All of the professional networking tips available online and in books tend to focus on expanding your personal network through friends, family and colleagues. One very important pool of contacts hits closer to home: your neighbors. If you’re looking for a job or simply trying to network for the future, getting to know the people living in the units in your building could lead to some solid connections. Here are some tips on how to network with your neighbors.
Begin with Casual Conversations
The best way to approach your neighbor and begin chatting is to do so in a common building space like the laundry room, near the mail boxes or in the parking lot. Introduce yourself and make light conversation. If your neighbor seems like he or she is in a hurry, don’t force it—you want to make a good impression and not come off as annoying. Work comes up in most conversations, so asking what it is that your neighbor does for a living isn’t out of line.
If the moon and stars align and your neighbor happens to be in a field you’re interested in, let your neighbor know! It doesn’t hurt to say you’re in the same field—or trying to break into it—and that you’d love to talk about it in more detail. You have nothing to lose by asking for a meeting.
Another great way to approach your neighbor is to look for those common interests before engaging in conversation. Dogs are the great connectors; if you have a dog and notice that your neighbor has one, too, try to talk to them one day when you’re taking it out for a walk. Having that common interest makes the conversation easier, and pet owners are typically interested in talking to other pet owners. It’s a great segway for a friendship and potential networking opportunities. Another good idea is to talk to your neighbor at the complex gym. Again, common interest and repeat run-ins are what help establish professional relationships.
Always Follow Up
After your initial conversation(s) with your neighbor, be sure to follow up by inviting him or her out for coffee or over to your chat sometime. With any kind of networking follow-up is crucial. You want to show your contact that you’re really interested. Tell your neighbor that you have a few questions about the field and wanted to see what insight he or she could offer. If the conversation goes well, your neighbor might even offer to introduce you to other people in the field.
While you don’t need to write a traditional thank you note after the meeting, be sure to express your gratitude. You don’t want to come off as ungrateful.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
Don’t knock on your neighbor’s door and harass them about a meeting time. Treat neighbor networking as you would networking through colleagues. Respect personal privacy and space. Don’t make the conversation all about you—ask your neighbor about what led him or her into the field and to talk about his or her experience.
With neighbor networking, begin by becoming an acquaintance. Be friendly, courteous and professional and you can make connections through your apartment complex.
Rachael Weiner: I’m a communications professional for a non-profit, which financially necessitates my status as an apartment dweller. Constantly “on-the-go,” I’ve resided in five different apartments across the United States over the past five years. Roommate issues, budgeting, organizing and handling problem neighbors are my specialty.