How to Avoid Feeling Lonely in Business - 10 Strategies for Connecting with Others
Are you feeling lonely in your business or career? Is the thought of feeling lonely or working alone holding you back from following your business or career dream? If it is, you’re not...alone. This is something I hear from my clients a lot and have also experienced myself.
Many of us who are on the quest to create good work often find ourselves shifting from a work situation where we’ve been used to having people around us 9-5 five days a week - to spending large amounts of time on our own. Even those of us who might still be working within an organisation, but are championing something new or different can often feel incredibly isolated.
When we’re creating something new and challenging the status quo - whether in our own business or within a larger organisation - chances are we are operating as some kind of leader (official or unofficial). And that can be a very solitary experience.
Whether we’re an extrovert or an introvert, waving the flag all by ourselves all the time is just plain hard. Humans are social creatures. Even for those of us who are completely happy with our own company, love working for ourselves or autonomously (and I raise my hand here) need other people. At least sometimes. Trust me.
So if we’re out there on our own in our business or career either literally, mentally or emotionally, what can do to create community around us and feel supported.
Here are a few things you might like to try...
1. Work from a co-working space
Co-Working spaces are places (usually some kind of large, open plan office type arrangement) where individuals can come and work for a pay-for-use fee. They will often work on a membership basis. Most will have options for day rates, right through to full time, 24/7 access.
It’s a great way to get involved in a business community - often full of likeminded individuals who will get the solo thing. In addition to providing space, internet and people to scratch our social itch, they will usually offer events and other interesting things as well. Even if you work for an organisation, they can be really great for getting out and connected. Not all co-working spaces are created equal, so search for one that suits your needs, budget and what you’re looking for in a space and community. Many will let you try them out free for a day.
2. Join online communities
Online can be an amazing place to connect with others. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media (as much as they can be time suckers), have some wonderful communities for supporting people with...pretty much anything. (If you haven’t already joined The Good Work Revolution Facebook group, come and say hello).
Of course you’re not limited to Social Media. There are a lot of specialist websites out there where you can connect via online forums, courses, webinars and so much more. For example Flying Solo is a great example of this in the small/micro business arena. Open Ideo is a really intersting platform for using design thinking for social impact.
My word of warning with online communities (particularly on social media) - make sure you are intentional about what you join and are actually getting value out of them. I am completely guilty of going down the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/LinkedIn rabbit holes from time to time. Most of us are. So ask yourself “is this group/page/community/forum actually helping me with my work - or is it just distracting me?”
3. Collaborate with someone
Joining forces with others for a particular project can be a great way give you boost on the interaction front. It can be formal or informal, big or small - it’s up to you.
If you're working inside and organisation - it might be about collaborating with someone from a different team or area of the business. You can even collaborate with those outside of your organisation - suppliers, customers, partners, others in your industry etc. This can go for those working solo too.
Think about the level of involvement and interaction you want to have and create projects to match. Maybe you could run an event with someone, start a community of practice, create a meetup or a working group for a new product or service. The options are endless.
4. Join or start a mastermind group
The mastermind group was formally coined by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich (if you haven’t read this one, definitely go and grab yourself a copy).
They’ve since become very popular in business - particularly in the online, solo world. Mastermind groups are conducted in all kinds of different ways, but are generally a specific group of people who come together either on or offline on a regular basis to support, encourage and keep each other accountable with their business needs and goals.
Some masterminds are paid and are organised/led by someone that provides them as a service. Of course there is nothing stopping you starting a free one of your own. There are lots of great articles out there on how to do this. Here’s one example. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/how-to-start-and-run-a-mastermind-group.html
5. Work with a coach
Coaching has exploded into the business and personal development worlds in a big way - and it’s no wonder. Having a coach is great for having someone who can support you with your specific goals in your career or business.
Coaches are there to keep you moving forward and be in action, help you move past roadblocks and keep you accountable. Coaching is different from counselling in that it’s helping propel you forward and focus on what you want to achieve in the future.
Coaches are generally, although not always, trained in the coaching process and offer a paid service.
6. Work with a mentor
Having a mentor is similar, but different from having a coach. Generally a mentor is someone who has done something you want to do. They might be many steps ahead or just a few, but they idea is that you get to learn from their experience - what they know, their past mistakes, how they do things and much more. If you’re lucky, your mentor may actually be a coach as well - but this is not always the case.
They can be an incredible help for those working for someone else and trying to build a career/do something significant in their organisation, as well as for those working alone on a business. They can provide support and guidance, but an added bonus is being able to tap into their networks - thus opening up yours. Mentors can be free or paid. My mentors have always done it for nothing - I just had to work up the courage to ask. If you’ve been lucky enough to have great mentor - make sure you do it for someone else someday. What goes around comes around.
7. Find a business/career buddy
This is one of my absolute favourites and has been a saviour to me over the last year. This can be something you do formally or informally, but is generally a person who is there for you to talk things through with, bounce off, network with, vent to, brainstorm with - you name it.
When you meet your business buddy, you will generally know. You will just click. It’s often something that happens organically for people - but there’s nothing stopping you reaching out to someone intentionally. You will probably have someone you know already who would be perfect.
I have a wonderful business buddy, the amazing www.melvk.com.au (she’s also been a client). We are both coaches and while we have quite different businesses, offer each other regular support - not to mention friendship. We constantly help each other out and have each others’ backs. It’s like having an amazing colleague - only we don’t work together. Not yet at least - there’s definitely some collaboration in the pipeline.
8. Join or start a collective
I’ve not seen many of these out there working in practice - but the idea keeps coming up more and more with people I talk to - particularly for those in the design community working as freelancers.
The idea behind a collective is a group of people who work independently, but come together for some kind of purpose. The definition seems pretty loose from what I’ve seen out there. It might be to work on a particular project, to share resources, space, knowledge or contacts, to refer work or to come together over a particular theme or area of interest.
They will also have varying levels of formality. Generally everyone in the collective will contribute to its organisation. There may or may not be a designated leader.
If you’re keen to start one, what it can be is only bound by your imagination and ability to get people together.
9. Attend events & get networking
It may seem like a no brainer, but if you’re ever feeling isolated getting out of your environment and participating in some kind of event can be excellent for providing some connection. It can also be great for building your career, reputation or business.
There are so many options here - something for everyone (even if you feel like you’re an introvert): meetups, conferences, circles, clubs, networking nights, jams, hacking days, talks and the list goes on.
I’ve made some amazing connections and friends through attending events. Every time I get out I think “why don’t I do this more often?” In an increasing digital world, you will be amazed what a bit of real life interaction can do for your career and business.
10. Organise working days
This is another brilliant one for getting the ‘real life’ interaction you may be craving. If you often find yourself working solo - particularly those of us who work from home - grab another person or group of people and organise to work from the same place for the day.
You can go about this two ways:
- Just work separately on your own things, but with company. Grab lunch together, take a break have a yarn. It’s all about just being with others.
- Actually have a plan for helping each other with some things throughout the day - stuff that’s good to have more brains on. For example brainstorming, exploring a new strategy, testing a new idea or getting feedback on an important piece of work.
You may want to work with people who do something similar to you, but that doesn't have to be the case. Often those doing something different can bring a fresh perspective.
This is not limited to solo business people either. If you work for a company, try a working day with someone in another part of the business or even a different organisation. Shake things up a bit.
We are only ever as alone as we allow/want ourselves to be. So if you feel like you’ve been operating a little too much in isolation, ask yourself “what might work for me to connect me with other?” Different things will work for all of us - so get out there, experiment and have some fun with it.
What do you do when you feel like you need to interact/connect with people in your career or business? I’d love to hear from you.