I’m determined to bring back “schmooze.” If your parents never threw around Yiddish at the dinner table, I’ll bring you up to speed. Schmooze is more than small talk. It’s social networking at its finest. It’s the smooth type of conversation you don’t know you’re having, but still manages to land politicians in office and CEOs in the boardroom hot seat. My father would even describe this conversational tango as an art form.
Schmoozing is the basis of professional advancement. (A bold statement for a word that sounds so made up.) Learning to develop a natural conversation flow is critical in a profession as social and connected as ours. Everyone has intentions when entering a conversation, but it’s how they are pursued that dictates your networking success.
Let’s start with a familiar example. We’ll call her Amy. She’s eager to become more involved with organized student dentistry after paying her dues at the local and district levels. She now has interests in national leadership and has her eyes on district trustee. How can she secure the votes of chapter delegates? They know she’s a qualified candidate, but how does she navigate these important, electoral conversations without sounding so direct and rehearsed?
Maybe you’re just shy of catching ASDA fever and need some more schmooze-worthy examples. Where are my gunners? The same applies for the residency application process! Enter Paul, our hypothetical oral surgery wannabe. He has been destined to specialize for quite some time, and the program director of his top school will be at the next conference he’s attending. How can he state his interest in going there without appearing desperate?
The answer for either situation, and any similar, is (you guessed it) schmooze! It’s an intricate balance of give and take that must appear effortless.
Give. To equally include all parties in conversation, you must know your audience. Do your research and be relatable. Search engines, like Google, are wonderful resources that are too often undervalued. Now, I’m not asking you to go psycho, ex-girlfriend/boyfriend in their browser history, but it may be keen to be well read in the accomplishments of the person(s) you hope to meet. You would be surprised how much you could already share before meeting them personally. You could enter the conversation this way and knowingly direct their answers. This style of Q&A is a promising tool. You are giving them the knowledge that you care.
Give again. Never dive into conversation wearing your intent on your sleeve. Much like you do for patients, you want to establish a baseline trust. You must give up a part of yourself: your vulnerability. It may feel uneasy at first, but it lowers any walls that would otherwise hinder conversation. They want to know the real you. Giving may not appear to be immediately successful, but it warrants long-term success. You’re creating an invaluable reputation.
Take. It’s finally time to be a little selfish. When they ask or reciprocate, “Do you have any questions for me?” Ask! It’s almost offensive not to. It shows you are engaged in the conversation, hence the expression, back and forth. It wouldn’t hurt to mentally note a list of questions before meeting someone. You want to get as much out of the conversation as you’re putting in.
Take some more. Highlight your own accomplishments, but in a way that appears nonchalant and conversational. No one likes a braggart. Feel out the conversation and decide what accolades they would respond to best. I’m sure there are many, but pick and choose carefully. It is this sixth sense that makes a schmoozer so well versed in networking. Take credit for your hard work and sell, sell, sell!
No matter the professional situation, a good schmoozer secures new opportunity through this delicate dance of give and take. Even if #schmooze doesn’t make it big on Twitter, I’ll be happy knowing that you’ve become a true conversationalist. All the best and happy schmoozing!
~Adam Saltz, Nova Southeastern ’17, contributing editor