Someone recently asked me what the difference was between schmoozing and networking. Could you do one and not the other? Was one better than the other? It was a great question, so I thought I would address it here.

Looking at the actual definitions of each, schmoozing is a Yiddish word meaning the act of light, friendly conversation — basically chit-chat or small talk. Following this original definition, a schmoozer is the person at the party who can talk with anyone. People are comfortable in his presence and feel like they can open up. The schmoozer never feels out of place in a roomful of people because he can chat with anyone.

Now on the other side of this discussion, we’ve talked about the many definitions of networking, but the one I like the best is “the process of developing long-term mutually beneficial relationships”. That makes the networker into someone who follows up after the event, someone who connects. Everyone knows her as someone who knows everyone. The networker never feels out of place in a roomful of people because she probably already knows almost everyone there.

Unfortunately, both roles have gotten a bad rap over time. The problem is those who use these tools as a means to manipulate others. Their goal isn’t to create and develop great relationships, but rather to take advantage of other people for their own benefit while doing nothing in return. Instead of fun conversationalists, they are slick talkers. Instead of connectors, they are users.

So, neither role is really better than the other as each fulfills an aspect of good networking practice. Without the art of schmoozing, a networker will have a hard time starting relationships at all. Without the long-term promise of developing great relationships, schmoozing is nothing but empty chatter. In the end, both concepts make the networking road easier and more profitable to travel.

Photo credit: Danielle Scott