“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

Swiping Right on Professional Development

Swiping Right on Professional Development

Written by Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons // Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire

As an adult, I can think of a few things off the top of my head that are terrifying and/or extremely difficult for me. The first three that come to mind? Taxes, scheduling my own appointments, and making friends.

There are accountants for #1, a good dose of “suck it up” or online appointment forms (aka First World gifts) for #2, but what about #3? Growing up, making friends was easy, and classmates and teammates were a dime a dozen. I was lucky in college too - bonding with teammates and befriending classmates in undergraduate and graduate school - but this “making friends as an adult” thing was new to me. It terrified me - and it’s hard work.

I’m an introvert. An INFJ. I don’t do light social interaction, and I would choose one “ride or die” friend over 50 “okay” friends any day. But I recently left my ride or dies when I packed up with my husband and two dogs, and moved from Texas to Utah to work toward my PhD. To keep myself engaged and feeling productive, I also applied for and obtained an internship.

Spoiler alert: learning new skills, networking in a new city, and making new friends before school starts turned out to be harder than I thought.

As an INFJ, I sometimes prefer to read about experiences online rather than letting my guard down and trying them out for myself (re: contouring, CrossFit, making friends). Whilst reading an article about making friends in a new city, discovered an app called Bumble BFF. I’d heard of it before, and had friends who found partners on the dating (aka sans-BFF) version, so I was intrigued. I thought, an app to connect with people without... connecting face-to-face? I’m in. I downloaded the app and set out to find my soulmate.

The pros of my experience? Swiping and matching. I met and married my husband before Tinder blew up, so I felt like I was finally getting to experience this swipe right/swipe left phenomenon without, you know, cheating on my husband. It's a pretty glorious feeling when you swipe right and Bumble BFF informs you that it’s a friend-match - in other words, someone swiped right on you, too! Talk about an ego boost.

The cons of my experience? Direct messaging my matches. I don’t know why I assumed this would be easy, but it actually takes courage to reach out to your match, even if the end goal is simply a platonic friendship. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, as I’ve matched with people who have never reached out to me, either. But failure to act, as you’ll learn momentarily, has a price.

Despite my anxieties, I met my first potential virtual BFF (#PVBFF?) at a coffee shop one afternoon. I survived - and shockingly - had a great time. PVBFF #1 and I have continued our friendship with a Wonder Woman movie date, a trip to Park City, and near-fruitless hunts for hidden ice cream shops. I’ve even met up with two other girls from the app, sharing dinners and bakery trips together. But here’s what I didn’t expect to get from Bumble BFF: a stronger professional network. In searching for like-minded girls to befriend on this app, I was able to simultaneously connect with peers in my academic field.

One PVBFF, who I’ve yet to meet in-person but that have stayed in touch with via text, told me about a nonprofit organization she was interviewing for. I researched it myself, and loved it enough to attend a volunteer orientation session there. In a similar Small World situation, I’m actually working for a partner agency of another one of the girls I met on Bumble BFF, and conducting an interview with her supervisors next week. She has also promised to give me a tour of her office as well as offered to help me secure an internship or part-time job if I’m interested. Additionally, my first PVBFF’s father is a professor at the university I’ll be attending in the Fall, and specializing in public health - the field in which I earned my Master’s degree. Thanks to her connection, her father and I have since met up and will hopefully be collaborating on a research project together soon.

Needless to say, It’s been well worth putting myself out there, virtually and in-person, to simply make friends. I could never have imagined that these trial-based friendships would turn into connections that feed my soul as well as help to grow and improve my professional career and network.

Bumble BFF: 10/10, would recommend. 



Kwynn lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where she is pursuing a PhD in Social Work at the University of Utah. In her "free time", Kwynn dabbles in freelance writing, volunteers for anti-trafficking non-profits, and interns for Salt Lake County. Read more of her work with us here.

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