Schmoozing During a Pandemic
Four ways to connect and network in our new reality
Schmoozing. A way to relate to and connect with others, to engage in small-talk, and network. A personal favorite pastime. Whether it be in the theater lobby before a show begins with your friend’s cousin, or over a glass of wine with an entrepreneur after a networking event, so much of how we connect with others is through schmoozing. Regardless if it is to make a social connection or to converse in order to gain some kind of advantage, conventional schmoozing has been a part of our daily lives. That is, until now.
How can we continue to make these valuable connections during the pandemic, where in-person gatherings are no longer, and virtual events don’t provide a space for “natural” banter?
Here are some ideas on how we can continue to create meaningful relationships and mutually beneficial connections during these interesting times.
Rule of thumb: Schmoozing shouldn’t be a one-and-done, but a relationship building tool that will result in value for both parties.
1.Identify strengths you have that can be valuable to others
We can best leverage our relationships by figuring out how we can be helpful to others, and who can be helpful to us. It is important to identify some strengths or ways to provide assistance to possibly offer in return. Everyone needs something, and you might have it! Maybe you could use your artistic abilities to offer a Zoom drawing lesson to your mentor’s kids in exchange for their guidance. Be creative! It doesn’t always have to be strictly transactional, but it is important that the other party knows that you are eager and willing to be helpful to them as well.
2. A socially distant “hello” can go a long way
Some of us extraverts get our energy and fulfilment by chatting with others. During these times of social isolation, it can be challenging to not have that outlet. A lot of people are feeling very lonely right now. I would suggest that the next time you go for a walk around the block and see someone tending to flowers, or the next time you catch your neighbor in the hall, say hello — from a distance, of course. Ask them how they are doing. A small gesture like this can go a long way for someone, and probably make you feel good, too. Moreover, maybe your neighbor’s AC just broke, and you have a great repairman to recommend to them. Your initial “hello” was just the icebreaker needed to allow the two of you to connect.
3. Take a trip down memory lane
Although six months ago it may have seemed a bit strange to randomly reach out to a contact to someone you haven’t spoken to in ten years, the overwhelming feeling today is that we are all connected and in this together, regardless of how much time has gone by. Are you interested in learning how to play guitar, and have noticed in your Facebook feed that your friend from middle school has been uploading themselves playing? Now is a great time for a friendly reach-out and rekindle! Let your friend know that you are interested in learning guitar, you enjoyed their videos, and would love to hear any tips or recommendations from them on how to pursue your passion. You can always break the ice by saying “it’s been a while!” and find out what they have been up to in the 15 years since you have last spoken.
4. Join those special interest groups
One of the easiest and most genuine ways to connect with someone is over a mutual interest or experience. For example, as a Michigander living in Israel, the minute I meet an Israeli who did a Master’s at the University of Michigan, I explode with excitement and feel the need to be that person’s best friend and connect. It just takes one thing to bond over, where the other person “gets it.” Today, you can join various groups or forums that will allow you to bond with others online. There are several virtual forums catered to specific audiences, simply with the purpose of providing a space to brainstorm or ask for help. Whether it be a working mothers support group on Facebook that allows women to share resumes and ask for advice, or a subreddit for Tesla lovers who discuss company updates and share videos, there is an abundance of special interest groups that could help you connect with others, whether for professional or social purposes. Start up your search engine!
Schmoozing is more important now than ever. Let’s put our heads together (virtually) and come up with creative solutions that will help us leverage our networks and skillsets, allowing others and ourselves to thrive in this new reality.