Normally, you could say the word “networking” and all that would be left of me would be a puff of smoke — that’s how fast I would be so outta there. I don’t know about you, but I do not thrive in situations where I need to take the initiative and walk up to someone I admire and just start speaking. Breaking that ice is so difficult and more often than not, I leave networking events without any real connections or contacts. Not ideal.
There’s an App for That
Enter Shapr — seriously, where has this been all my life?! — a networking app in the style of Bumble or Tinder. The idea is simple: you swipe right on professionals you want to meet or chat with and swipe no on those who don’t align with your goals or interests. Doesn’t sound too difficult, right? So, I put the app to the test for two weeks and compiled the results. You’re welcome.
To start, you have to set up a professional profile on the app. I signed in with my LinkedIn account, which pre-filled all my information, like job history and education, cause ain’t nobody got time for that. (No worries, if you pre-fill, you can go in and edit the sections individually. You know, in case you haven’t looked at your LinkedIn since 2011 #noshame)
Speaking of LinkedIn, the Shapr app is what I wish LinkedIn was — an actual communication tool for networking. I don’t know if I’ve just been doing LinkedIn all wrong this whole time, but I find reaching out to contacts on that platform ridiculously awkward and difficult. With Shapr, you know the other party will be receptive because you both swiped right. Win, win.
There’s literally a tab which lists “Favorite Ways to Meet” (i.e., coffee, after work drinks, you get the gist), which makes reaching out for a face-to-face meetup ridiculously simple. You already know what the other person is amenable too, so all the guesswork is gone. It’s the networking dream for the socially anxious.
Luckily for me, Shapr gives you a curated selection of matches every day — meaning there’s no getting trapped in the swiping black hole, where you’ll open Bumble, look up, and five hours have passed. However, it does mean you have to think carefully about your matches and what they can bring to the table for you and what you can provide to them. Each profile allows for a place to add a blurb about yourself and what you’re looking for — so get specific! I’m new to the Chicago area, so the app was great for reaching out to peers in my industry who I may not have met otherwise.
How to Get the Conversation Rolling (What Have You Got to Lose?)
Once you match, you can start a conversation — which is the hardest part of networking in person, am I right? I’m usually the one in the corner, chugging the glass of wine, eyeing the room like “who looks innocuous enough to approach???” Not a great first impression vibe. This is where the app excels — you can start a conversation from your couch, without even pausing Netflix. Bing, bang, boom, done.
I recommend starting the conversation first, because I wasted a few days on the app waiting for my connections to reach out to me. Why wait? There’s nothing to lose, because you matched — so just go for it! At a loss for what to say? Try:
“Hi <Name>,” we’re a match! How are you?”
Simple and easy, the perfect thing to get the conversation moving. I’ve found on Bumble and the like, that I’m not great at keeping up a conversation in text with someone I haven’t met face to face, so I usually suggest a meetup early on. It’ll get you out of the house and help you form a relationship with that person. And if it doesn’t work? At least you tried! It’s great for networking as well, because if you meet with someone in the real world, you have that much more opportunity to showcase your personality and talents — plus, they will definitely remember you. And, since it’s a meeting set up in advance with just one human, it’s wayyyy less intimidating than a huge networking event where meeting anyone is by no means guaranteed.
Bonus: just like Tinder or Bumble, the app is location-specific. Meaning if you’re in another city on a work trip and want to meet up with like-minded industry folks, just start swiping away when you get there. Such a simple way to expand your network past your own city limits.
The Low-Down After Two Weeks
Here are my stats after two weeks using Shapr:
Number of Matches: 10
Number of Conversations: 7
Number of Meetups: 1, with 2 Scheduled for Dates in the Future
Not bad, am I right? Compare that to my general stats at an in-person networking function:
Number of Conversations: 1 (and 1/2 if you count “Excuse me, are you in line?” at the ladies room)
Number of Nervous Breakdowns: ∞
What I found most helpful about the app was the community-like feeling. It is definitely a place for people looking to help peers in their industry or learn more about their craft — whatever that may be. Of the matches I spoke to, I got the sense of collaboration and interest, which is exactly what I was looking for out of the experience. It feels like the rolodex of the future. The next project I’m working on where I need a photographer or a producer or an illustrator, I’ll have a pre-built place to pull from, which is amazing as a part-time freelancer. Plus, it’s FREE, so there is literally nothing stopping you.
You can download the Shapr app here, and start swiping. If you run across me on the app, swipe right! I’d love to meetup and hear about your experience.
This post was in partnership with Shapr, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.