Virtual networking is nothing new. On the contrary, at this point, there are some significant factors of online professional networking that have been around so long, they’ve become antiquated.
Here are some of the biggest concerns with traditional virtual networking, how Generation Z is changing the networking landscape, and how one disruptive startup is looking to blaze the virtual networking trail for the future.
The Problem With Traditional Networking Sites
Networking online has been part and parcel of the modern professional experience for decades now. However, as technology has advanced and remote work has become more prevalent, traditional networking platforms have begun to lag behind.
Many well-established networking sites have built powerful platforms that revolve around exchanging information — in effect, serving as an online resume or Rolodex. One area that most sites chronically struggle with, though, is communication.
Often the emphasis lies in the quantity rather than the quality of the online connections. New connections can take place, but often they are surface-level, at best. In addition, users may have to pay excessive fees to have limited communication with professionals outside of their network.
Even when a platform is used that specializes in something like text, audio, or visual communication, other issues arise. Often these platforms aren’t designed for networking. They merely connect people. This leads to fizzled email conversations, dull webinars, awkward video chats, and endless introductory phone calls.
Upstream: A Virtual Network for the Next Generation
Needless to say, the evolution away from past networking platforms was already in motion before 2020. Then, the coronavirus pandemic struck and the future of work became a modern reality overnight.
As the world accelerated toward a new, innovative future, virtual networking remained in focus — and sorely in need of an upgrade. At the heart of the issue was the fact that traditional online platforms and models weren’t meeting the needs of the new generation entering the workforce.
The Arrival of Generation Z
Throughout this process of business growth and networking stagnation, Generation Z began to roll hot off the academic presses. As individuals from the vibrant generation began exchanging textbooks for degrees, they started looking for jobs.
As they arrived in the workplace, it wasn’t long before Gen Z’s unique values and take on professional activity began to send shockwaves through traditional workplaces. These values include things like:
- Caring about the ethics and values of the companies behind the labels.
- Embracing a mobile-first, technologically savvy mindset.
- Accepting that the modern employee is agile and loves moving from job to job.
- Fostering an entrepreneurial attitude that empowers a fearless and independent approach to work.
- Highly emphasizing diversity as a mantra of the modern workplace.
While Gen Z has its similarities to previous generations, in many ways, it stands out as a group that rightfully demands more from its employers, work, and professional life as a whole.
How Upstream Is Disrupting the Virtual Networking Space
The values that define Gen Z have led to a fierce desire for authenticity and meaning in their work lives. It doesn’t take long for this straightforward approach to tear off the shallow facade of traditional “networking” sites.
Many Gen Zers seem to be in search of a meaningful networking solution that is able to adapt to a fast-paced, always-changing modern work environment. This is where Upstream is looking to rewrite the playbook.
The innovative networking site aims to, in the words of co-founder and CEO Alex Taub, “make professionals’ lives easier.” The founder goes on to point out that he knew they were building a product that modern professionals needed because he himself needed it.
Taub’s sincere need for the very tool that he is creating stands as an initial testament to Upstreams’ applicability in a modern work environment. But the benefits don’t stop there.
The platform has two factors that serve as its inspiration: serendipity and generosity. Rather than serving as little more than a place to exchange information, Upstream looks to recreate the magic that takes place in a fortunate, helpful in-person networking experience.
In other words, the site generates organic interactions between individuals. It goes beyond mere acquaintances and helps users build connections and develop professional relationships.
The company does this through things like online events. These are headlined by famous personalities, like Senator Cory Booker or ESPN Daily’s Pablo Torre. From there, the event breaks down into 5-minute one-on-one breakout sessions. The length of time helps to accomplish two things:
- First, they are short enough for you to meet multiple people in quick succession without the need for awkward goodbyes.
- Second, they are long enough to enable you to judge if it’s worth booking more time to invest in a relationship in the future.
Along with its events, Upstream also offers one-on-one time slots called “Office Hours.” These can be set up by individuals on their own, apart from events and, once again, involve one-on-one virtual meetings. They can be offered to the public, creating an aura of availability, as well as kept on a private, invitation-only basis, offering a sense of exclusivity.
In addition to streamlining and upgrading the actual activity of virtual networking, the young company has worked overtime to create both app- and browser-based versions of its platform. This provides an added level of accessibility that is required in the mobile-friendly, technologically diverse modern business landscape.
What Makes Upstream Unique
Traditional networking platforms seemingly focus on exchanging information and posting job adverts. This is in addition to amassing large numbers of meaningless “connections.” Upstream devotes itself to altering that formula. They do so by facilitating authenticity and cultivating real, beneficial relationships through its groundbreaking new platform.
The startup’s impressive 75% returning attendee rate is proof of how well its revolutionary model has resonated with professionals. From the manner in which it ballooned from a brand new network in 2020 to one that boasts over 400,000 members less than a year and a half later, its popularity speaks for itself.
The Upstream model is still new on the scene. Nevertheless, its ability to cater to the desires of younger Gen Z users stands out. It indicates that the thoughtful new platform seems destined for success. All the while, it’s still setting the stage for the future of virtual networking.