CoWorking: Community for Professionals

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My name is Megan Kaye Donahoe, and I’m a recent MC grad, NT alum, new resident of Dallas, Texas, and Marketing Coordinator of a coworking space in Dallas called Common Desk!

For those of you who know me, you know that I’ve always been a pretty free-spirited individual; because of that, I absolutely dreaded the thought of working all day in a dull and fluorescent office environment for the majority of the rest of my life. I majored in Public Relations (shoutout to the Comm. Department!) in hopes that I could at least work somewhere high-energy and fast-paced to make being in an office a little less vanilla. Regardless, I spent so much of my time in college worrying about how I was going to survive in the “real world,” because I felt like I wasn’t made to fit in the boxes I assumed I would be shoved in after graduation.

Little did I know then that the office space (and community) I would end up finding is more unbelievable than I ever could have imagined it would be, and I want to tell you about in hopes that it might relieve some of the worries you’re having now or might encounter as you near graduation! I’ll be writing articles throughout the year on post-grad life as a whole, but for the first few, I want to camp out on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s a concept that’s inventive, creative, and community-oriented. It’s got a place for anyone and everyone. It’s comprised of game-changers, difference-makers, and everyday influencers. Its name is coworking, and it is changing the way the world perceives office space.

So what the heck is this coworking thing? Let’s dive into this together:

Coworking is defined as the use of a creative working environment by startups, freelancers, and small companies who share resources and ideas as one community.

Basically, think of the coolest office space you could imagine, equipped with bottomless coffee, lounge areas, a treadmill desk (yes, those exist, and they rule), multiple seating options, conference rooms, a fireplace, and cool murals done by local artists– all shared by people from different walks of life, career paths, and stages of business, and BAM– you’ve got yourself a coworking space. Sounds too good to be true, right?!

Fortunately for us, coworking is very real, and it’s completely shaking up office spaces and real estate markets around the globe. Let’s dive into a few stats and a little history, shall we?

Coworking was created when people finally started noticing just how much time they spend at their offices. Here’s a (not-so-)fun fact: if you work until you’re 65, you’ll spend approximately 10.5 years in your office (terrifying, I know). If you’re going to spend around 30-45 hours of your 168 hour week working, for about 40 years of your life, then I think it’s easy to conclude that everyone needs to enjoy their office environment.

The term “coworking space” was first used in 2005 when a guy named Brad opened a space for “9 to 5” workers in SanFran. Since 2006, the number of coworking spaces has more than doubled year by year. Now, there are roughly 7000 coworking spaces in the world, with 700 different spaces (and counting) in the U.S. alone.

So, what’s the big deal?

The beautiful thing about the world we live in today is that you don’t have to be a “professional” to start making a living for yourself (surprise!), and you can start pursuing your dream job whether you’re in school or out of school (seriously, it’s true). I’ve been working for Common Desk for a year now (time flies when you enjoy your job!), and in that time, I’ve gotten to hear story after story of what people do and how they got to the point that led them to join Common Desk.

Our member base is comprised of over 200 different companies– from corporate to startup, freelancer to small business, and even remote workers (we have a member who works remotely for Google!). Our members are artists, Indian Bali dance marketers, composers, social media strategists, accounting specialists, serial entrepreneurs, software developers, designers, chefs, doctors, and even pastors; I wasn’t lying when I said we have a place for anyone and everyone!

Working in such an eclectic and diverse environment means that the opportunities to establish connections, form new friendships, find new brand ambassadors, and learn from others’ trades are truly endless. I’ve seen someone join Common Desk at the age of 17 as a website developer and land his biggest client to date through it (yes, there’s a 17 year old out there running a successful business), and I’ve seen a Dutch guy and a guy from Iowa join our space as transplants to Dallas, become best friends through one of our community events, and eventually start a company together, all because of coworking.

I’ve heard people describe coworking as a “playground for adults,” and I 100% stand by that notion. With constant community events like member lunch outings, Show & Tells, impromptu happy hours, coffee meetups, workshops, and even spontaneous concert trips, there’s no way to not have fun working in a coworking space (or at least one like Common Desk).

The success stories of coworking could be told for years.

After leaving a place like Mississippi College and moving to a big city in a new state, I thought it would be difficult for me to find the kind of tightly-knit community I had during my 4 years at MC anywhere else in the world. The last place I ever expected to find it was in my office space, and the last thing I thought I’d be doing with my PR degree is marketing for a coworking space (I’ve never taken a marketing class and I had never heard of coworking until applying for this job).

I say all of that to say that no matter what notions The Office or Parks and Rec gave you about the modern day office and/or the adult world, it doesn’t have to look mundane and flourescent if you don’t want it to, and there are immensely more job opportunities out there than you might initially imagine or even know about.

With more and more people working for themselves these days, the need for community in the workspace is greater than it’s ever been. Like I mentioned earlier, coworking is on the rise all over the world– even in Mississippi!

I wish I could say that Common Desk has locations in Mississippi, but the good news is that there are coworking spaces popping all over the state, especially in Jackson! For those of you in the Jackson area, I recommend Mantle and Coalesce. Mantle is right above Babalu (need I say more?) and it provides 24/7 coworking to anyone who wants it. The design is delightful, and it’s still under the radar to where it isn’t oversaturated. Check out their website to learn about special student rates! Coalesce is located on State Street in that cool section of buildings that Thimblepress is in. Coworking is also making an appearance in Oxford with The Edison.

Having a sense of community doesn’t have to fade just because you graduate college and move into a new phase of life. Community is something to be fervently pursued in every aspect and realm of life, and it makes everything you do, encounter, or risk much easier by ensuring a support system is in place to lift you up. Finding a community that you feel you’re an integral part of is of dire importance whether you’re a 20 year old student or a 43 year old professional.

Don’t stress if you’re not an entrepreneur or business owner! 85% of the people who work from most coworking spaces aren’t. I’ve seen people as young as 17, college students who are interning for a member or just needing a place to study besides the library, and post-grads who are wanting to make connections with people from all phases of business become members at our coworking spaces.

And whether you’re reading this article as a freshman/sophomore, a soon-to-be graduate, or someone who’s been living the adult life for years, I encourage you to explore more about coworking– You never know where your career path might lead you! Take a tour of a coworking space nearby, buy a day pass, or even just explore their websites to learn more. And be sure to keep an eye out for part 2 of this coworking series that will dive into a few more specifics!

Megan Kaye Donahoe

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