365 NOLA Adventures

Using Dinner for “Brain Gain” Instead of “Brain Drain.”

I’m not a fan of networking.

I’m probably an extrovert, but we’re all some sort of introvert-extrovert balance, I think, and going someplace in which I’m not sure I know someone can be a major anxiety-inducing ordeal.

Case in point was a wedding I went to this weekend.  I know the groom — we used to play soccer together — but he moved away years ago and we don’t keep in frequent contact.  Two of the attendees I knew would be there are from out of town, and I consider them really close friends.  But what if they were occupied by other guests?  There were a handful of other guests there that I started a Mardi Gras krewe with years ago, and I was excited to see them, but what if they weren’t excited to see me?

All of this worrying proved to be asinine, by the way, because it was a really nice few hours catching up with everyone at an outdoor wedding on a beautiful day, but I didn’t know that beforehand and, instead of being excited to reconnect, I was sitting in my bedroom reading Emily Post suggestions on how to go to parties where you don’t know tons of people.

My anxiety proved unfounded.

Anyway — not always a fan of networking.  But I do LOVE to eat.  I do some writing for a local nonprofit, 504ward, and when I heard about this thing they do, called “Dine Arounds,” I was intrigued.

The mission of 504ward is, basically, to keep young professionals in New Orleans.  To do that, it involves connecting them to the social and professional fabric of the city.  You like camping?  Look at all these people who like camping!  You’re interested in education policy?  Look at all these people talking about it — we’ll connect you to them!  You’re looking for a job in software design?  New Orleans full of those opportunities — check these out!

Dine Arounds are another way for them to do that.  504ward gets local business, civic and government leaders to host a dinner at their house.  They then have young professionals sign up for the event and connect them to the dinners that are most aligned with their interests and goals.

A Dine Around selfie.  Photo provided by 504ward.

The result is a nice meal, some great conversation, and — sometimes — the kind of connections that will keep you in New Orleans for a lot longer than you expected.  Friendships have been forged and organizations have been founded at Dine Arounds.  It feels like a less icky kind of networking (plus…free dinner).

I write about it here in an article for The New Orleans Advocate.  Check it out and let me know if you have networking anxiety, or if you’ve ever been to a Dine Around.


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