The big schmooze


Now that summer is over and we’re solidly sitting in autumn, it’s once again the season to schmooze.

Schmoozing, networking and otherwise connecting with those who you need to know and those you would like to know, is an important part of life for most people — on and off the job.

Really, it is one of the cornerstones of business — where deals are begun or even finalized, where jobs get created and filled, where a germ of an idea can eventually become a business plan on the back of a napkin, and later, a thriving enterprise.

Early in my career I shunned the schmooze. I felt that I would succeed or fail on the merit of my work, not by who I knew or didn’t know.

This came up at work last week when a colleague and I were discussing some upcoming awards ceremonies and gala events that we’re going to as part of our work duties, but also to make new connections and renew old ones.

I mentioned that early in my career I didn’t schmooze until a publisher ordered me to go to a chamber of commerce meeting, eat the lunch and make some friends.

I was a little bit shocked: in journalism school we learned that schmoozing was for the advertising department and there’s no such thing as a “free” lunch — implying that in return for the lunch, we’d have to write something “good” about the people in attendance.

Turns out the publisher was right. In addition to a hearty lunch, I got leads on four stories and made contacts for several more. Plus I got to meet and talk with some of the biggest leaders in the community — good for quotes and background on stories coming out of upcoming town hall meetings.

Workplace ladder

Later in my career I learned that connections can help you get better jobs and help propel you up the workplace ladder.

I remember getting a call one day from an editor in a major city who wanted to talk to me about a new position she was creating in her newsroom. She flew me out, wined and dined me and nearly convinced me to take the position.

In the end I didn’t take it, choosing instead to take a position with Sun Media — a move I certainly don’t regret.

I asked her, however, where she came up with my name and number — I couldn’t imagine being on her radar on the other side of the country.

She explained that she had been talking with some journalists in Ontario and one of them, whom I had met through a project and kept in touch with, dropped my name and told her to give me a call.

Had I not kept in touch with the colleague, I probably would have never been given the opportunity to discuss the new job.

And I still try to keep in touch with the editor, although she’s changed positions and companies over the years.

In this business, just like any other business or job, you never know who your next boss will be and you never know when you’re going to need some expertise to draw on.

Networking dos and don’ts

Get the most out of your networking events with the following tips:

– Understand the purpose of the event and who will attend.

– Develop a memorable pitch. Approach people standing on their own, or in groups of three or more.

– Don’t flit from one group to another handing out business cards. Develop relationships.

– Write down several things about a new contact on the back of their business card, including when and where you met, something interesting about the person and a follow-up action.

– Don’t tap into your network only when you need something. Be willing to give.