Make a Habit of Painless Networking

You can’t just be an introvert or an extrovert anymore. You could be an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert. You might even be an ambivert.

There are many terms floating around the heads of people who are trying to make sense of the world around them and where they fit, and where they would like to stand out. While it can be helpful to know your personal style and preferences, fundamentally, be who you are, not the label someone assigns to you.

I was painfully shy as a kid. I am not entirely sure what clicked, but in high school, I knew I had to play an active role in making first impressions and not passively rely on others. In college, I learned more about giving and receiving critiques, public speaking and making presentations and I ascend to leadership roles because of those skills.

Flash forward a few years *cough* after exposure to Fortune 500 companies and regional enterprises, to running my own business, where I am still generally publicly reserved and detest stereotypical networking events.

The thing is when you’re in business, and you want to stay in business, you need to meet people. A lot of people. Regularly. Fortunately, there are apps a few taps away on our phone that clear some of the initial stresses and obstacles. Scouring Facebook events and Meetups can expose you to lots of opportunities to see what’s going on, but they still don’t provide the impetus to get you over the hurdle of meeting people. Dating apps are successful, in part because they offer a quick way to codify your interests, make private judgments, and take calculated risks from a comfortable distance. Because the point is to find commonality, matches get celebrated, and mismatches dissolve quickly into the background. Contrast this with happy hours across the nation, where matches are rare and fails often go down in a public, all-consuming ball of flames. While LinkedIn and other social networks have the capacity to bring people together too, there’s often something missing in those connections. It can feel like your only value is to boost follower count.

That’s why I like Shapr, a free app that merges the best of matching and networking. You can use your LinkedIn profile to quickly get started, though as with all media, you should clean it up a bit to better fit the tone of the channel. On a single screen, you provide a brief profile, areas of interest and what you’re looking for, i.e. Mentors, inspiration, funding. You also select how you prefer to meet. Maybe a phone call or Skype chat, coffee, drinks, breakfast, a walking meeting, etc. I like this feature because it sets boundaries and expectations right up front. A phone call has far less implied commitment than a business dinner.

Then the algorithms get to work and match you with other professionals who are nearby who have similar interests, wants or needs to you. There’s a limit of about 15–20 professionals you can browse through each day. That’s smart because it prevents you from becoming swipe happy, saying yes or no to people based on limited criteria and mindlessly trusting your confirmation bias. It keys into a scarcity mentality, so you investigate the profiles a little more carefully. Also, it prevents it from becoming a time drain. You don’t get lost in the app and find yourself down a rabbit hole. In fact, it’s easy to make it a painless part of your daily routine, as business networking should be. I’ve started reviewing profiles with my morning coffee. A little bit every day is a lot over time.

The mutual goal of everyone using the app is professional networking. Although the functionality can feel like a dating app, they police users who use it for dating, MLM marketing or appear suspiciously spammy. Since everyone there is open to forming a business connection, there’s a level of permission and acceptance you don’t find in traditional venues.

When there is a match between both professionals you automatically receive an email that the other wants to meet you too, and you get a nice dopamine rush of social acceptance. You are prompted to take action with a couple of pre-formatted messages of introduction or you can and hopefully will, come up with a personalized one of your own. Soon, you start a conversation via text, voice or face to face.

The experience isn’t fast paced gladtomeetyouheresmycardpleasebuymystuf networking. It’s deliberate, thoughtful, simple, efficient, and an excellent way to make connections out of your typical bubble. I’ve been using the app for a short time and have already had fascinating conversations, gained insight to different markets, and have been able to help others in a relatively short period.

No app is perfect. People I’ve talked with agree, it would be good to get some more control of filters and sorting options to refine specific niches, but it’s a great tool to add to your networking efforts.

Use Shapr and spend ten minutes a day actively seeking out interesting people. It will aid your confidence, open business potential, and facilitate meeting other professionals.

Originally published at Karl Bimshas Consulting.

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