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Gen Z and millennials are using dating apps to network

Jun 24, 2023Jun 24, 2023

Most people swipe right on a dating app when they think a person is cute. But some young app users are swiping right on potential professional connections.

These Gen Zers and young millennials are using dating apps like they’re the new LinkedIn, matching with people who might help them land their next big gig. Even Grindr’s CEO thinks it’s a smart idea. But other dating app users who are looking for a hookup (or maybe love) are tired of these “serial networkers,” especially when there are platforms specifically designed for job-hunting

One Hinge user, Grace Ling, told the Wall Street Journal that in college she would only swipe right on guys who worked at the companies where she hoped to get hired. Though her current job wasn’t the result of swiping, it wasn’t all in vain—the connections she made led to some referrals and job interviews at major tech companies.

Even career coaches are catching wind of the trend and encouraging their young clients to jump on the bandwagon.

Ella Goldstein, a career coach, told the Journal that she would start telling her younger clients to use this unconventional method on the job hunt because “Where you can network, you should network.”

Roughly one-third of U.S. adults say they’ve ever used a dating site or app, according to a 2023 Pew Research report, with about half of those adults under 30.

Why would these users want to leverage dating apps rather than professional networks like LinkedIn, which boasts nearly 80% of the adult U.S. population as members? It could be a sign of the overgrowth of “hustle” culture, a trend of going above and beyond for work that’s been romanticized by exhausted Americans. It may also be an indicator that young workers are becoming increasingly creative—or desperate—when it comes to finding jobs, even if it means crossing social boundaries.

While apps like Hinge and Bumble seem the most popular for networkers, based on reporting from the Journal and other published articles, Tinder specifically discourages it, asking users to “make personal connections, not biz ones” in its community guidelines.

But there’s a dark horse in the mix: Grindr—a popular dating app among the LGBTQ+ community—is an unexpected networking hub. About a quarter of users on Grindr are there to network, the company told the Journal. Even its CEO encourages it as a career tool.

“I personally have hired or had a professional relationship with several people I’ve met on the app over the years,” Grindr CEO George Arison told the Journal.

“We encourage people to network on Grindr,” he added.

In one sense, this isn’t a new trend: Dating apps have previously tried to expand beyond the dating niche, with mostly unsuccessful results.

In 2017, Bumble launched “Bumble Bizz,” (short for “business”) which is like regular Bumble but for the express purpose of showing off your resume. Just like in the app’s dating mode, women have to make the “first move,” meaning men cannot message a woman first. That may be for the best, as plenty of men have tried to use LinkedIn for extra-professional reasons, judging by prolific complaints from women on the receiving end of those messages.

But not everyone is happy about the rise of networkers on dating apps. GQ writer Laura Larson described networking as the new “friendzoning” in a 2017 article with the headline, “Stop Trying to Network On Dating Apps, You Goons!”

“The beautiful thing about dating apps is that you don’t have to wonder whether someone is approaching you because they think you’re cute or because they want to network with you,” Larson wrote, describing being “networked” as a particularly noxious kind of bait-and-switch.

“When you sign up for a dating app you’re entering into a social contract with all the other horny people on there: You’re saying that you’re available, and that you’re going to use the app for its marketed purpose (sex).”

That could be one reason that dating apps’ efforts to expand outside the romantic realm, like Bumble For Friends, have so far flopped. Using an app to find romantic partners has been normalized, while there’s still a stigma attached to using it for friendship, is perceived as somewhat lame, according to Olivia Moore, a partner at venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz.

And maybe that’s the secret sauce to young job-seekers’ success in using a dating approach to find jobs: Nobody expects it. And besides, why not? They have nothing to lose from “shooting their shot.”

‘We encourage people to network on Grindr’