For many of us, the mere thought of approaching a stranger and asking for career help is enough to make us want to hide under the covers and not get out of bed for the next week. And then there are people like Emad Hasan, founder of Xpertly, who is focusing his efforts on taking that stress out of professional networking, and making sure it’s something we prioritize in our career. We caught up with Emad to learn more:
- What are you currently working on?
I’m currently CEO of Xpertly, an online platform for helping people network more effectively regardless of where they are in their career. I like to call Xpertly the Blue Apron of professional networking — it helps you decide who you need to meet, how frequently you want those connections delivered to you, and introduce you. All you need to add is interesting conversation.
- Why do we need an online platform for networking? Isn’t that LinkedIn? Professionals today are busy, have little time for activities that aren’t immediate priorities, and are under increasing pressure to do “everything” in their work and personal lives. Because of competing priorities, many professionals de-prioritize networking and begin to only connect with people they already know and respect. As a result, we lose the spontaneity or serendipity that can result from meeting someone completely new. LinkedIn isn’t a great platform for this kind of serendipity since most people only really pay attention to it when they’re looking for a job.
- Do we really need an online platform for this? Can’t people just pick up the phone and call someone?
You can absolutely pick up the phone, but that can also be a lot of work. We recently surveyed 150 mid-career professionals and asked them what the most significant obstacles were to talking to people outside their existing network. The top three obstacles in order were:
- Lack of time: People know they need to be networking, and see value in it, but it’s another activity they simply don’t have time for — especially when you have to identify someone you want to talk to, figure out how to reach them, and then have a conversation.
- Geographic inconvenience: many networking, or “social” gatherings, are still held in person at a physical location. Mid-career professionals often see these mixers as the primary place to meet “new” contacts, but the time and effort to get to these events is a significant barrier. Given that people already feel they have no time, having to travel to an event is a big investment — and one that many deprioritize as a result.
- Relevancy of contact: even after prioritizing meeting new people, professionals are often disappointed in the low number of quality interactions they have. I had one person who really focuses on networking tell me that for every 15 people he meets, he has 1 valuable interaction — primarily because there’s no pre-qualification of who he meets. Networking can be a stressful activity for a lot of people, and the negative experience of not meeting any quality candidates can turn people off of networking very quickly.
- We’ve designed Xpertly to address these common obstacles and reduce the stress many people associate with networking. We identify and serve up pre-qualified contacts in areas of interest to you, with the stated intent of having a 15 minute phone or video conference chat.
- What value does that sort of limited interaction provide?
We want to deliver serendipity — small, meaningful interactions with new people that you didn’t realize you needed to talk to. Xpertly matches people with similar needs and interests and provides them with a warm introduction to connect. Once we’ve introduced them, you decide how they want to connect — and if you want to continue talking after your first interaction. We encourage everyone to have at least one 15 minute conversation — best case scenario is that you make a valuable connection who may end up being your next employee, or mentor. Worse case: you may not get a lot of direct value, but you just met an interesting human being and may have helped them out more than you realize.
- How do you personally use Xpertly?
We’re still in the process of building the breadth and depth of people on Xpertly, but I use it to meet new people all the time. As an entrepreneur, I spend probably 40% of my time identifying people I need to talk to, approaching them, and following up. If I could reduce the amount of time I spent on identifying the right people — and have a higher chance of a quality interaction — I would absolutely take it so I could spend more time on building my product and business. As I meet other entrepreneurs — many of them who are more introverted developers or engineering-types — they tell me one of the most difficult things they face in their business is getting out and networking. They need serendipity to find their next employee, or get perspective on a problem they’re trying to solve, and they’re struggling. I am building Xpertly to help remove that stress and help everyone make the connections they need and want in today’s business environment.
About the interviewer
Scott Brown is a marketing strategist who’s worked up and down Silicon Valley for companies such as Facebook, Google and Cisco. Despite working at some cool places, he acknowledges he “sucks at networking” and has become an avid user of Xpertly following his recent move to London. Read more of Scott’s posts about technology and marketing on LinkedIn here.