Using these apps can open you up to entirely new people and opportunities, in your current job and beyond. (They did for me!)
I was a bit late to the networking game. For years I was attempting to find some success in the entertainment industry while freelancing as a writer. Mostly this meant going on auditions and working from home the rest of the time. Alone.
Ultimately I was trying to figure out how to live a creative life while also being able to pay the bills, which is very much possible. But how I was going about that attempt was not the most productive way. I was juggling a lot of dead-end gigs. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for each of them, but there wasn’t always a lot of space to progress. Growing into the next opportunity would mean finding a new opportunity altogether. But I couldn’t even begin to see where I might find the next thing. I was not one to ask for help.
At a certain point, I read the book Never Eat Alone, which dispelled many of my preconceived ideas around what networking even entailed. It confirmed my suspicion that I wasn’t connecting with other professionals as much as I should be. I realized that networking would be a necessity for sustaining the freelance work life I was trying to uphold, and I reminded myself that while I had some needs…I also had a lot to offer.
With that in mind I considered that networking might even be fun. I read the book again, (just to be sure), and then hit the ‘ol web with a search for “online networking.” The following are some apps I discovered then and have used along the way.
Shapr functions a lot like a dating app in that each user has a profile and can swipe left or right on prospects. The difference, of course, is that instead of bios attempting to woo dates, user can input their current job or line of work as well as what they’re on the app for. (Such as seeking freelance work, wanting to invest in projects.) The format is straightforward and easy to use, with daily batches of limited potential matches that kept me coming back.
I made swiping through Shapr a daily habit over breakfast, and in addition to making a lot of thoughtful connections in general, I’ve also found a lot of work. In fact, the app helped me pivot and dramatically expand the type of work that I do. In a traditional application process, I might not have ever included some of my creative hobbies that weren’t directly applicable to the job at hand.
But having my personal social media linked on my Shapr account ended up being the door opener for my work in social media, tech, and fashion. I am a real-life example that an authentic Instagram account (or any other chosen social site), can be a great addition to a work portfolio. Shapr encouraged me to include it all in one place and introduced to me to some great people.
The networking portion of Bumble came a while after the dating side of things. Where I live in Los Angeles, Bumble Bizz seems to be a flourishing community of creatives and ambitious entrepreneurs. If collaboration is the name of your game, Bumble Bizz will come through. Think music engineers, photographers, and hair stylists, all interested in collaborated or offering services.
There’s definitely a lot to sort through on there, but I have connected with a lot of people with very similar goals as mine within the entertainment industry and digital marketing. It’s also worth noting that I met one of my screenwriting partners on the dating portion of Bumble. That’s a long story, but a good one. I made a friend with whom I have a short film in pre-production now.
It took me a while to understand the power of LinkedIn. My usage of it changed dramatically when I downloaded the app, which functions a lot like a business-focused Facebook. What was once a place to keep my professional looking online resume, became a place where I made a lot of cool connections. For me, this platform has been significant in getting my digital magazine on the radar of relevant publicists and other people interested in seeing their work on the website.
Note: You should expect to receive a lot of auto-generated self-promoting messages on this app, but they all seemed to be well-intentioned. The community on the LinkedIn app is very active, and if you share a post asking a question, seeking work, or sharing an inspirational experience, there’s a good chance that it could get shared and read many times outside of your current network.
Mixer is a “trusted network of creative professionals.” The app started on the East Coast and features a lot of creative people in New York, Los Angeles, and beyond. You can sort your potential connection results by location, industry, or profession. There’s pretty much every level of creative on there, like stylists, creative directors, well-known actors, musicians, etc. There is also a portion of the app for posting jobs. I’ve found freelance work on there, as well as posted my own listings for events such as helping a friend rent out a photo studio.
Renge (pronounced like Range), is the newest networking app in my arsenal. It actually encourages networking offline. Instead of just matching people within the app, Renge offers real-life networking encounters with location-based data. Users can log into the app while out and about, and in real time see other app users and their shared professional information. It gives people an opportunity to make meaningful connections in real life, no matter where they are or why. I’m imagining how useful this could be while working from a coffee shop or the next time I’m at a conference.
Of course, like anything else, you get out of networking apps what you put into them. Chatting with people and meeting up in real life does take some commitment. It doesn’t always turn into lasting working relationships. But I would say that it’s always educational in one way or another. At the least, it’s most certainly opened my mind and changed the way I work.
Kate Ferguson is an L.A. based writer and creative. She is the founder of Divvy Magazine, as well as works in entertainment, tech, and social media. Find her online or get in touch directly at email@example.com.