5 takeaways from a month of trial-and-error networking

Meeting up with strangers can spur promising connections—or it can eat up time, money and your tolerance for people. The dark crowdsourcing has a silver lining, though.

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I’ve been working at home for almost a year now.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, that’s been 365 days of me:

I realized that if I didn’t do something soon, I’d have to start talking to a psychiatrist.

So, in August, I signed up to go to a different networking activity or event each week in Chicago. I wanted to expand my business contacts, perhaps meet some new friends and, most important, spend less time conversing with inanimate objects.

Here’s where I went and what I learned:

Networking at an arcade

The premise: Give adults a bunch of free drinks and tokens to play arcade games all night. Sign me up!

Instead of talking to people, I turned out to be a ringer at the arcade’s mini-basketball court. Swish after swish, I was met by throngs of fellow networkers who gave me their business cards (um, thanks?), asked me where I played basketball in college (I didn’t) and wanted to know how long I’ve been playing (five minutes).

The takeaway: Nobody cares what you do for a living. Even if there’s not a basketball court at your next networking event, people will be more interested in your hobbies, your interests and your favorite team (the Bulls?).

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