Asking someone who they are or what they do is not something that can be described in one word. New York is pretty special in that way, it feels like no one here has just one profession. That’s part of what makes the place so interesting and why I’ve chosen to stay here so long.
Coming here eight years ago to go to college, it was definitely a shock to the system to see how different and amazing people are here. They are creative, risk takers who love experiences. It took me a while to get it but now, in my mid-twenties, I realize that everything is at my fingertips, I just need the courage to go out and grab it.
I’m an only child, and a very shy one, so I’ve generally had to break out of my comfort zone in order to meet people. If I didn’t want to be alone on a family vacation, I had to be that awkward kid who went up to a random and asked if they would be my friend. That in-person experience of approaching someone you don’t know and putting yourself out there definitely still frightens me today and partially why I was so intrigued by the early online chat world, such as ICQ and AOL.
These anonymous online connections to someone on the other side of the world, afforded me the opportunity to share either what I did that day, or my deepest darkest secrets, without any of the insecurity that arose when approaching a stranger in person. Online there was no rejection, it could never hurt.
I don’t recall ever developing serious friendships or relationships on either of those chat platforms, but I do remember that somehow it made me feel less alone. I am fascinated by others, and learning about differences through other people’s experiences. Chatting online was just another way for me to learn more about people.
While eating and drinking at a friend’s rooftop party last summer, one friend was on her phone incessantly. I looked over to see she was on an app, which she explained as the new age “Hot or Not.” I watched as she swiped left and right and understood immediately why she was so infatuated by it. Tinder gave you the ability to peer into the world of someone else through photos, interests and mutual friends.
I downloaded the app and for the next few weeks I was hooked, but quickly realized that it was indeed simply “Hot or Not,” people were on there to hook up. That was it. I was turned off and the addiction dissipated.
I pride myself in the different way I see the world, always trying to look outside the box. I recently started a new job where I represent talent. I always try to surround myself with talented, creative people whose work inspires me. This job involves not only those people, but just as importantly, those who select the creative talent for projects, and that is definitely where I was lacking in terms of my network. My boss told me that it would take me a year before I stopped feeling like a vacuum sales person. I’m an impatient person, so I knew I needed to find a way to speed it up.
A co-worker was raving about her recent and amazing vacation in Berlin. She went with her mother, but met some amazing locals who showed her Berlin in the way it should be experienced.
She proceeded to tell me that she used Tinder to simply meet locals. It dawned on me, this is the way I must use it. Not as a hook up app, but for business, to meet people and to network.
It gave me the ability to message people I didn’t know, find out about what they do for a living and decide if I felt they were someone I should meet in the real world. I quickly separated those who I knew were there just to hook up, from the ones who may prove to be mutually beneficial professional contacts.
The success of these meetings have been varied, and one particular story seems to sum up the best of the experience. It gave me a very reassuring stamp of approval on this new approach.
I was messaging back and forth with a creative technologist with whom we had a few mutual friends. We were chatting about our jobs, and the kind of work we created. I was very intrigued by the experiential agency they worked at, and I truly believed that there had to be a way in which we could work together. I believe there is an art to networking — you never want to sell too hard, you have to be strategic, so I messaged him one morning asking if he wanted to go for coffee so we could talk more in person about what we do, he didn’t respond.
Later that afternoon, while researching companies to reach out to, I looked up the company my match worked for and cold emailed a number of producers and creative directors there. I chose to leave my match off the list, as I thought that might look a little too stalker-ish. One person got back to me that evening mentioning they would love to meet and chat more about how we could work together, and that they would convey the message to others to see if they wanted to join. I assumed that my email would probably reach the person I was talking to on Tinder, and later I see a message from them pop up on Tinder saying “____ was impressed you used Tinder to network”. BOOM, nailed it.
In a Forbes article last year, J.J. Colao wrote;
”With quick success in the dating market, Tinder is beginning to think about applying their intuitive matchmaking process to other verticals. One industry in their sights: business networking.”
For me, it’s all about repurposing an existing object, or looking at the environment a different way. A park bench was a seat, until someone on a skateboard decided to jump up and slide along it.