Delegates mingling at a networking event run by Women in Technology

Story highlights

Julia Hobsbawm is professor of networking at the UK's Cass Business School

She argues that networking distinguishes highly skilled workers from average ones.

'Deep connections' require face-to-face meetings, she says

Hobsbawm says networking is an emerging academic discipline

CNN  — 

At best, the word networking conjures up images of standing awkwardly at a party, delicately balancing a drink in one hand while you exchange cards with someone you will probably never see again. At worst, it brings to mind a hustler who thrusts their card aggressively in your face with barely a hello uttered, all the while scanning over your shoulder for someone more important.

Not surprisingly, the very idea is enough to strike terror into the hearts of most introverted workers, who don’t relish the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and striking up conversations.

But cleverly done, networking can reap huge benefits for career success, says the UK’s renowned “networking queen” and “professor of schmooze” Julia Hobsbawm.

Hobsbawm, who was recently appointed visiting professor in networking at Cass Business School, at City University, London, says in an increasingly global workforce, workers cannot afford to ignore the competitive edge it can give.

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Previously perceived as a “soft” skill,” Hobsbawm, who also runs networking business Editorial Intelligence, says effective networking will make the difference “between a highly skilled worker and an average worker.”

“I think professional workers and their employers are going to come to appreciate and understand networking as more of a hard skill than a soft skill,” she says.

“We take for granted now that certain types of qualifications have to be achieved, and in this global marketplace, where a worker in Nairobi, or a worker in Bombay, or a worker in New York or London, is directly competing with workers they’ve never met, what will give them the edge is the knowledge skills.”

Below is an edited version of the full interview with Hobsbawm.

CNN: Why do you emphasize networking more than leadership?

Julia Hobsbawm: I think the word leadership is overused and possibly overrated. What matters is that people feel productive and stimulated. The trouble with the emphasis on leadership is that it is aspirational but is not always achieved. The point about networking is everybody can be more productive, everybody can be stimulated and everybody can be more engaged.

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