Taking Networking Offline: 5 Face-to-Face Conversations to Build Your Community
We talk a lot about community at Career Cooperative and how powerful it is. It expands beyond the office, former colleagues and prospective clients, and is a part of your everyday experience. But how do you connect with and grow your community, especially if you’re out of practice? The short answer is that you have to learn how to to talk to strangers (again)! Before we were all plugged into our devices in public spaces, there was far more natural opportunity to interact with people who we didn’t know. That’s how people made new friends, found their life partners and created new sales opportunities. Now, we have access to all kinds of technology platforms that help us connect to people, but ask any professional networker (from sales to recruiting), and they will tell you about the power of a real-life conversation.
Today, we challenge you to unplug from tech, and have a conversation with someone who you don’t know. Here are five conversations you could (and should!) be having with your community to get you started:
Your barista: We all know the phrase, “but first, coffee!”-- what if we flip that on its head and say “but first, conversation!”? Everyone should, at least once in their life, work in face-to-face customer service for so many reasons. Even if you haven’t, I bet you’ve noticed patrons who barely acknowledge their barista when ordering their triple shot dirty chai. While it’s not the right time to get into their whole life story, genuinely asking your regular barista their plans for the weekend can spark the opportunity to find common ground outside of how to pull the perfect espresso.
Your Lyft Driver or Lyft Line Co-Passenger: One of the really cool things about this whole gig-economy is that people in your everyday life can be exploring new careers, pursuing passions, or facing big career/life transitions all while driving you to the airport. In other words, odds are that your Lyft driver has a whole career outside of Lyft that he or she would love to talk about. You’ve got a captive audience in a contained environment-- go for it!
Your beauty expert (Barber, Nail Tech, or Esthetician): People who work in this field are conversationalists as a part of their job, so much so that sometimes I think my hair stylist should also have ‘therapist’ in her title. This makes them the perfect verbal partner to start-up a conversation with if you’re not as comfortable. Similar to the Lyft ride, you’ve got a captive audience for a solid amount of time to start a conversation and catch up on some gossip mags.
Your gym/class/bus buddy: You know, that person you’ve had the same schedule with for so long that sometimes you forget that you haven’t actually had a real-life, verbal conversation with them? Sure, you have your headphones in and you’re not trying to share your life story, but why not just hello?
Your Neighbor: Depending on your living situation, you are likely to have at least one neighbor who you exchange a friendly smile with on a regular basis. What would happen if you got to know each other a little bit more? Overheard in my apartment lobby just last week: one neighbor telling another he was a writer, and another neighbor explaining her whole family in Texas was in publishing and she’d share their contact information with him!
Even if these conversations seem a bit daunting, it’s good practice, it’s habit-forming, and the more you connect the more comfortable you feel starting a conversation! Your community isn’t transactional, it’s conversational. Networking within your community doesn’t have to be an ask, it can be as simple as a genuine ‘Hi, how is your day going?’