Regularly meeting new professional contacts is crucial. As a freelancer who works from home, I need to constantly generate new leads to keep my services growing. At one time, that meant attending networking events in loud, trendy bars and pretending to be fascinated by widgets and NFL scores. However, who has the time and patience to keep that up?
So, when I heard about Shapr, a free smartphone networking app that promises to take the work out of networking, I was curious. Unlike other apps and networking sites, Shapr cuts to the chase. Shapr uses a proprietary algorithm to introduce nearby professionals with similar careers and interests. When you match, the app encourages face-to-face meetings. Not just tweeting, texting and "poking," but actually sitting across from a human being and exchanging ideas, collaborating and forming a community.
All this for free? I gave it a try. Filling out the Shapr profile was a snap. I didn't have to download my resume, tell the story of my life or provide the name of my childhood pet. I just had to fill in the basics—what I do, where I do it. Plus, my interests. Think of it as career zip-lining. It gets you where you want to go as fast as possible with minimum effort on your part.
Within minutes of signing up, I started receiving profiles. Each displayed a photo, skill set and a list of interests in common. Swipe left, they are rejected. Swipe right, they have an opportunity to accept or reject my request. Either way, it's anonymous. (Just like a certain dating site.) These are people whom I might never have met, even though we may shop at the same farmers market and work out at the same gym.
I quickly realized the app isn't just for finding my next client. It's also for finding my next mentor, offering to mentor someone else, or just meeting someone new for coffee to break up your workday. It's about building community. This applies not just to your primary source of employment, but also to your passion. That garage rock band, natural cosmetics business or yoga teaching you do on the side. In my case, it means watercolor paintings, which I am just starting to exhibit and sell.
Shapr allows me to clearly define what I have to offer, what I'm seeking and, most important, where I'm located. I can now connect with like-minded professionals whom I can meet in my neighborhood. They have a name for it. Mindful networking.
One of my favorite features of the app is that suggestions are limited to 15 people a day, so it takes less than two minutes to review your daily batch. Do the math. Fifteen a day is over one hundred potential introductions per week without leaving your home or office, in a way that feels manageable and fun. Because it makes no demands of my time or money, I find Shapr to be a convenient way to build and maintain professional contacts without distracting from my work or personal life.
Who would benefit from this lifestyle app? Freelancers, entrepreneurs, full-time employees seeking to keep the door open for new possibilities, hobbyists and anyone moving to a new town who wants to create instant community. As well as experienced or retired professionals wishing to mentor. Based on my real life test run of the app, I highly recommend it.
Ready to add networking into your routine? Download Shapr for iOS or Android and make your first match!