When I first started my corporate life, i.e. got a job having left university, I made a pretty quick emotive decision that networking/schmoozing/hospitality was akin to taking a backhander.
To this day I avoid any sort of hospitality or gift that is sent my way where the sender has no true connection or understanding or most importantly, history with me.
I have turned down tickets to the champions league final, a trip to Namibia, a week in LA during the Oscars and so on…Many great experiences undiscovered but I feel justified and untainted in a way my friends do not comprehend.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a paragon of virtue. I have flown in a private jet to the football world cup, driven many different fast cars, met famous people, walked down many red carpets. On reflection, these “jollies” were more often than not given by my company entertaining “our customers” rather than me being entertained.
Life is about learning. I love to learn and re-learn. So my personal takeaway is that life is too short to do business with people you do not like. So there is a justification to entertain your customers or rather the guys and girls you want to say thank you to for making your working life more enjoyable.
Schmoozing, working the room
So what about schmoozing or as it is called in our web 2.0 world, “networking”? Again, I am peering through the looking-glass here as I use LinkedIn, am quite happy to have my name on a press release and have started considering giving a talk or two…but work a room?
I guess my problem is how many people do you know who are really good at “networking” and self promotion are also brilliant at delivering projects, making a difference, and effective at business? I have a natural mis-trust where people who spend a disproportionate time on “themselves” spend too little time on their real job.
I knew a guy who was a serial networker and had all the associated trappings (a huge amount of contacts, a very senior role and an inability to focus on any one task for longer than a nano-second). He was quite proud about the fact that he spent half a day a week on “networking” and managing his career, be that improving his CV, LinkedIn profile, or contact list.
You will quite quickly glean from these posts that I am results orientated in my approach and don’t suffer woolly in any shape or form.
Great at networking may get you the interview, but half a day a week improving your profile?, not the person for my team.