret to unlocking whatever you are looking for.

 

Co-working spaces in particular are fertile ground for catalytic connection. In these sorts of environments where co-working members and guests come from a variety of backgrounds, the spark of creativity and inspiration is far more likely to occur. The key here is to break from our cold and car-salesy view of networking. By redefining the word, we open up the ability to share, collectively problem-solve, inspire and empower. Take a genuine interest in those around you and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone in a hallway, by the water-cooler or when petting a co-working member’s dog. Opportunities and solutions are all around you. In addition to going to great networking events, don’t forget to love the one you’re with by grabbing coffee with the folks you’re surrounded by every day.

 

Stephanie Austin is a networking guru and entrepreneur who specializes in marketing, event planning, community building and communications. She is the Member Communications Marketing Manager for the 8.6 billion dollar company: First Tech Federal Credit Union. She is also the founder of Circle Up Networking Events, where she helps community-minded, mission-driven professionals build authentic connections through TED-style events. You can get in touch with her here or follow on Facebook.