One of the challenges that many non-profits, social entrepreneurs and other social change agents face is professional networking. More specifically, the number of high-priced networking events that unknowingly exclude these professionals, and the number of "gatekeepers" who focus on contacts as customers rather than as key components of their professional network. Thanks to an e-mail from a previous post, I am glad to write about a relatively new service that shows significant promise.
Next Intro is a relatively new site which promises to be a combination of Linked In and Match.com. Rather than just identify key individuals for networking purposes, the site also provides basic information (address and phone number) for local places to network over coffee, lunch, or other activity. It's a much different approach from most sites, focusing on interpersonal networking and one-on-one conversations than larger, more social networking. (Obviously, large networking sessions have their place, but with some groups emphasizing quantity of attendees versus quality of networking, and with many groups adopting a "no job seeker" attitude, this may be a valid, relatively risk-free option). Since there is no cost to join, I thought I would take the plunge and try out the site.
Initial thoughts: not bad, and plenty of room to grow. More specifically:
- Ease of Sign-Up/Profile Creation - Initial prompt was for an e-mail and password; thankfully, potential members can also use either Facebook or Linked In for an initial login. After using the latter, was prompted to select my professional field as well as interests (which seemed a bit lacking, but as someone with a variety of interests, I may be a special case).
- Quality of Display/Usability - Most of the site is relatively easy-to-read, and the display places everything (potential contacts, places to meet, and other data) all in one page. No need to scroll down to catch more informatiaron, but some areas might require you to magnify to catch all of the details
- Contacts - Granted, this is where the site is lacking; however, it is understandable that there are not a lot of potential networking contacts or places because the site is still in its infancy. (And in all fairness, I have yet to reach out to any of my potential contacts). Yet I am impressed with the fact that even for a recently created site, NextIntro is providing consistent results week after week.
Networking is always a challenge, but thankfully, NextIntro is a good first step into focusing on interpersonal (rather than group) networking. It's worth checking out - at the very least, it's a good channel for developing a variety of contacts. In addition, you can always research your potential contacts on Linked In before meeting them. It's a simple service, but for people unable to afford high-priced networking groups - and/or more interested in sharpening their focus - NextIntro is worth your time and attention.
But if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below. In addition, you are more than welcome to reach out to me privately via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now or One Cause at a Time in your note) or via private e-mail. And thanks very much for reading!