DC Guide, March 16, 2007

How To Meet People in Washington, DC by Melanie Paige

I have this friend, Stacy, who would always tell me about these events that she would go to at embassies around Washington. She kept telling me that the organization that set up these events would be something fun for me to look into. I had been involved with my alumni club and with a political organization, but I found that the events that these groups hosted were few and far between. I was looking for something new and fun, so I agreed to go with Stacy to check out an event.

The name of the group that Stacy was talking about is Professionals in the City. I checked out its calendar of events on its website (www.prosinthecity.com), and told Stacy that I would go with her to a dance party that Professionals in the City was hosting the following week. At the last minute, Stacy canceled on me because she had to work late. Since I had been planning on going for the past few days anyway, I decided to go without her omgreps.

I have been to parties and happy hours alone before, but it is always awkward at first. Since I did not know anyone, I entered the party, walked around, and spent a good deal of time just watching the crowd. I was surprised by the variety of people at the event. The ages ranged from early twenties to upper forties. I could tell that there was your average spattering of lawyers (as a lawyer, I can spot others of my clan by their shoes) and Hill people, but there were others, too. Unlike the typical bar scene, however, people really seemed to mix and mingle with each other. Although I was at a bar, the atmosphere felt a lot more like a private party.

Besides the variety of the people at the event, I was shocked by the sheer number of people in attendance. In the past, most of the events that I had been to maxed out at about thirty people. At this event, there was already a small crowd there when I arrived, but then people just kept coming. By 10 p.m. , the place was completely packed. I was quite impressed.

After a beer, I geared myself up to actually talk to some new people. I was walking around the bar, when a petite brunette woman walked up to me and asked if I had come alone. Her name was Dana and she said that she had just moved to Washington from Florida that week. Her sister recommended Professionals in the City, so she decided to check it out, just like I did. We found out that we had a lot in common. We spent the rest of the night laughing, drinking and watching the crowd.

Over the next couple of months, I went to several more Professionals in the City events, including a dinner and a business networking event. Each time, I ran into Dana. We became fast friends. Since our initial meeting, Dana and I have gone to many other Professionals in the City events together. We met other friends who sometimes join us at the events. We have since realized that a lot of people go to these events precisely for the sense of community that these events create. Once a person has been to a few events, they usually make friends who they then run into at future events. It gives something of a small town feel to an otherwise big city.

I have also learned more about the organization and its founder than I ever expected. Michael Karlan, a former lawyer, founded the group as a way for professionals (both singles and couples) to get together outside of politics or other Washington-like groupings. He felt that the group would fill a void. The numbers seem to back them up on this. In just a few years, Professionals in the City has grown to over 100,000 members in D.C. plus additional members in other cities (membership is free and merely entails signing up for its email list, either at an event or on its website).

Professionals in the City now hosts over 1,000 events a year in D.C. Upcoming events include embassy receptions, dance classes, career seminars, singles dinners, four minute dating events, art gallery tours, baseball games, bartending and rollerblading classes (although not on the same day), and nightclub parties. It seems that there is something for everyone.

Through Professionals in the City, I have met more people than I can count. When I first moved to Washington, I was concerned that my social life would be limited to who worked with me or to which political party I belonged. I am so glad that I found another outlet where I can meet people outside my field of business and outside of politics.