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Schmooze, Whether You Like It or Not

Schmooze, Whether You Like It or Not

By Lindsey Gerdes, Businessweek

Networking comes easily to some. The rest of us should get past the fear that this art of chitchat is one-sided and somehow inappropriate

I don’t remember many speakers from junior high assembly (like many people I know, I tend to block out that period in general), but one guy has always stuck in my memory. He was a polished-looking, smooth-talking professional of some sort (O.K., I don’t remember exactly what he did) who came to speak to us about the art of networking.

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He was giving us a lesson about networking your way toward getting what you want in life. I’m sure he meant to paint the process as a two-way street, but it didn’t come across that way. Even at that young age, something about his message was disquieting to me. The seemingly contrived nature of the interactions he championed were entirely focused on the end gain, with little to no attention on the authenticity of the relationship. It seemed hollow and false.

I never entirely shook that perception, even when I entered the workforce and accepted it as an inevitability of building a successful career. (As you can imagine, this made my first job search particularly excruciating.) And I know others who feel the same, at least about some forms of networking.

One 25-year-old professional I know is particularly bothered by what he terms “aimless, sycophantic schmoozing.”

He says, “The connections that matter seem to be developed through my work,” meaning the day-to-day encounters that naturally occur with others in his industry rather than targeted efforts at meeting people specifically to nurture relationships and build connections.

He admits that being in a business where he is usually the client “and doesn’t have to kiss anybody’s butt” helps, as does the fact that his work lends itself to making these business-related connections.

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