With the working world feeling slightly more fragmented than it did 18 months ago, and with networking sites like LinkedIn becoming noisy and overcrowded, professional communities are emerging that offer something different.
As well as being the ideal space to build and grow new relationships, these groups can also make great sounding boards. Whether you’re looking for feedback on a new idea, help with brainstorming, or an honest opinion on a challenge you’re facing at work, online communities offer a supportive environment to exchange thoughts.
In fact, sometimes it can actually be more beneficial to share within an online community than amongst your existing colleagues and contacts, for a number of reasons:
Outside opinions are valuable
Sometimes the longer you work on a project, the more introspective you become, getting bogged down in the minute details, and forgetting to consider your work through your audience’s eyes. Gathering feedback from those who don’t work in your company, and potentially from outside your sector too, can help to keep the bigger picture in mind, and spot things you may not have noticed.
It’s also a good way of keeping industry jargon to a minimum, making sure you’re not using terminology that alienates your audience.
Free from judgement
The best online communities are built on trust and support, creating an encouraging environment where members can make suggestions, share ideas and ask questions without judgement. Some may find it easier to raise issues or ask things online that they may feel uncomfortable to in an open office or social media platform.
If you’re aiming to work your way up the career ladder in your current organisation, you may feel self-conscious asking what might seem like ‘silly questions’ to those above you in your workplace, so having somewhere private to have discussions with respected peers can be ideal.
More honest feedback
When someone asks for your opinion on their work face to face, many of us have an instinctive reaction to say we like it, even if we have our doubts, to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to prevent confrontation. An online community, however, allows you time to consider your response and provide feedback that is more honest (and therefore more valuable) but in a more sensitive and constructive way than if you were put on the spot.
For those receiving the feedback too, it can sometimes be easier to have your ideas or work challenged in a more considered way, that you can digest in your own time.
A wide variety of input
One of the great things about online professional communities is the eclectic mix of people it brings together. You are, of course, more likely to join and stick with groups that include like-minded people, but that isn’t necessarily restricted to your own industry. You may also be talking with people of different ages and experience levels, varying backgrounds, locations, and skills, but all of whom can offer input into different aspects of your career.
In fact, it’s quite unusual to get such a variety of input in one place – for example, in the office, even though you might span departments, you and your colleagues are all working towards the company’s goals, following the same regulations and processes. Similarly, even in-person networking events are likely to be made up of people from the same geographic area, with many people already familiar with each other. An online community on the other hand enables you to branch out and make the most of more diverse perspectives.
Ideas sparked by other conversations
Although many businesses have adapted admirably to remote working, maintaining communication thanks to email, instant messaging and video calls, there are some conversations you just can’t replace. In the workplace, we’re often inspired by the conversations around us, by what other people are discussing, or by comments and suggestions that individuals may chip in with who aren’t directly involved.
It’s difficult to recreate that with a remote or hybrid model, but the conversations that occur in online communities can be great for sparking thoughts, ideas, and creativity, even if you’re not actively engaging in conversation all the time.
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash
Looking for a space to bounce around ideas, get support, or advice? Take a look at our existing Guild communities and join for free today.
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