- I recently tried out two new, digital approaches to networking: LinkedIn Career Advice and Bumble Bizz.
- I had a hard time connecting with fellow journalists and starting conversations on both.
- One of the apps proved to facilitate a more enjoyable, seamless experience – although not that effective in actually meeting people.
Once upon a time, networking meant donning an itchy suit, grabbing a stack of business cards, and trying not to feel awkward at a conference where you know no one and everyone seems more interesting and impressive than you.
Today, the process is starting to look a lot less intimidating, thanks to new technology that’s redefining the word “schmoozing.”
LinkedIn, for example, recently launched a feature called Career Advice that allows users to find potential mentors and mentees and chat online or offline. Around the same time, dating app Bumble launched Bumble Bizz, connecting women and men with similar professional interests. (Bumble Bizz is similar to the dating app in that women have to initiate the conversation.)
I tried out LinkedIn Career Advice and Bumble Bizz over the course of a work week and compared them in terms of how easy they are to use and the kind of people they introduce you to. My experience is illustrated below – as is my verdict on which one takes the cake.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that launched in 2003. Pictured below is its founder, Reid Hoffman. I haven’t been an especially avid user since I joined in 2008, though the site has helped me find jobs and learn more about influential people in my industry.
Bumble, on the other hand, started as a dating app in 2014. Founder Whitney Wolfe is pictured below. I’d never used Bumble before, though many single friends and coworkers (men and women) have profiles.
It was time to start networking. On LinkedIn, I headed to my profile and scrolled down to see the ‘career advice hub.’
LinkedIn asked me to indicate my preferences for potential contacts, but I kept my options open.
LinkedIn also asked about the field I wanted to find contacts in. I selected ‘media and communications.’
LinkedIn users write a summary of their career background and networking interests.
On Bumble, I chose the ‘networking’ function, as opposed to dating or making friends.
Bumble snags a few photos from your Facebook profile, which you can choose to keep or not. (You need to log in through Facebook in order to use the app.) Bumble allows users to share a bit more information about themselves — I used almost the same intro as I did on LinkedIn.
Here’s what my profile looks like to other Bumble users.
Bumble matches people according to geographic area. I stuck with the default location preferences (in contrast to LinkedIn, where I didn’t limit contacts to my region). As far as I can tell, there’s no way to limit your contacts to a specific industry.
Bumble users can also edit their job history. It took me a day to realise that the app had listed my jobs in the wrong order, so it didn’t look like I’m currently a Business Insider reporter. I had to edit my job history on Facebook in order for the app to make the change, which was slightly annoying.
LinkedIn immediately found a match for me: someone in the gaming industry. I didn’t think we had particularly similar career backgrounds.
But I sent him a message anyway. I suppose I could have gotten more creative…
A reply came a few minutes later! But then the conversation seemed to stall. I moved on.
On Bumble, I scrolled through a seemingly infinite number of profiles, of people working in a range of industries — not just media. I swiped left for those I wasn’t interested in chatting with and right for those I was. Confession: I’ve never used a dating app before, so I kept accidentally swiping the wrong way.
Using the app was addictive — I couldn’t stop swiping to see who would pop up next. I swiped right on a few journalists, to no avail. Finally, I connected with a woman who said she was working on a documentary series for a major news outlet. Cool!
The app celebrated our connection with appropriate fanfare.
I sent the documentary-maker a brief message. Users have one day to introduce themselves, or else the match expires. There is, however, a chance to request more time if you can’t start chatting right now.
I kept checking to see if my Bumble match had responded… but after six hours, my story was due and I was still left hanging. Womp womp.
LinkedIn sends users more matches every Monday and Thursday. One of my three new matches was another journalist. I was intrigued by his experience teaching a journalism course, so I asked him about that … and never heard back. It’s fine. I’m over it.
Towards the end of the day, Bumble sent me a reassuring message. Thanks … I guess.
THE VERDICT: To be quite honest, I didn’t have great experiences on either app, since it was so hard to get a conversation going. Ultimately, I slightly preferred Bumble Bizz.
It’s possible that people on both apps didn’t want to chat because I’m a journalist, and they didn’t want to wind up featured in a story. Or, maybe my profile wasn’t detailed enough. And maybe if I’d given it more time, I would have ultimately made a connection.
That said, I’m casting my vote for Bumble Bizz, if only because I didn’t have to wait several days for an algorithm to match me with three people – I could find tons of people on my own. Other people may favour LinkedIn’s approach.
Still, it’s worth noting that “real-life” networking may not be any more effective. I’ve definitely been guilty of meeting someone at a networking event and then forgetting to respond to their follow-up email. (Sorry!)
It’s probably best to supplement your IRL schmoozing with apps like Bumble and LinkedIn – the more people you meet and conversations you start, the easier it gets.
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