To Schmooze Or Not To Schmooze?

That is the question.

Well, it’s not a question really because the answer is definitely ‘not to schmooze’ – especially when you read the dictionary definition, which is:

To talk informally with someone, especially in a way that is not sincere or to win some advantage for yourself.

But I’ve recently discovered that a fair amount of people – particularly those early in their careers – have a slightly different definition of what constitutes schmoozing.

Being seen isn’t sucking up

A recent example is a young woman who, when I asked what schmoozing was, said, “It’s when people go out of their way to speak to the boss. Like when they’re in the kitchen making tea and someone goes in there at the same time.”

I could see where she was coming from (schmoozing is usually directed at those in elevated positions) but with the example she gave, I begged to differ.

Getting in front of the boss isn’t schmoozing – it’s canny – so long as the content of the interaction is valuable and valid, which avoids the last part of the definition: ‘in a way that is not sincere or to win some advantage for yourself.’

To relate an example I was given where I did agree schmoozing was taking place, a workshop delegate once told me there was a schmoozer in her team who was so blatant in his sycophancy it was astonishing. “We all went to the pub and while we were standing at the bar, the schmoozer said to our boss, ‘Wow! You have amazing hands!’ It sounded creepy, but it seemed the boss was lapping it up.”

There’s a balance to be struck

Whilst I don’t advocate schmoozing in its fullest sense, we can’t ignore the fact that the people who do it often win favour with those in charge.

So my advice is to tap into the essence of schmoozing ie getting yourself seen by the people who need to see you, without doing the schmoozing itself ie the bit where you blow smoke up someone’s backside.

Out of sight = out of mind

Getting on – and staying on – people’s radars is imperative (and I don’t use that word lightly) if you want to get ahead. You need to make sure you’re in their conscious mind, because if someone has to dig too far back in their brain to remember you, they’re not going to bother. And if that someone happens to be considering who to give the next career or business opportunity to, you’re going to miss out.

So that means taking and, if necessary, creating opportunities for that to happen. Even if it’s only a fleeting “Hello” or in the first example, “Would you pass me the milk please?” if it means you’ll pop your personal brand back into that person’s head, it’s adding value.

Walking the walk

It’s something I work hard at doing for my own business – keeping in touch with my key contacts (or my A List as I call them) in a way that is genuine plus reflects my personal brand. Some recent examples are:

  • posting comments and likes on their LinkedIn updates
  • dropping them an email with a link to something that’s relevant and interesting to them
  • sending those who have signed up to my blog notifications of a new post
  • calling them for a quick “Hello” if we haven’t spoken in a while
  • mailing a series of humorous postcards at regular intervals, highlighting my services
  • asking for their help with some business development ideas I’ve been working on

Even if my efforts get no direct response I’ve still blipped on the radar. As one client said, “I see your blog posts in my inbox and even if I don’t get around to reading them, it reminds me you’re there”.

Some might call that schmoozing. I call it common sense.

What’s your view on schmoozing? Where do you see the line between being canny and being sycophantic? Do you go out of your way to stay on people’s radars? What works for you? So many questions! Why not answer with a comment below?

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2 responses to “To Schmooze Or Not To Schmooze?”

  1. Denis Kaye says:

    What an interesting topic – schmoozing is a horrid word and I would replace it with ‘engaging’. Engagement is a vital part of any human relationship, whether within an organisation, with its stakeholders and potential customers or within a family or friendship group.

    In the work environment the perceived quality of your engagement with others will determine your success, assuming you are able to deliver on your promises. As people do business with people they trust, respect and, when possible, like, it is vital that we engage with each other. Sycophantic, a**e-licking schmoozing wont work for very long if at all, but thoughtful, regular, long term engagement will pay dividends.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I’d like to agree that schmoozing doesn’t work longer-term. I’ve heard some tales from people on my workshops though where it seems the person being schmoozed is oblivious to falseness of it, even though everyone else can see how blatant it it.

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