By Andrea Cook
There are over 14.5 million self-employed independent professionals throughout our country. Working hard to provide jobs, solve problems and succeed day in and day out, without burning out, these individuals are some of our most bravest, boldest and innovative leaders in our country’s workforce. Yet, many independent professionals work from home, isolated with little- to no personal interaction throughout their forty-plus hour work week. Even introverts and especially extroverts need a little wiggle and jiggle in their work day.
Self-employed professionals together out-number the jobs of our country’s largest employers including the US Department of Defense (3.2 million jobs), Wal-Mart (2.1 million jobs) and McDonalds (1.7 million). Working solo and in a silo is like being confined in a bag in a box of gelatin.
Gelatin, dry and contained in a tiny little box can get lost and forgotten in a dark pantry. But, add some heated liquid, stir it, cool it and give it some time, that boxed bag of colorless sand becomes a gelatin bliss, delighting people of all ages with color, flavor and flair. Like granular dry gelatin in boxes, independent professionals can become more successful and thrive when stirred with some synergy that can be found in a community of like-minded professionals.
Jellyweek and Coworking
This week marks the second annual Worldwide Jellyweek, a global movement to bring awareness to coworking. Coworking is an emerging trend that provides a collaborative environment of shared workspace and equipment for independent professionals. Like a gym for individuals who share equipment and talk fitness tips, coworking can provide work space, equipment and community to get more productivity and success in your work day and career path.
With 207 locations hosting this year’s Jellyweek events throughout the globe, Jellyweek is shaping up to be a successful venture as compared to its inaugural year of 48 participants. The upsurge in this grassroots effort marks a significant growing global trend that is based on the increased number of professionals seeking true community and finding it in nonconventional cowork spaces. Jellyweek founder, Anni Roolf talked about her vision for the global campaign, and shares about Jellyweek, “It’s not exclusive to cowork spaces, it’s about networking and sharing.” Anni is more concentrated on the importance of making personal connections for success.
Spreading the good news of the growing benefits found in personal connections, community and collaboration is the overall mission of Jellyweek and it may be the solution to what the independent professional needs to thrive in today’s world.
The Independent Professional Crisis
As large as the number of self-employed professionals is, this sector has decreased by over 2 million since its last peak in 2006. Causes of the drop are blamed on challenges like limited dollars, global competition, vocational paradigm shifts, lack of one strong voice to influence policy and government and overall psychological woes of anxiety and stress that can wear down the entrepreneurial spirit and force the independent professional to close its doors. Nothing can be more devastating than the story of a business person with skill and passion who was brave enough to start-up, strong enough to keep-going, but not supported enough to make-it. All professionals are somewhere on the timeline of success and we all need one another for support from time to time.
|Jellyweek 2012 mission:
Let’s make the global coworking
Community is the Solution
Some would think that the growth of social media gives professionals enough social fix to get through the day. With 400 million users logging onto Facebook daily, the exchange of simple status updates doesn’t quite complete us or fulfill our social needs. The number of “friends” or followers on Twitter doesn’t provide our true community. And, a mouse click on a button with a “thumbs-up” will never replace the human hand shake. Never before have we had the ability to grow our professional network throughout the world by the push of buttons on a keyboard. But as we beef up our online tribes, are we becoming more disconnected in our own neighborhoods?
Today’s social revolution is in need of a reality check and the independent professional is in desperate need of true community.
As more professionals base their careers on technology and socially interact from a flat screen, connected wirelessly where ever they go, the need for balance of life, work and community grows. Jellyweek is about creating opportunity for community, engagement and personal interaction that can lead to more support and synergy. It is about getting together IRL (in real life) to collaborate beyond the mundane day-to-day tasks and stressors today’s remote professional experience.
Because working in alone in a silo is as thrilling as a bag of sand in a small box, Jellyweek calls all of the boxes to be opened up. Open the doors to your office, home or coffee shop and add some heat, stir and chill together. Make a community with other independent professionals who live and work alone from a home office nearby. Need some inspiration on how you can be part of this global movement?
Some Jellyweek Starter Tips
As you step out of your comfort zone and reach out to others nearby, keep in mind that you have the support of others all over the world who are also trying to create a local community. Connect with the Jellyweek network and hosts through Google, Facebook and Twitter for added resources and support you need. Here are some tips that can get you started in your celebration of Jellyweek.
Tweet-ups are an easy way to start community with like-minded professionals. Schedule a place and time for your tweet-up and send out a tweet. Personally send a direct message to others in your local community who you may not know, but you are interested in knowing more. Ask them if they could help you with your first tweet-up. By reaching out, one-on-one to a few people this way, you will have connected with others and planted seeds for future tweet-ups. Even if only one or two people show up for the tweet-up, it could be the beginning of a growing community for you.
Local volunteerism and food drives are another way to reach into the community and get involved. Contact a local food bank to see if there is any way you can help. Perhaps just serving as a volunteer at a food pantry, church or school could be a way for you to connect and start growing a local community in the name of Jellyweek. Lead a food drive in your office, ask for donated peanut butter and jelly pantry items for example.
|Andrea Cook and Clio
Declare your work day as Bring Your Dog to Work Day and take your dog with you where ever you go all day. Dogs can be amazing community builders and conversation starters when you are out and about. Share photos of your canine online and see if there are independent professionals with dogs in your area and schedule a dog-lunch date or invite them over and give their pet a dog treat. Walk your dog around the block and introduce your yipp-yipp to the kids and parents at the playground.
Invite some independent professionals you know to coffee or lunch to celebrate Jellyweek. Pick a local coffee shop or restaurant or invite them to bring their own brown bag lunch or coffee to your home office. Talk about Jellyweek and how you are trying to reach out and learn more about how you can be more involved in the local community. This may be a one-time meet-up or it may be the start of a new weekly group meeting.
Remember that people all over the globe are trying new ways to celebrate Jellyweek. You can always connect with the global community of Jellyweek fans and share your quest for success. You don’t have to have all of the answers about Jellyweek. In fact, you may find the overall idea of Jellyweek perplexing. After all, is Jello a liquid or a solid? Who knows? Who cares? As you commit to celebrating Jellyweek, the concept will come to life and you will be encouraged by the global gel of togetherness.
Let’s all celebrate Jellyweek. Imagine what could happen if 14.5 million independent professionals connected in real life in our neighborhoods and throughout the world. There’d be a lot more to smile about throughout our workday, because we all enjoy a little jiggle.
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Andrea Cook is a guest contributor for Small Biz Survival. A cowork-owner, re-inventor and game-changer, Andrea is a city-girl living and seeking work from a small rural town in Indiana. To learn more about her daily journey as a pioneer in today’s marketplace and new media landscape, follow @andreacook on Twitter.