Swiping apps are no longer only used for finding dates – networking for business connections can now go beyond unanswered emails, allowing you to swipe left or right on your next collaborator.
By Daisy Mellar
Not too long ago, dating sites were typically associated with a stigma of being only for lonely middle-aged or older individuals who were, in some way or another, definitely a catfish. At best, your date was actually the height they said they were, and at worst, they were a psychopath looking for their next victim. In any case, there was the perception that any meeting from the internet was most likely going to end badly. My own mother once told me of a time when her date tried to woo her with his job as a printer salesman, offering her ‘all the free ink cartridges you could want!’ – her response was a strongly sarcastic ‘wow’. What’s more, even if you did have a great date and ended up in a relationship with the person, the fact that you met on the internet in the first place was still likely to carry some form of judgment.
However, with the millennial takeover and the immense progression of the digital era, where everything is twice as fast-paced and everyone is glued to their smartphones, this stigma has all but been eradicated. Now, 91 million people worldwide are estimated to be using dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, and young people meeting their other halves via this method is considered the new norm. It is therefore unsurprising that this gamified experience of meeting complete strangers has now evolved into the world of professionalism.
In the past, doing business was presented only in a very formal and corporate fashion. Online networks such as LinkedIn were often seen as falling short of the needs of self-employed youngsters or those in the creative industries, as 77 percent of their users are aged over 30 and looking to recruit mainly from large firms. Though, in recent years, statistics show that more and more people are finding jobs through the method of networking, and with the increasing number of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and graduates fuelled with modern career ideologies, newly formed apps such as Shapr, Mixer, Ripple, and Bumble’s spin-off Bumble Bizz (to name a few) have gained great momentum in connecting individuals on a professional basis.
Though the apps differ in their specific features, generally, they all enable you to present and view very (very) condensed and visually interesting CVs, which you can then either ‘like’ or move past. Those who connect by liking each other may want to collaborate on projects, discuss interests in their relevant fields, organize mentorships or internships, or even be directly considered for employment opportunities. In my opinion, these apps provide a fantastic alternative to the tedious and time-consuming online applications or sending copious amounts of attempted networking emails from which you rarely get a response. Instead, they allow people to efficiently swipe through profiles, perhaps on their morning metro journey or as they wait in the queue for their coffee, then match and connect to immediately start a conversation. Also, and I am sure many will agree, engaging with someone over a 30 minute meet up can teach you more about them than reading answers to an online application or responding to their formal email. Because of this, many people even consider these apps to be fixing the networking and job-seeking experience.
The success of these apps was not that unpredictable if we consider the millennial attitude to want more and not be afraid to ask for it. Millennials are also holding greater value for community and creativity in their career rather than simply obtaining a large paycheck – this is exactly what these apps aim to provide. However, like most forms of social media, these professional networking apps are also effective in providing users with a little boost in dopamine (the neurotransmitter that controls our reward processing). Think of that feeling you get when picking up a phone call congratulating you on having made it through the first stage of the job application process or the feeling when you match with the hottie on your dating app of choice. A mixture of those two feelings is what these apps provide when you connect, and the more you swipe, the more rewarding sensations you get. It is no wonder so many people, just like with social media, are finding these networking apps slightly addictive – but then again, being addicted to boosting your career may not be such a bad thing.
So, what is the perfect first professional networking date? In my experience, whatever you are hoping to get out of the connection, you cannot go wrong with offering to buy them a coffee, though from other people I have heard everything from going to a conference together to planning a week’s holiday in Spain. When you arrive for the networking date, make sure to come prepared. If you are hoping to build a successful connection with this person based on their profession, do some research and think of some interesting questions to ask them, but at the same time, don’t make it like an interview, keeping the conversation light and flowing. Don’t expect too much and keep your expectations of the meeting realistic. If you’re seeking employment, it is very unlikely that they are going to offer you a job then and there. Like any connection, it takes time. It is important to be respectful of their reasons for using the app and also respect their schedule. If you have agreed on a 30-minute meet up, then it is usually good to wrap things up at this time; however, if there is a great connection and it flows over naturally, this may be a good sign. At the end of the meeting, mention keeping in touch or ask if they are going to a relevant event you are attending. Once you have left each other, send them an email thanking them for their time and following up on meeting again, being sure to keep it purposeful. Just remember that these connections need to be mutual – they aren’t job interviews or romantic dates! They are about sharing knowledge and exploring connection possibilities with interesting and like-minded individuals that will help to grow your professional network and resources on a day-to-day basis.
I think many will agree that these apps hold great potential in the professional world, and it will be exciting to see how they develop and expand further over the coming years. So, put yourself out there, and get swiping.